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Pray Like Nehemiah
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Dear God,
Here’s what I need today:

1. Heal my grandmother. She’s sick and could really use a miracle. 
2. Keep my husband safe, and help him make a lot of sales. 
3. Give my children a great day. Help them to listen to me.  
4. Smooth over things at the office, and show my co-worker her errors. 
5. My car is in the shop today. Please keep the repair costs to a minimum.

Thank you for your blessings and for being a great God. Oh, and, in the unlikely event that I sinned recently, please forgive me. 


Lopsided Prayer?

Is this prayer lopsided, or what? It focuses almost entirely on what I think God needs to do for me and offers minimal acknowledgement of God, confession of sin, or thanksgiving. While this example exaggerates most of our prayers, it probably hits closer to home than we care to admit. How often do we come to God with our wish list and preconceived notions of how God ought to respond? How might our prayers change if we focused first on God instead of ourselves?

Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 1:5-11 inspires me. He begins by acknowledging and praising God. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands” (vs. 5). In verses 6 and 7, he confesses the sins of the Israelites. Sin separates us from God, and in order to maintain clear communication channels, we must own up to our shortcomings (Isaiah 59:2). Nehemiah spends verses 8-10 claiming God’s promises for Israel’s restoration. Finally, in the very last verse of the prayer, he petitions God for success as he asks the king’s for permission to return to Jerusalem to help the Israelites.

As I attempt to model my own prayers after Nehemiah’s example, I sense a profound difference in my attitude. When I recognize God as my creator and acknowledge God’s sovereignty over the universe, my perspective changes. I remember that God is in control, God made me, and God knows even better than I do what is best for me. With this in mind, I naturally assume much more of a “thy will be done” approach to the rest of my prayer. Confession humbles me. It reminds me that I am hopelessly flawed and leaves me in awe of God’s grace and forgiveness. It also alleviates the nag of my guilty conscience while removing any sin barriers between God and me. Reciting God’s promises seems pointless at first (after all, God already knows them), but I find that my faith increases as I recall all that God intends to do for me.

Finally, with my prayer attitude adjusted, I am ready to present my requests to God. Somehow they now roll off my tongue with humility, faith, and trust that no matter what happens, God’s plans supersede my plans.

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