Nehmiah 8-10: Prayer

I’m back from my holiday after have a great time with family.  It might take me a little while to catch up with the blog, but I’m starting again and hope you find it helpful.

  • Read Nehemiah 9 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (15 August), you can listen to it here.

Chapters 8-10 of Nehemiah contain two significant prayers.  The first in chapter 9 confesses Israel’s past sins.  The people understand why God sent them into Babylonian captivity, but having acknowledged that, they then ask for God’s help in the present.  The second prayer in chapter 10 comes in the form of a written commitment to God by the leaders of the nation.  They sign their names to an agreement promising to observe God’s Law.

The observation I want to highlight here is to notice how Nehemiah addresses God.  He first addresses God in a prayer in 1:5  with the following descriptions:

  • LORD;
  • God of Heaven;
  • Great;
  • Awesome God;
  • Who keeps his covenant of love… [faithful, loving]

In 9:5-6 the people also address God with descriptions:

  • Glorious name;
  • Only LORD;
  • Creator of the heavens, earth, and seas;
  • Giver of life;
  • The prayer continues by recounting God’s mighty acts on Israels behalf.

Then in 9:32 they again address God directly:

  • Our God;
  • Great God;
  • Mighty;
  • Awesome;
  • Who keeps his covenant of love… [faithful, loving]

The pledge in chapter 10 doesn’t address God directly.

When I consider these prayers and their relationship with God, I’m embarrassed to think how often I absent mindedly begin my prayers by saying, “Dear God” or some similarly mindless greeting.  I recognise that the greetings in 1:5 and 9:32 are pretty similar, so maybe they were just rote in their day, but even if they were I’d rather have their rote than mine.

These prayers address God by calling upon the attributes of God that remind the people who they’re praying to.  They’re not writing a letter to person named God.  They’re talking to the Great, Mighty, Awesome, Faithful, Loving, Creator, and Sustainer of Life!  I believe that our prayers lives would be richer and our relationship with God stronger if we stopped to consider who we’re praying to before each prayer.  What if we addressed God in a way that’s pertinent to our needs at the time?

So when a loved one has cancer, we might pray to God as the Great, Powerful, Creator, and Healer. When we’re seeking direction with career choices we might address God as the Omniscient, Source of Wisdom, and Counselor. When we face financial difficulties we might call upon God as the the Owner of the Universe, and a Compassionate and Generous God. You get my drift.

Francis Chan makes a similar point in the first chapter of Crazy Love when he challenges his readers to “stop praying at God” and consider who we pray to.

  • How do you address God when you pray?  Do you have favorite greetings?
  • Do you think about how you greet God?
  • Do you believe it really makes a difference to anything?
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