Spiritual Discipline // PRAYER
In chapter 1 of Nehemiah, we read his great prayer—Nehemiah pleads with the Lord, confesses the sins of Israel, confesses his own sins and asks the Lord to remember his people.
It is really an epic prayer. We can imagine the far side of heaven hearing this prayer. (I am being tongue in cheek—God hears all prayers).
But, did you notice the small prayer in Nehemiah 2? Trembling Nehemiah honestly admits his sadness to the king who did not want any sign of sadness in his empire. (Empires are like that—they prefer niceties and pleasantries—anything less than happiness — even if fake happiness — reminds the empire that they don’t really have it all together.)
But, the king (probably for false motives as we talked about on Sunday), listens to Nehemiah and then responds with a question:
“What do you request?”Nehemiah 2:4a NRSV
When the important king of an important empire suddenly decides that your request is important, it is as if all of the empire stops, holds its collective breath and cringes. Your next words are important. If you are presumptuous, you might get fired (Literally! Remember Daniel’s three friends and the fiery furnace?!!).
But, if you get too scared and forget your request, you will never be heard from again.
Deep breath! Scrunch up your courage, Nehemiah! But, first—a prayer.
This seems to be another epic moment—deserving of an epic prayer. If there is ever a time for the far side of heaven to hear, this is it!
“So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
It must have been short. It must have been under his breath. It seems to have been a really short prayer, not even worth recording. Perhaps it was only as long as one inhale.
But God heard and granted Nehemiah wisdom.
Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.”
The Persians were greatly interested in their own ancestors. So, perhaps the focus of Nehemiah’s complaint and request regarding the place of his ancestors was God’s particular wisdom given to him at that moment so that he would gain the permission of the king.
Both of Nehemiah‘s prayers were important. His longer and more eloquent prayer: there’s a time and a place to pray like that. Also important, this small prayer on the inhale. Nehemiah’s example reminds us that we too must be reminded to ask God for his wisdom at all times.
Here is your one challenge for today: pray as many small, quick prayers as you can. Before interaction with your children or your grandchildren, before you head to work or before you head home from work. Before you zone out and watch TV, say a prayer and remember that God is with you. Later in the Bible, James reminds us that if any of us lacks wisdom we should simply ask for it. Our request doesn’t have to be long.
Nehemiah proves that. I bet you will find some more wisdom today as you pray in all of the little spaces of your life. Simply, on the inhale, pray. Ask God for wisdom. He hears. Even if he is on the far side of heaven. 🙂