I was taught that Nehemiah’s prayer recorded here in chapter 2 was an emergency prayer, sent to God in a desperate situation and requiring an instant answer - the inference being that we don’t need to make any plans for life, just pray to God and miracles will come our way. But life is just not like that and God is neither a spiritual Father Christmas nor genie of the lamp. And if we ignore chapter 1, and Chapter 2 verse 1, I guess it could look like that.
However, Nehemiah had gone to great lengths in the previous chapter to explain that this was in fact all part of his strategy to return to Jerusalem and give aid to the remnant of the Jews living there. Chapter 2 opens with the fact that he had never been sad in the presence of the king before. There was a reason for that – Kings don’t like sad people being around them.
Knowing this, Nehemiah decided that “today” was the day to present his plan to the King and there wasn’t a better way to get the conversation going than to look sad. King Artaxerxes took the bait and asked what the grief was all about.
In response, I believe Nehemiah’s prayer went something like this – “O.K. God, so far so good, now it’s entirely up to You.” He then proceeded to present the plan he had been working on and agonising over before God for the last 4 months. He was able to tell the king how long his travels would take and how long he would be away.
Please notice he didn’t say – I want to have a bit of leave to pop back home and try and help them. He told the King exactly what he intended to do and where he needed the King’s specific help. Verse 8 records the miracle – “Because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.”
Christianity is both real and a relationship with God. It is not a set of rules and regulations or some ritual. Nor is it a life of miraculous escapes or provision everyday. God expects us to use our brains, submit our plans to Him and then allow Him to make them become a reality in His time and in His way, with the odd miracle thrown in where needed.
The Bible tells us that the day the Israelites ate the food from the Promised Land the Manna ceased. Yes, of course, God delights in granting us miracles. Each breath we take is one. However, He also expects us to use our God-given brains and abilities to fulfil His plans and purposes, too.
Father, thank you so much that You care about every detail of our lives – the big ones and the small ones. Help me to remember that although I may not ‘see’ You working on my behalf, it doesn’t mean You have forgotten me or are unaware of the pressures and concerns I face. Help me to learn to trust You more and to use the brain, gifts and talents You have given me to follow You closer every day. Help me also remember that we still live in an age of miracles. Thank You. Amen.
Should we plan before we pray or pray before we plan?
Why is it we have a bias towards wanting miracles to come our way rather than for us to carry on the work regardless?
What miracles have you experienced? What ones are you waiting on God to send?