After reading and explaining God’s Word, the priests and scribes called the people to corporate prayer. No doubt the reading of the book of Exodus before prayer helped the people form their prayer to God. No longer was He just an undefined Deity in heaven Who moves in ways that they could not see and could not understand, but rather, He is a God with a pretty consistent character and an unchanging nature.
The stories of the disobedient and ungrateful Israelites in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan must have offered a sense of hope to the ignorantly disobedient immigrants who were now living in Jerusalem.
As the scribe read the story of the forgiveness of God to a repentant people at Mount Sinai, the hearts of these immigrants must have been comforted at the realization that the God they served was truly a forgiving God. They saw that if He could extend mercy to those who so quickly had lost sight of His great hand, He certainly would extend mercy to those who were seeking to do right.
With their perspective shifting closer toward the true reality of Who God is, they now could pray well to God.
At times, our prayer life is tepid or even unbiblical. We have not read enough about Who He is, or what He desires, so that we can pray well. Without a firm understanding of God’s true nature, we find our natural default of prayer to be anything but praying based upon the broad character of God. Instead we fill our times of prayer (when we have them) with a list of grievances that we desire God to fix.
Our desires become the impetus for prayer, not His. It was only when the people heard the law read and knew Who God was that they knew how to pray.
Repentance was a great part of their prayer as well as beckoning for forgiveness. Gratitude was on every other breath as the constant reminder that He was listening and that He was forgiving them settled in their hearts. With a biblical perspective of Who God is, they could pray, and pray they did.
Perhaps we need to take the example of the returned exiles in Nehemiah and look more deeply into the text to get to know our God so that we may pray and pray well.
Food for Thought: What does 1 John 5:14 tell us about praying based upon God’s desires (will)?