Nehemiah prayed before he went to the king on behalf of his people. He began this prayer with praise: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments…” (Nehemiah 1:5). He went on to confess his sins and those of his people, and trusted God to keep his promises, but Nehemiah began with praise. In Sunday’s sermon, Paul McDill rightly pointed out that in praising God, Nehemiah was “telling God about God.” I think there’s one more thing though. He was telling himself about God.
If we’re going to pray, and be vulnerable in confession and bold in trust, we must have full confidence that the one who receives our confession and is endowed with our trust is worthy of these things. What if, as we begin to pray, we remember that our God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (Corinthians 1:3), who loves his people “with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)? What if we remember that God created the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:14-19) and is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20)? What if we recall that the Lord has made the heavens and the earth by his great power and outstretched arm — that nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17)? What if every time we go to God in prayer, seeking him for help or guidance, we begin by remembering who he is?
What if I praise? I will have confidence that I am forgiven and free, even though I know I don’t deserve it. I’ll know that if I talk to God about my pain, he can provide comfort. I’ll believe that maybe the thing that I’ve just about given up on is really possible. I’ll be willing to try again to make that change I need to make, to become “the best version of myself,” as Paul said Sunday. All of this will be because I’ll remember that my life is in the hands of a forgiving, loving and powerful God.