It’s a common question. One that was asked as far back as the first century while Jesus was still on Earth. One of the disciples of Jesus looked at him and said, “Teach us to pray.” Which is a good question… If prayer is the way in which we talk to God, then it makes sense that we would want to pray properly. Prayer can be confusing. It can be difficult and we can often feel inadequate to pray. So let me suggest a simple way to pray…
Recently, I studied the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a great task before him that he knew would only be accomplished with the help of God. So, Nehemiah prays a beautiful prayer in chapter one of his diary (you can read it HERE). His prayer gives us three simple and attainable movements to pray in our own prayer life.
In verses 5-7, Nehemiah starts by NAMING HIS PROBLEM. His family and his people had sinned against God. They were unfaithful and had walked away from their covenant with God. It’s important to notice that Nehemiah knows the problem lies with him… Not God. When we name our problem, it forces us to recognize our reality so that we can move forward and be redeemed from our problem. As long as we have sin blinders on, we won’t be fully honest and open before God which is required for salvation.
In verse 8-9, Nehemiah continues by NAMING THE PROMISE. His words are “Please remember what you told your servant Moses…” In other words, God I’m only asking for something you’ve already promised. And you promised that if we turn back to you, you’d bring us out of exile. This is huge… Because Nehemiah teaches us that we can actually pray God’s words back to Him.
Tim Keller says, “Our prayers should arise from our immersion in the Scriptures.” If you want to learn what to pray, spend more time in the Bible and pray God’s words back to him. Pay attention for the promises he has made to the his people… And then pray them in your own life.
Finally, in verses 10-11, Nehemiah finishes by NAMING HIS PLACE. He says, “God, we are only rescued by YOUR great strength… we are YOUR SERVANTS.” This is classic “Not my will, but your will be done” language. And it is necessary in prayer, because this is not a "name and claim it” prayer formula…
Nehemiah knew that at the end of the day, he served God, not the other way around. He had gotten to the point where he would be okay with whatever God decided because God was the one who did the rescuing… And an attitude like that requires humility. It’s a continuous process of naming your place before God, not in charge of God.
So there you have it… A simple way to pray. It’s not the only way to pray, but it’s a simple prayer that can have a big impact in your life.