Monday, April 23, 2007

Praying Nehemiah's Prayer

I’m currently taking a class on “The History and Geography of Israel” at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church (in Knoxville, TN) as a part of their “HILLS” (Harvest Institute for Lay Leadership Studies) program.

In one of the classes Pastor Crisp (in speaking about prophecy and judgment - particularly on America and the Church) said “Righteousness postpones judgment.”

When we think of that, we often think of the 2 Chronicles scripture of “If My people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

However, what came to my mind was Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah chapter 1. You may remember, Nehemiah asked his “kinsman” how things were in Jerusalem, and he said, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” (NLT) Nehemiah wept and fasted, then prayed…

The following is a paraphrased prayer based on that scripture, for our “people” for whom also, “things are not going well…”

Oh LORD, my God; Thou great and mighty GOD; You, Who keeps Your promises and Your relationship with all those who love You and obey Your commandments, I pray and plead now, hear my prayer, and look upon the burden of my heart today.

GOD, I have prayed night and day for these, Your people. No matter what I’m doing, they are never far from my thoughts, and their troubles weight my heart.

GOD, I have no right to ask anything for we have sinned against You and have not kept your commandments. Even those (and especially those) within the Body which we call “church”, even we have not kept your commandments - there is not a one of which we have not broken. You gave the greatest commandment of ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” and we have not come close to loving You, nor our neighbor… sometimes we don’t even love ourselves, either.

Even our talk - our “lips” are unclean, for we speak derogatory and insulting words about our very own brothers and sisters in Christ. God! That ought not to be so…

We’ve been warned, God. For we are not exempt from the curses of which You warned Moses and gave through the prophets, again, and again, and again. You will punish sin.

But You also, with such great love and mercy promised that if we’d just turn to You, You would bring us back from the deepest, darkest pit in which we might find ourselves. You promised the Israelites to bring them to the very place where You “made Your mark”; where You set your Name - literally and figuratively… And You will bring us unto Yourself as well.

Oh Father, we are Your people. We have been saved by the blood of Your precious Son, through the power of Your awesome might and love. Please, hear my prayer, and listen to the prayers of those of us who carry such a deep burden for Your children and Your church. May we hear Your Word, and Your Truth, and may we find answers to the specific prayers we pray today…

In Jesus’ Name - Amen.



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