Nehemiah went in to serve as king Artaxerxes’ cupbearer after hearing that his brethren in Jerusalem were in great trouble and that the city itself lay in ruin. The king noticed his sad countenance. After hearing about this desperate situation, the king asked for his request. The next words in Nehemiah 2:4 are some of the most important in the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem.
“So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
Our city may not lie in ruins, but at times we may feel like our lives are. Plans for the future are dashed by a foolish choice, an unexpected circumstance, or sinful conduct. Whether it is something we did, something done to us, or just something that happened, the result is still disheartening. When we find ourselves in the place where Nehemiah was, we should be prepared to pray as he did.
Did you notice that his prayer was immediate? But this is what happens when prayer is a regular practice in life. Prayer was his first thought when Nehemiah received the terrible news from Jerusalem. And prayer accompanied every important event throughout Nehemiah’s life. Truly, this is as it should be – after all, God is our Father, and it should be the most natural thing for his children to talk to him.
Did you notice that his prayer was short? It is not recorded, but it came between the king’s question and his response. When prayer is an integral part of life as it was with Nehemiah, it does not have to be long to be effective. After all, God already knows our need. Prayer is not a checklist of what we want God to give us. Prayer is communion. Prayer is an exhibition of trust. Prayer draws us to God and keeps us close.
Did you notice that his prayer was fervent? We do not know the exact content of this prayer, but the intensity is evident. It seems the more hopeless the situation, the more fervent our prayer. To the outsider, it may have appeared that Nehemiah could do nothing about the situation in Jerusalem – after all, he was a captive in a faraway land. But prayer recognizes God’s involvement – and that changes everything.
And so, whether we are in times of trial or times of thanksgiving – whether the night is dark and threatening or the sunrise brings the hope of a new beginning, may these words ever describe us, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”