Years ago there was a very popular book based on an obscure Old Testament prayer – that of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4. Jabez was not the only OT character to pray a significant prayer. Consider Nehemiah.
One of the features of his story is his prayerfulness. He prays (at length) in chapter 1 (more in a moment); he prays (briefly) in chapter 2; he and his fellow-builders pray in the face of plots in chapter 4. At various points in the first-person parts of the narrative, he inserts simple prayers – for example, in 6:14 he asks God to remember the harm attempted by Tobiah and Sanballat, and in the final phrase of the book he asks God to remember him for good.
His most extensive recorded prayer comes in chapter 1, on hearing the news of the plight of Jerusalem.
The prayer challenges us in a number of ways:
- By its priority – it was the first thing that he did on hearing the news.
- By its urgency – it was accompanied by tears and by fasting.
- By its theology – Nehemiah knew God as the great and covenant-keeping God.
- By its humility – he humbly includes himself in the confession of sin.
- By its audacity – his humble confession of sin does not prevent him boldly taking hold of the promises of God.
- By its specificity – the prayer does not remain general; it ends by focussing in on a specific situation (Nehemiah’s meeting with the king).