Nehemiah and the One-Liner Prayers

I haven’t been one of the regular teachers in my Sunday morning Bible class – which has been studying Ezra and Nehemiah for the past quarter-year – but agreed last week to lead the summary of that study this morning.

It was too much territory to cover the way I had hoped to do so, and at the end, I tried to settle for making (what I considered) the most important points.

One of them was that Nehemiah prayed unusual prayers, gutsy prayers, long prayers and short prayers. (Nine of them, in all.) And, in the final chapter, four funny prayers.

Funny, as in “odd.” And very short. As funny prayers go, I said, these are one-liners:

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services. (13:14)

Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love. (13:22b)

Remember them, O my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites. (13:29)

Remember me with favor, O my God. (13:31b)

“Remember, O my God?” As if He would forget?

But as I pondered these one-liner prayers while preparing for class, it occurred to me that part of prayer’s purpose is to draw us closer to God by conforming our will to His. Three of these prayers ask God to remember that Nehemiah was trying his best to do what he believed God wanted done. One asks God to remember those who defied Him.

Maybe they are a way of saying, “I know I have messed up in the past, and I will doubtless mess up again in the future. But right now, God; right now I want my will to be the same as yours.” Perhaps they’re even a way of saying, “I know you’ll remember me, God; help me remember that I am loved in Your sight – no matter what else is going on around me; no matter what else tries to pull me away from You.”

Job prayed it twice in his extreme pain, humiliation and grief. (10:9 and 14:13)

The phrase is found in a prayer Psalm. (106:4)

Jeremiah prayed it. (15:15)

Samson prayed a similar prayer before he brought the house down. (Judges 16:28)

Jesus prayed “Your will be done” as the house of Israel collapsed in fury on His holiness. (Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42)

And a thief on a cross would make a request of Him that was more than just a dying man could give; it was a prayer to God to be a part of His house. (Luke 23:42)

Maybe – just maybe – amid all of our praise and thanksgivings and petitions today, we should make time for the occasional prayer, “Remember us, o God; for we want what You want.”

10 thoughts on “Nehemiah and the One-Liner Prayers

  1. Keith, just like your post from last week, this one, as well, sheds alot of light on my questions about the purpose of prayer. Thank you so much for that. That idea…the idea of prayer helping us to line up our desires with His…well, it’s stayed with me since I read this yesterday afternoon. Thank you for giving me something else to think about. I don’t think you know what a blessing you are to me! Much love!

  2. Keith, I do believe most of us would need to change one word in your prayer. (sad, but true)“Remember us, o God; for we want what You want.”“Remember us o God; for we want what you HAVE. If you ask WHY, you will find most have a selfish religion, it’s all about me.

  3. I hope you had a great Christmas. We all had a good Christmas, we even received a Christmas potato. If you are not familiar with this tradition check the link on my blog.

  4. Keith,Excellent post brother.I love the way you come up with the one liner prayers and how powerful they really are when spoken. When I was in ICU. The passage that I quoted all the time was “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Day by day I got stronger and stronger by the power of God. I believe in the power of one liner prayers. Keith,My prayer for you brother is that you have a better year in 2008 than you did in 2007. May God poor his riches blessing on you, your family, and ministry.In Him,Kinney Mabry

  5. One of the most common lines in my prayers is “I know you can fix this – I just don’t see how.”He always works things out just right. (and I never see it coming!)

  6. To know that prayers offered to God are never forgotten in his unlimited memory, brings me indescribable comfort for my own condition and causes me to choose my words carefully.

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