Nehemiah had the chance to see the king of Persia day by day because his job was to test and serve his drink. It was a prestigious but delicate task. Nonetheless, it could also give Nehemiah the chance to earn the kings favor.
When Persia rose to power and became an empire, it happened that Nehemiah was among the Jews who were exiled. He was favored to serve as the the kings cupbearer in the palace. A time came when the king allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. But Nehemiah kept his job in the palace.
A brother of his came to visit him one day, together with other fellows. He asked them how their brethren, the Jewish remnants, were doing. He asked what Jerusalem looked like by then.
They told him they were back in the province and it was in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire, they said. (Nehemiah 1:3)
When he heard of this, he wept. And for some days, he mourned and fasted. He prayed before God. He honored God who keeps covenant. He begged Him to hear his prayers for the people of Israel. He confessed to Him the sins of Israelites, including his and that of his fathers house. He was sorry for the wickedness they had done against Him. He was moved because they did not obey the decrees God gave them through Moses. He remembered how God swore He would scatter them among all nations should they be unfaithful. But if they return to Him and obey His commands, He will gather them from the farthest place and will bring them to a land He had chosen as a dwelling for His Name.
Thus he prayed, O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. (Nehemiah 1:11)
Nehemiah did not just pray for God to bring back the glory of Israel. He knew he must do something. So he drew on his way in to the kings palace. And he prayed that God would touch the king to grant him favor.
The king granted him permission to take a leave of absence. He allowed him to go back to Judah to lead his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He gave him letters to governors to allow him entry to regions he must pass through till he reaches Judah. He also gave him a letter to Asaph, keeper of the kings forest, to grant him timbers for the rebuilding of the walls.
The king granted them all to Nehemiah according to the good hand of his God upon him. (Nehemiah 2:8). Not only that. Nehemiah was able to persuade his people to rebuild the walls and they did it in 52 days only. None of their enemies who hindered them from pursuing their goal prevailed because God was with them. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
We need to pray and act as well if we want something good to happen. Nehemiahs example teaches us to seek God earnestly in our prayers and to work out our prayers too. It does not mean to help God answer our prayers but for Him to lead us to His answer just like what happened to Nehemiah.
Nehemiahs challenge is not just to pray for our personal needs. He also challenges us to pray for our nation.
1. What are the situations that bring you down on your knees? What do you do after you have prayed?
2. Why do you think it takes time before God could answer our prayers?
God answers those who pray and act at the same time.