Nehemiah 2:1 - 10
How often are we in need and we do not ask? I am struck by the power in this section of scripture. If you remember from yesterday, Nehemiah had spent a lot of time before God in prayer. I think of some of my close relationships, and they are people into whom I have invested time. They are not my closest friends because I talk to them in passing; they are close to me because we have spent time with each other. I should even emphasize that it is quality time that has allowed those relationships to grow, not time at the movies. My closest friends are the people I have poured energy into. With that in mind, I cannot imagine that Nehemiah spent that much time and fasting before God without the relationship becoming more intimate. Chapter 1:4 says, “For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Let me emphasize the word days – he did not pray for an hour or five minutes, he prayed for days! I also want to emphasize the culture; when the Israelites mourned, they tore their clothes and poured ashes on their heads. I think it is safe to assume that Nehemiah did nothing else but mourned, prayed, and fasted for days. I don’t know about you, but this is very convicting for me! I have not spent days praying before God. At the end of his praying, he then asked for favor before the king.
With what we are told in chapter 1, I think we can begin chapter 2 knowing that Nehemiah had an intimate relationship with God. Even then, I noticed that Nehemiah was still afraid when the king noticed that he was sad, yet he didn’t let that stop him. After the king heard what was troubling him, he asked Nehemiah what he wanted. What did Nehemiah do? Look at verse 4. He prayed again! Try to picture the scene. Nehemiah already admitted that he was afraid to tell the king why he was sad, and now the king asks what he wants. I can just hear the prayer, because I’m sure it sounded very similar to prayers I have made: Help me God…give me strength…give me the words…protect me! What happens next is amazing. Nehemiah asks for a leave of absence and the king asks for how long. Now Nehemiah is feeling empowered and asks for safe conduct and timber, and the king grants his wishes. What happened to the fear? I don’t think it disappeared, but when we have a success with God power, we begin to feel more confident in God’s power. Please don’t miss what Nehemiah says in the second half of verse 8, “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” The next thing we read is Nehemiah is on his way with his letters in hand with army officers and cavalry with him!
I would like to go back to the emergency prayer we see in verse 4. Nehemiah didn’t come before the king unprepared; he had been praying before God and developing an intimacy with God for days. The king may have caught him off guard with his questioning, but Nehemiah had spent time praying over this situation. If anything, maybe God had set up the situation for the king to ask questions rather than Nehemiah going before the king with his concerns. I would like to compare this prayer like a music performance. When preparing for a performance, a soloist will spend hours practicing fundamentals and practicing the piece of music he/she will perform. Before going out on stage, the musician will “warm-up” by running through some fundamentals and perhaps playing the piece one time through. I look at Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 4 as his warm-up; this is not a last minute prayer out of the blue. This is important! If we want to be ready and be effective, we need to spend time in prayer – practice. This preparation is important; we see in verse 10 that he has enemies unhappy with his success.
Are you spending time in preparation and growing your relationship with God?