Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were unexpectedly put in a corner and found yourself saying a quick prayer for help? I have, and my prayer is often worded something like, “God give me wisdom!” I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with praying for help in the moment, but I do think that I also need to just spend time praying every day. That is where I think Nehemiah was in today’s section of scripture. The only difference is that his quick prayer came with a lot of prayer backing it up. Please look up Nehemiah 2:1-9.
Something that I have been learning is to look at details when reading the Bible. There are often details that I plow through that can add significance to what I am reading, so I want to look back at Nehemiah 1:1 and compare it to Nehemiah 2:1. There is a significant clue in the timing of the process of Nehemiah’s seeking God and when he finally had his opportunity to tell the king of his desire. Chapter 1 tells us that Nehemiah first received the news about the wall in the month of Kislev of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign, which is the ninth month of the Jewish calendar. Chapter 2:1 tells us that Nehemiah had his opportunity to tell the king about the wall in the month of Nisan of Artaxerxes’ twentieth year, which is the first month of the Jewish calendar. The Jews also had a twelve month calendar, so we know that there was approximately 4 months between the moment that Nehemiah received word about the wall and when he had his opportunity before the king. Nehemiah had been praying for four months.
After four months of praying, the king noticed that Nehemiah was sad. This was the opportunity that Nehemiah had been praying for! I wonder if Nehemiah found himself caught off guard; maybe he felt his heart pounding because the moment had finally come. When the king asked the question in verse 4, “What is it that you want?” we see that Nehemiah’s immediate reaction was to pray. This was not a last minute prayer; this was a prayer for the moment that had been backed up with months of prayer. Nehemiah knew that his ability to do this came from God and he turned to Him once more in that moment. In America we are so used to convenience, and I think sometimes we pray prayers of convenience. Jesus explained that there are some things that just need a lot of prayer. Please look up Mark 9:14-29. The disciples were unable to drive out a demon and they didn’t understand; Jesus explained that some things take prayer. He doesn’t specify how long, but it does imply that it just isn’t a quick little prayer. My Bible has a note that some manuscripts actually say that it takes prayer and fasting, which implies the idea of something that takes place over time.
Are you backing your life up with prayer so when you are in a defining moment you are saying one last quick prayer?