In 1960s Southern California, the beaches were littered with hippies searching for the meaning of life through free love, psychedelic drugs and communal living. One day, a pastor’s wife went to the beach and was distressed to see the aimless kids and began to weep. Kay Smith determined to do something, so she gathered several of her friends and, as she puts it, “saturated the air with prayer.” She asked her husband, Pastor Chuck Smith, to open his church to this generation. Many people were shocked when the hippies showed up, barefoot and bedraggled, and sat on the floor rather than in the pews. But the Smiths embraced them. Their ministry was a vital part of the “Jesus Movement” that swept the country. It can be said that true revival begins with heartfelt tears but finds its voice in prayer.
Nehemiah, one of the most powerful Jews in Babylon, broke down in tears when he heard of Jerusalem’s miserable condition. He mourned for God’s holy city and scattered people. His compassion compelled him to pray and fast for them. His prayer reflected his heart’s passion and also offers a pattern for our prayers.
First, Nehemiah acknowledged who God is: “the great and awesome God.” When we focus on who God is, it helps to put our own problems into proper perspective.
Next Nehemiah acknowledged who he himself was: God’s servant. When we maintain an attitude of humility toward our heavenly Father, we are reminded of our dependence on God.
Then Nehemiah confessed his own sins and the sins of the Israelites. He didn’t gloss over the transgressions but stated them in honest repentance. Repentance freed him—and can free us—to make the next step in prayer.
Awed, humbled and forgiven—Nehemiah reminded God of his promises to his people. He recounted God’s promises to the children of Israel and interceded for his people, asking God to hear his prayer and favor him.
What situation has brought you to tears? If it is enough to touch your heart, it’s enough to bring you to your knees. Follow Nehemiah’s pattern: Acknowledge who God is and who you are, confess your sins and remind God of his promises. When you do these things, you can come to God knowing that “he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29).
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.