When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to that of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.
At the time, I was the king’s cupbearer. Nehemiah 1:4, 11 HCSB
Some days seem like we have too much to do. The pressures of life squeeze us into uncomfortable places and shape our priorities. Nehemiah was a man with many life pressures. What was the first thing he did when burdened by the disarray of the city of his people, Jerusalem? He fasted and prayed to God. He wept and confessed that he along with his people had sinned against the Lord and deserved the trouble they were encountering. He asked the Lord to move powerfully and lead King Artaxerxes to do something about the broken down walls of Jerusalem.
When Artaxerxes asked about Nehemiah’s sad countenance, he first prayed before uttering a word. Then, he offered Artaxerxes his petition and the king answered favorably, giving Nehemiah the supplies and the commission to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Suddenly, Nehemiah was the answer to his prayer! Soon he traveled to Jerusalem with supplies and a vision, relying on God.
Opposition came against the returned exiles as they rebuilt the walls so Nehemiah again prayed (4:4-5) and encouraged the people. As a result, God frustrated the plots of the opposition. In each crisis, Nehemiah led the exiles to pray together for God’s assistance and, each time, God protected them and the building proceeded. As a man of prayer, Nehemiah wrote: “But out of reverence to God … I devoted myself to the work on this wall.” Because he led with prayer and kept his eye on the goal of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, the job was finished in just 52 days! The people of Jerusalem began their celebration of the new walls with the devout prophet and scribe Ezra reading God’s Word—they feasted on God’s Truth before enjoying a celebration of choice food and drink!
The exiles experienced a revival under Nehemiah’s prayerful leadership. As a politically powerful person, Nehemiah humbled himself before God and repeatedly came in prayer, asking for God’s help. At every stage of his life—cupbearer, builder, governor—we find Nehemiah in prayer. What is the first thing you do when you feel pressured by the demands of life, the troubles in our world, the hard places where you find yourself? Do you fret and worry or do you bend your knees in prayer, asking God to act mightily by His awesome power to accomplish His good work in your life? Lead on your knees! Like Nehemiah, come first to God in prayer allowing Him to provide the assistance and guidance you need in the midst of life’s pressures.
By Carol McLaren