I can remember one time I preached a message on prayer. In that message, I mentioned a "prayer from the heart." Afterwards, a fellow asked me to give an example of a prayer from the heart in scripture. I gave a few, but I feel Nehemiah's prayer is one of the best I've read, aside from Jesus prayers. Nehemiah's prayer was answered and it truly was from the heart.
His prayer started from concern for others in verses 1,2. He had a genuine concern for God's people. Does your prayer life begin with concern for other people or for yourself? My family and I study and pray together daily and I know how easy prayer can turn into habit as opposed to addressing concerns. Often times our family prayers turn repetitive. We ask for our daily bread, not to be led into temptation, protection from the evil one, a hedge around our family like God gave Job, and to be His hands and feet. I often ask my boys after they pray, "Is that what is truly on your heart?" God is concerned for people. Therefore, His people should be concerned for people. Our prayer life should first and foremost be initiated by concern.
In verse four we see Nehemiah's compassion for God's people. Our prayer life should be filled with compassion. He not only wept, but he wept for days, not only days but months! Notice the months in the following verses, 1:1; 2:1. That is a period of about four months. He probably was is in supplication to the Lord waiting for a his answer. Lord, forgive me for not having that compassion. I can only imagine most men, like myself, would have given up and said, "Hey, I've been praying for this for a week now! I give up. Apparently God doesn't want me to do it!" I have a compassion for God's people, but I'm not sure if it would lead me to weep for days or months. We must persistently offer compassionate prayers from our deepest concerns. That is praying from the heart. Providing the motives are correct, that is the prayer that is answered. Now, we better be ready to get the answers "no" and "not at this time", but we will get an answer. This type of compassion existed in Ezra as well. Ezra 9:3
Nehemiah's prayer was filled with confession as well. In verses 5-11 he confesses the sins of the people to God. He doesn't blame God for their tragedy, rather, he says I am a sinner, we are sinners. He humbly understands that God's Word says "if you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples..." Often times we fail to see that in our lives as Christians. We often take God's grace for granted. There is no doubt we are saved by God's grace, but that grace isn't a free ticket to immoral and unfaithful living. I fear we have not learned from the examples laid out in the Old Testament. Notice Nehemiah seeks supplication from the Lord before he seeks supplies. He doesn't ask for supplies until he is granted permission to go. Neh 2:1-9 I truly believe I would have prayed for the permission and then added, "Lord, I will also need this, this, and that." as if God doesn't know what I need. Nehemiah knows if God is faithful to scatter His people based upon their unfaithfulness He is faithful to gather His people if they return to Him. That applies today as well. Mankind had fallen and was far from God with no way to get close to Him. There was no way to Him. So He sent us His only begotten Son. Jn 3:16 His son, Jesus, came with a specific job to do. Lk 19:10 He completed this job by giving up his own life as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross. That is where he finished his work. Jn 19:16-30 Then Jesus told us there is no way to the Father but through him. Jn 14:6 Before God's Son ascended to heaven he passed his job onto us in Mt 28:18-20 God is still gathering those that will return Him today. Do we, as his people, have the prayer life that is initiated with concern for God's people? Do we have the same compassion for God's people as the great leaders of the Old Testament? Are we humble enough to confess our sins knowing God is faithful to His Word and He will forgive us? 1Jn 1:9 Do you pray with concern, compassion, and confession?
Today, will we begin, if we don't already have, a prayer life that is initiated by concern for God's people, that exemplifies our compassion, and confess our sins to God? That is a prayer from the heart. Will we learn to pray from this great Old Testament leader? We will face adversity along the way of completing our task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Nehemiah faced seven attempts to stop him from completing the task of building the wall. A faithful trust in the Lord got him through them all. Let us pray from the heart to the Lord and trust him with it as well!
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
We must hear the Word of God: Rom 10:17; Acts 4:4
We must believe or have faith: Heb 11:6; Acts 16:31
We must repent of our sins: Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30
We must confess Christ before others: Mt 10:32; Acts 8:37
We must be immersed into Christ (baptized) Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38