The prayer starts with adoration, praising the name of God (9:1). Then it continues to go through the history of the Israelites. Genesis and the creation account is found in verse 6. The founding father of the covenant Abraham is then alluded to in verses 7 and 8. Then we transition to the book of Exodus where Moses and the commandments are mentioned in verses 9–17. The wilderness experiences are then waded through from verse 18–21; the conquest of Canaan is described in verses 22–25; and so on.
At first glance, one may want to skip over this chapter, thinking it to be a synopsis of the entire Old Testament. In some ways, it is; but there is a deeper exercise going on here. A theology of salvation history is being developed within the prayer.
Memory is a powerful tool. It molds who we are more than we may realize. Though we may not think of past memories intentionally on a daily basis, they comprise our subconscious operating system, affecting how we interact with people, our emotional tenor in various situations, what habits we naturally develop, and what behaviors we abhor in others as well as ourselves. These memories, whether they be good or bad,are often tucked away in the deep recesses of our hearts. Accessing these memories has a way of vivifying and strengthening our identities, values, and even spiritual capacities for faith, hope, and love.
Whereas this can take place on a personal level, as it happened to Nehemiah in chapter 1, there is even a more profound experience when done collectively on the community level. As much as God works in the lives of individuals, He also works in the lives of communities as well. Especially in the trajectory of the Israelites, the prayer establishes that He made all things good, He called Abraham out of His goodness, He called a people out of slavery, protected them, gave them good things, etc. The overwhelming theme that emerges is that God is good.
Upon this basis that God is good, the Jews can now go forward in faith that God continues to be good. It is in the exercise of reflection that deep insights and profound revelations on self and God can occur. This benefits us not only in past contemplation or present satisfaction, but most importantly in future assurance and confidence of faith.