Have you ever been on a committee that had to make difficult decisions or had to plan a large event? When put in a leadership position, sometimes we see and hear things that we wish we didn’t see or hear; we are reminded that we are all human and have various weaknesses. Being on a committee that provides leadership can also be difficult because we need to have a plan or a goal in place and you may already see potential road blocks down the road. Perhaps you are not even on a committee, but you need to set a plan in motion for your finances or your job. Maybe as a leader, you need to tell someone information that will be difficult to hear. Over the next two days, I want to look at how Nehemiah didn’t just pray before making plans, he depended on prayer. Please look up Nehemiah 1:1-11.
Nehemiah was living at a time when many Jews that had been in exile were allowed to go back to Israel while many remained in the Persian Empire. Nehemiah was one of the Jews that for whatever reason remained in the Persian Empire, but he had asked other Jews that were traveling through about the state of the exiles that returned and the city of Jerusalem. He learned that the wall was broken down and the gates had been burned leaving the inhabitants at great risk. Nehemiah was distressed, but his immediate reaction was one that we can all learn from. Verse 4 tells us, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah first turned to God. Nehemiah didn’t go and complain to whoever would listen; he went to God who was the only one that could really help in this situation.
Chapter 1 does not give us an idea of what Nehemiah is thinking as far as the wall of Jerusalem, but we see that after Nehemiah fasted and prayed for days he felt that he needed to go before the king. I wonder if it was through those days of prayer Nehemiah was seeing that he was the one that God was calling to fix the wall. When Nehemiah was ready to go to the king and ask for help, he prayed to God specifically for favor before the king. We see in verse 11 that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, which also means that he had seen what happened when a person did not have favor before the king. The first thing I noticed in that prayer was the humility that Nehemiah had when going before God. He prayed for forgiveness for the nation of Israel and reminded God of the promise He gave Israel when they turned back to Him. It was at the end of a very humble prayer that Nehemiah asked for help going before the king.
Personally, I see someone who started out praying and fasting with no real plan in mind and through that process began to see that he needed to do something. He realized the first thing would be to get favor from the king so he could go and help rebuild the wall. I believe that the process of prayer gave him a plan, yet even after he had a plan, he prayed for help carrying out the first step of the plan. I wonder how often I could have done better if I would have spent serious time in prayer before making plans. It is so easy to rely on our own knowledge and understanding and just plod on ahead; however, when we are humble we see that our greatest success really isn’t our success but it is God’s.
Do you spend a lot of time in prayer before making plans? Do you seek God’s direction and help before taking the first step?