The full question is , “What unusual request did Nehemiah pray for God to do 7 times?” You are about to discover one of the strangest prayer habits in Scripture. Let’s begin!
In the previous posts we discussed that in Chapter 1, Nehemiah received devastating news that brought him into great sorrow. He wept, he fasted, and he prayed vigorously.
There are many great things that have been written about the Chapter 1 prayer, but the thing that really stood out to me this time was the fact that in verse 8 Nehemiah dares to ask a non-forgetful, always-mindful God to “remember”. I find it strange to think that anyone would need to ask a completely faithful God to remember. Further research into the Hebrew Interlinear Bible showed me that Nehemiah went beyond merely asking God to remember; he is actually begging God not to forget! I BESEECH THEE TO REMEMBER!
8 I beseech thee, remember the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, Ye will transgress, and I will scatter you abroad among the people.–Nehemiah 1:8
When the Thief on the Cross asked Jesus to “remember me”, he was asking Jesus to “include” him. That is NOT what is happening here! Nehemiah is not asking God to simply”include”, he is pleading with God to not forget and turn away.
Nehemiah’s theology and beliefs about God may be very different than mine or yours. Do you think that it is a “stretch”to believe that a great prayer warrior like Nehemiah might truly entertain the idea that God may need reminding, and that God is somehow capable of forgetting and removing things from His thoughts? Then consider these words that Nehemiah took the time to write down.
Nehemiah 13:14–Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and DO NOT WIPE OUT my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!
When he says “Remember” in the verse above, he is not passively asking God to simply take notice. He is not just asking God to “include me”. He is urgently asking God to not have this wiped out! The tone expressed is “Do not ever forget, and do not wipe it from your mind.” Again, do not make the mistake of passing over Nehemiah’s urgent plea as being poetic or just a figure of speech. Nehemiah is very serious about the need for asking God to be sure that He doesn’t forget!
Asking God to remember is Nehemiah’s #1 prayer habit. Nehemiah asks God to be certain to remember 5 more times! Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah 6:14, Nehemiah 13:22b, Nehemiah 13:29, Nehemiah 13:31. Altogether, that is 7 times that Nehemiah pleaded with God to remember and not forget. Someone joked with me and said, “If God acts forgetful, then this answers the question of why the New Testament says that you need to keep asking, seeking, and knocking. It also explains the parables of the Friend at Night and the Unjust Judge!”.
It may be easy to excuse this by saying something like, “Nehemiah didn’t really believe this way. He was just being real with his emotions and said things in the heat-of-the-moment.” The only problem is that Nehemiah didn’t just say these things…He wrote them down…later…and offered no explanations or corrections to his theology.
What can we learn from this?
1.Perfect theology is not a prerequisite for powerful prayer.
Nehemiah is not the only prayer warrior to misrepresent the character of God in his prayers. The Psalmist accuses God of sleeping and never backs away from it.
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.–Psalm 44:23
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.–Psalm 35:23
They actually sang, “Why do you sleep?” The Psalmist was not rebuked for writing and singing such things.
It becomes much easier to conceive that Nehemiah believed that God needed to be asked to remember, when you consider that the Psalmist accused God of needing to be awakened.
2. God was not offended that his servants either said or believed that He was sleeping, was possibly forgetful, or needed to be asked some things continually.
He is not offended that these statements or beliefs were written down. I think that maybe God prefers an honest, error-filled, heartfelt plea for help over a theologically practiced and memorized mumble.
God loved Nehemiah’s prayers! He wasn’t upset with Old Testament ignorance. Guess who has the longest prayer in the Bible? Nehemiah! You’ll find it in Nehemiah 9: 5-38.
3. We are often more offended than God is by incorrect theology.
What if the Psalmist or Nehemiah was our pastor today and began yelling in the pulpit, “Hey God, wake up! Why are you sleeping? Stop taking a nap and help us! Do you remember what you said? Do we need to keep asking, seeking, and knocking till you either remember or wake up?” That pastor would probably be voted out by the church board before the service was over.
We will break fellowship over differences in end-times doctrine. We will have church splits over whether we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, or if we baptize in Jesus name. We can’t worship together if someone speaks in tongues and interprets, and we don’t. We would vote out the Psalmist and Nehemiah over bad, outrageous theology while God made sure their prayers were included in scripture.
Summary: Once again, Nehemiah’s words have brought me comfort and enlightenment.