Stop Praying “Be With” Prayers (A Lesson From Nehemiah 1)

He says (and I’m paraphrasing), O God, you great and awesome and magnificent God, who rules over the universe. We, your people, bow before you and confess our sins and our shortcomings before you. Can you see what he’s doing? He’s getting spiritual before he gets practical. He knows that the issue of the walls in Jerusalem is a metaphor for the real spiritual condition of the people. The reason that the wall is collapsed and broken down is because of the spiritual needs of their hearts. So Nehemiah prays first about what matters most:

Lord, I must confess our sins. Lord, I must acknowledge our complete dependence upon you. Lord, let us turn our gaze to the things that really matter, because we have completely lost sight of what’s going on.

No More Narrow-Minded Prayers

I’m humbled by Nehemiah; I’m humbled by Paul. How small, how narrow-minded are my prayers. How “be with” are my prayers.

In my experience, those of us who are parents are particularly at risk of this kind of attitude when it comes to our children. If you have kids, here’s one way to diagnose whether your prayers are over-practical and under-spiritual. What do you pray for your kids, when you pray for them (if you do)? Would our prayers for our children reveal that we understand that their spiritual condition matters more than their financial or relational or vocational well-being? Would our prayers reflect the truth that their position in Christ matters infinitely more than their position in school or college or the office or society? All that matters may be brought before God, but we must always bring before God those things that matter most.


This article is an extract from Pray Big. So many of us struggle with prayer. Many books have been written on the subject and there’s a reason for that. Prayer comes hard to most of us, in most seasons. This short book by renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg combines warmth, clarity, humor, and practicality as he examines Paul’s prayers for his friends in the church in Ephesus. It’s available to buy here

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