Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. (Nehemiah 1:8-10 ESV)
Ever struggle with understanding God’s will for your life? Sometimes the prayers pour out quick when we are asking God for help in the midst of our troubles, but when we turn the corner and begin seeking his will we can run into another problem and that is trying to figure out what God’s will is. How many times have we prayed and said something like, “If it be according to your will?” We are uncertain and so we throw a disclaimer in there to be safe.
But Nehemiah didn’t pray like that. He prayed a deeply emotional but focused prayer and he didn’t have to throw any disclaimers because he knew the will of God. He knew the will of God because he knew his bible. In his request he quotes two passages of scripture that are actually promises of God (Deuteronomy 30:1-5 & Exodus 34:6-7).
I think this lays down an important principle for us. We should know God’s word well enough to ask him for his will. The closer you read the bible with a heart to understand God, the more you will understand God and the more you will want to pray and ask God to do what he has already promised to do. Nehemiah has simply turned God’s promises into petitions (Petitions are when you ask for something). This is how we should pray. We should take the promises of God and turn them back to God in prayer.
Picture it like this. I’ve got two children and I promise them a trip to their favorite coffee shop if they read me a book. Both read me a book and so both begin asking, “When can we go to the coffee shop?” As their father I am delighted to take them to the coffee shop, it is something I have already promised. I am not annoyed that they have asked and they are asking with a lot of brashness and boldness because they know it was already promised to them. 
When it comes to our community what are some of the promises from scripture that you might pray?
One of my favorite scripture passages to pray over the churches in my city is John 13:34-35. This is a commandment that Jesus gave his disciples. I pray especially over my church but also over churches in town that we would love each other as Christ loved us and that Christians in our city would be known for Christ-like love to the Glory of God.
 It is important to note here that all promises in scripture are not to all believers. For example many of God’s promises in the Old Testament are to national Israel. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often misapplied to America when it was actually promised to Israel. Those are God’s words given to King Solomon in a dream they are meant for the Jewish People (who bear his name) about their land (Israel), there is no promise there for America. At best we could ask God to act in a similar way for us, but we cannot claim that promise. Americans cannot claim the promises that Nehemiah makes either for those are for national Israel. But God does make many promises to his people that are beyond the scope of national Israel (for example Romans 8:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 5:16, etc. etc.)