9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9
One of the things I love about Nehemiah is how often he just throws up a prayer. No preamble, no getting into the proper position, no centering breath. No King James language. No thees and thous, no “givest” and “taketh away’s.”
No acrostics, like ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) or PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield). Those are both great tools for the prayer closet. But when you’re in the middle of a crisis, you may not be able to pray your acrostics.
Nehemiah isn’t in the prayer closet. He’s on the battlefield. So his prayers are more like, “God! Help! Now!”
You see this Neh 6:9 “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”
And again in v 6:14: “Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did.” Which is wonderfully non-specific. Nehemiah doesn’t pray that God will smite his enemies, nor does he try to manufacture fake charitable thoughts toward them. He just says, “Remember these guys, God,” and he leaves the rest to God. If you are ever looking for what faith in ‘vengeance is mine, saith the Lord’ looks like, look no further.
These spontaneous outbursts of prayer reveal an intimacy and familiarity with God that I long to have.
When you read the Bible, you get the whole spectrum of prayer. You get epic prayers like Psalm 119– where every letter of the Hebrew alphabet gets its own stanza. You get prayers like Jonah 2, filled with Old Testament references and allusions. And you get prayers like Nehemiah’s. Or the tax collector in the Temple— “God have mercy on me, a sinner.”
All of them have their place in the prayer lives of God’s people. All of them speak to us about how to speak to God.
I’m reminded of the story about the father who walked by his young daughter’s room while she was on her knees praying her bedtime prayer. He stopped to listen and realized she was singing the alphabet song— “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…” The father asked her what she was doing, and the little girl explained, “Oh, I didn’t know what to pray for, so I’m just giving God all the letters so He can make the words.”
Some prayers are Shakespeare. Some are Tweets. Some may not even be words at all—just a bunch of Emojis strung together. I’m so thankful that God hears and receives all of them.