DAY 9 STUDY TIME!
I read that this prayer of the people recorded here in Nehemiah, chapter 9, it the longest prayer in the Bible. I haven't confirmed it personally, but thats a significant statement. Verses 1-3 outline the day's events, which was clearly a sober day of prayer. The feasting previously mentioned in chapter 8, the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, was over. And now the people came together again for prayer. Lets start today off with reading this most momentous prayer that the people of Israel bring to the Lord.
READ NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 9
The day begins with sackcloth and ashes. The people repent of their sins, and the sins of their fathers. Then they stand for THREE hours and listened to the Word of God being read aloud to them. Then for the next THREE hours the confessed and worshipped God. Thats a long prayer meeting! How does the prayer time open? Declaration of WHO God is.
Declaring WHO God is a very powerful launch pad. Declaring WHO God is from personal history and Who He has revealed Himself to be in the Word, even better! That is precisely what they did. They began to tell God who He is based on the personal history the Jews has with God through the Word. Here's a few things they came up with:
He is Creator (vs. 6)
He is the God of Grace (vs. 7-8)
He is the God who Answers Prayers (vs. 9)
He is the God of Deliverance (vs. 10-12)
He is the God of Revelation (vs. 13-14)
He is the God who supplies needs (vs. 15)
He is the God of Mercy (vs. 17, 19, 27-28, 31)
The prayer begins by laying the foundation of God's faithful, unchanging character. It is so incredibly important that we have a right view of God when approaching Him in prayer. The really interesting thing is that the natural next prayer following declaration of who God is came humble acknowledgment of all the sins of the Israelites and their fathers. Seeing how great God is, humbled the people to see their weakness and caused them to repent. They would spend the next several hours recalling how sinful the people were and how faithful God was despite their weakness. They would rehearse all the drama of the old days, and stir it up, and make it fresh again so they could see how no matter what wrongs they did, God was always willing to restore them!
The restoration of Israel was never just about the physical city or temple. It was about the restoration of the hearts of the people. Even as they are confessing their sin, and declaring God's greatness, they get filled with revelation understanding of God's desire to be in fellowship with men. God desires relationship with men so much, there is no pit too deep that we could fall into that He couldn't reach down in to save us from! He will never leave us nor forsake us!
In this powerful prayer meeting they are filled with the revelation of what God desires most from His people- Covenant Relationship.
At the end of the chapter the people vow to keep their covenant with God and have the priests and Levites seal it.
The Word of God being read aloud led the people to repent and worship. Sometimes we are reading the Word when we have a short window of time before having to go to work, appointment, bed, etc. When the people gathered, they cleared their schedule, read the Word, and clearly allowed the Lord to lead the prayer meeting. I know we can't clear 8 hours a day everyday, well, some of us can't- but I am challenged today about this. When I read the Word, am I reading it with a time-constraint? Or, am I reading it with room to allow the Word to lead me into my prayer-time? Just a little food for thought...
In taking time to remember who God is and what He has done, the result was greater desire for covenant relationship. It is important to regularly recall all that you have personally witnessed God do in your life. It makes the covenant relationship with God very personal. Recently, I wrote a song called "My Heart Sings Praise" where I recall times I remember God reaching out and touching me, things He saved me from, and so on. The result of remembering, is praise. It always bonds us to Him when we verbally appreciate Him. Today, take sometime to bond with Your heavenly Father. Take sometime just to tell Him how much You appreciate Him and things He has done for you. If you have trouble recalling things that are personal, start with some of your most favorite things He did in the Bible that revealed His character and His nature. Tell Him what that is important to You. For example, in the Bible He reveals Himself as strong and mighty to protect the Israelites and how thankful that might make You that He has shown Himself strong to take care of them, and He can and will take care of you too.
Father, we thank You for revealing Yourself to us through Your Word, Your Creation, and personally through things in our lives (Rom. 1:20). I thank You today that You are a personal God who makes a personal covenant with me. That You desire relationship with me, individually. Thank You for Your kindness and mercy You showed Your people throughout the ages. This is my hope that You too, are faithful to me, to my family, and to all those who call on Your name and declare You as their God (Ps. 145:18). You are faithful and true to Your Word and to our relationship (2 Tim. 2:13). I love You Lord, Amen.