by Steven Davis
This month Dr. Randy is hosting a great series on intentional prayer entitled, “Two Approaches to Prayer.” These two approaches are exemplified by well-known biblical characters: Nehemiah and Jonah. Nehemiah’s prayer was kind of a “get me there” prayer, while Jonah’s was more of a “get me out of here” prayer. And though their approaches were polar opposites, they did share two common characteristics. And these two traits are essential to all of our prayers as well.
The first characteristic is faith. “So you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT).
The first chapter of Nehemiah chronicles his prayer. “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses” (vv. 6-7).
We see Nehemiah’s faith in God in four ways:
- Nehemiah understood Who God is.
- Nehemiah understood the history, the relationship and the covenant between God and His people. He understood the requirements of that relationship and covenant and knew that Israel had fallen short.
- He understood the necessity of repentance.
- He believed God would answer his prayer.
Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the great fish is included in the second chapter of his story. “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head . . . yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (vv 3-7).
In Jonah’s prayer we see his faith in three ways:
- He had faith that the Lord both heard and answered his prayer even while he was in the stomach of the fish.
- He had faith that he would look again toward the Lord’s holy temple.
- He knew he would be delivered.
The second attribute of their prayers is humility. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5).
Humility comes to both men because both suffered the consequences of sinful actions and then confessed.
“I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!” (Nehemiah 2:6-7 NLT). The entire nation had turned from God and were dragged off into captivity. But some repented and were brought back.
“Those who worship worthless idols have abandoned their loyalty to you. But I will sing praises to you; I will offer you a sacrifice and do what I have promised. Salvation comes from the Lord!” (Jonah 2:8-9 GNT). Jonah’s idol had been his pride and not wanting to serve the Lord in the land of his enemies. But he repented and chose to keep his promise.
The prophet Habakkuk shows how faith and humility work together. “I, the Lord, refuse to accept anyone who is proud. Only those who live by faith are acceptable to me” (Habakkuk 2:4).
Faith and humility are the two essentials for effective prayer. Some you’ll recognize in the lines of these two prophets. And here’s how they work together:
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You pray with humility because:
Humility brings us to the one true God.
Humility teaches us how to pray
Humility admits we are broken.
Humility admits our need.
Humility speaks our prayers.
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You pray with faith because:
Faith brings us to the one true God.
Faith teaches us what to pray
Faith believes we can be fixed.
Faith believes He will supply all our needs.
Faith trusts He will hear and answer our prayers.
May you pray with humility and faith. Amen.
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