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21 December 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer 21 December

Persistence. Promises. Prayer. All elements of a close walk with God. But let’s not forget worship!

When we remind God of Who He is and what He has promised, we are doing ourselves a favor. As we worship and magnify Him, we learn more about His attributes. The more we know, the more confidence He gives us. As we gain confidence, we find new ways to ask Him to fulfill his promises.

And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6  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. 7  We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9  but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10  They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”  Neh 1:5-11 (ESV)

Who did Nehemiah remind himself that God was?the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.

Nehemiah was reminding himself (God obviously needs no reminding) that God has promised to keep covenant. He confessed the sins of his people, and of himself. He reminded God that He promised to keep covenant if the people would turn back from their wicked ways.

God’s promises aren’t magic. They aren’t insurance policies. Some are for all, like
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

But in Nehemiah’s case, the promise of covenant was for those who love God and keep His commandments. The people had sinned. They needed atonement for those sins. Nehemiah persistently prayed and claimed God’s promises. He reminded God that He promised to bring His people “to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there”.

Nehemiah wanted to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. He needed the King of Persia’s permission. But he also needed workers…those who were scattered abroad as a result of their disobedience. So, before he went to the King of Persia, he prayed to the King of Kings. The Persian king agreed; the people repented; the walls were rebuilt; God’s promises were fulfilled.

One more example today: our good friend Daniel – the guy who had been through a lot for his faith in God. He wants God to finish judging his people for their unfaithfulness.

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5  we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. …15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18  O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”  Dan 9:4-6; 15-19 (ESV)

Great and awesome
Covenant keeper
Miracle worker
I’m sure that as Daniel prayed this prayer, he gained confidence in God’s ability to keep his promises. And he had a big request – he was asking God to turn off his anger and wrath against Jerusalem.

Look at verse 18. What gave Daniel the confidence to make this enormous request?

As you reflect for the next couple days, think about what the people I’ve highlighted have in common. They were confident. They knew scripture well enough to claim God’s promise. They were persistent. They prayed not only for themselves, but for others. They always asked for forgiveness of their sins.

How close is your prayer life to the prayer lives we’ve seen in the last couple days? I’m betting if you are like me, you have a long way to go!

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