Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 9:6-15
Let’s spend a couple of weeks talking about the importance of communal prayer. We all know that prayer is important, and hopefully all of us spend time in prayer on a daily basis. Private prayer most certainly has its place in scripture. Great heroes of the faith such as Moses, Hannah, David, Elijah, Peter, and even Jesus spent time praying by themselves. Most often, however, prayer takes place in groups, whether it be one person leading and everyone else affirming what the leader prays (we see this often with kings such as Solomon), or everyone praying together at once, like in today’s scripture focus. There is power in corporate prayer.
Today’s scripture focus takes place at the end of Israel’s 24 day celebration of the Law. After Nehemiah had led the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they gathered and listened to their priest Ezra read the Torah, which is the first five books of our Bible. The people originally responded by weeping as they realized how through every tragedy that had befallen them, God had been at work, had protected them even when it didn’t seem that way, and still had great plans for them. Ezra, Nehemiah, and the priests told the people that now was not the time to cry but to rejoice! In obedience to the Law, the people celebrated the Feast of Booths.
This feast was a commemoration of how God had protected the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness. It involved sleeping in temporary structures. The people went outside the city and cut down branches, making tents on top of their houses. After this festival was completed, the people prepared for a time of prayer. They began to fast, which means to go without food. They put on plain, simple clothing and put dirt on their faces to symbolize their impurity before a holy God. They did these things to indicate the seriousness of the task before them. Before they began to pray, they listened to the word of God for six hours!
Only after spending a quarter of a day listening to God’s Instruction did the people began to pray. They started their prayer with praise. Praise is recognizing God for who God is. The people acknowledged that God was above all, God’s glorious name, and that the words didn’t even exist do describe God, who was above all blessing and praise. Then, the people continued the prayer with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is recognizing what God has done. The people began to recount all God had done for them, including creating them, choosing them, delivering them, and protecting them. The lesson for us is clear: before you tell God what you need, praise God for who He is and thank God for what He’s done!
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What are some words of “praise” we use to describe God today? (ex: Almighty, Holy, Loving, etc.)
What are some things we can thank God for today? (ex: giving us live, saving us, our families, our jobs, etc.)
Spend time as a class in prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Either have one or two people lead, or go around the room and have everyone give a once sentence prayer including praising God for who He is and thanking God for what He’s done.