Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, teaches us an important and simple lesson regarding prayer and action.
Nehemiah was an exiled Jew living in the city of Susa (modern day Shush in Iran), serving as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in 445 BC (Neh 2). One day the King noticed that Nehemiah appeared sad and asked why. Nehemiah explained that his home city of Jerusalem was in ruins. The king asked what he wanted to do about it and in response, Nehemiah first “prayed to the God of heaven, and then…answered the king.” He asked permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls and gates. I love that Nehemiah recognized his need for God’s blessing, help, intervention. Maybe he asked God to give him words to speak! 😉
He asked God for help then stepped out in faith doing what he felt was right.
Again in chapter 4, we read that opposition arises while Nehemiah is leading the men of Jerusalem in the rebuilding of its gates and walls. There are people who want its fortifications to cease. They want its defenses to stay down. Nehemiah’s response is recorded in verse 9. “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
More often than not, when faced with a mundane problem that would seem fixable with a bit of effort, creativity and hard-earned intelligence, we forego asking God to assist, deliver or remedy the situation. Sometimes however a problem seems so insurmountable that we earnestly pray for Divine deliverance, then never step out in faith to work out the problem. Nehemiah went to the God of heaven first, then stood up to face the problem head on.
To quote one of my favorite verses, “Do your best, prepare for the worst and trust God for the victory.” Prov 31:21 (MSG)