ODJ: earnest prayers

April 23, 2015 

READ: Nehemiah 1:1-2:5 

I sat down and wept . . . and prayed to the God of heaven (1:4).

As a child, I was told that I should put my hands together and close my eyes to pray. So I used to scrunch up my eyes and clench my fingers together to be even more earnest as I asked God for the things on my heart. The harder I worked at praying this way, the more God would answer—or so I thought!

Nehemiah was grieved at the report about his beloved Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3-4). His prayer reflected a man who was distraught and distressed, longing to see God’s favour again (vv.4-10). Later, however, he was completely taken aback at the king’s unexpected reply to him. “What on earth do I say now?” he must have wondered. So he quickly fired up a one-liner to God just prior to opening his mouth to speak to the king (2:4-5). So which of his prayers was better? Which was more sincere and effective?

James wrote, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16). But what makes us righteous? Jesus. Our prayer life comes out of our hearts that belong to Him. We can rest in this assurance and allow Him to guide how we pray. I find this reality to be so much better than clenching my fingers ever tighter!

Nehemiah was grieved about Jerusalem because God was also grieved. He prayed to God because he loved Him and wanted to see Him glorified and His people restored, as did God Himself. Then, when he was surprised by the king’s question, all Nehemiah had to do was pray before he spoke, and God’s plan was unfurled as he opened his mouth.

—Russell Fralick

365-day-plan: 2 Kings 2:1-12

Read James 5:13-18 and consider why and when we should pray. 
Is your prayer life hampered because you think you should pray only a certain way? What will help you gain more freedom to pray to God often and in different ways?