The Importance of Prayer and Planning
In my blog Period of Inactivity?, we learned that Nehemiah spent four months seeking the Lord (Nehemiah 2:1). He prayed and really thought about the vision he received. But it’s now time for action. Here, we will learn another lesson from Nehemiah’s life—the importance of prayer and planning. Join me in Nehemiah 2:1-9.
The Importance of Prayer
1In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before.
Aside from spending four months seeking God, we also find Nehemiah sad. Why was he sad? Commentators suggest that he had a dilemma. On one hand, he was faithfully serving the king. On the other hand, he wanted to go to Jerusalem. He did not know what to do! He was the cupbearer, a position so high (and dangerous) that finding a reliever or replacement can be difficult. (Just imagine what could’ve happened if Nehemiah prematurely decided to ask for a leave. This could’ve created unnecessary tension with the king and it will make things even more complicated for him).
2So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid.
First, Nehemiah was afraid. Now, he became sad. Why was that?
It was dangerous to show any form of sorrow in front of the king. This would displease him, and he could easily ask for the execution of the person who showed sadness. Since Nehemiah held a high position and represented the king as well, he should always wear a smile on his face. But we see from the tone of the king’s statement that he was concerned of his servant rather than displeased.
3But I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven.
Finally, Nehemiah voiced out the reason for his sadness. Then the king asked him what he wanted. But he did not answer right away. He did not even excuse himself so he could pray. While in the middle of the conversation with the king, he instantly connected with the King of kings! And I strongly believe that the four months time, from Kislev to Nisan, of seeking God really helped him develop an intimate relationship with Him. This solid relationship allowed him to connect with God right there and then.
Do you have this kind of intimate relationship with God? Do you pray for your visions and plans?
The Importance of Planning
5And I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 7I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?”…
When Nehemiah was asked, he knew what to say. He knew what he needed. These were permission (v.5), protection (v.7), and provision (v.8a). He also knew the people he needs to approach and it seems that he did his homework by researching the name of the keeper of the king’s forest (v.8a).
6Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
Here, Nehemiah was asked how much time he will be gone. So he set a time. His answer was not explicitly stated but he ended up staying in Jerusalem twelve years. We can learn that he was conscious of his time. He was a good time manager.
In all these, we can learn that Nehemiah’s plan was detailed. He knew what his potential project needed and how much time it will take. Details are essential to a plan.
One of the things that irritate me is plans without details. (I wonder if it’s still considered a plan). I have encountered many times people who would “plan”, but doesn’t know the details of their plan such as time, venue, costs, and other specifics. What a waste of time!
8…And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
Although it was the king who granted the requests, Nehemiah acknowledged the sovereignty of God over his plan. I am reminded of Proverbs 19:21:
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Let us always lift up our plans to God. Do you acknowledge His sovereignty in your plans and as you plan?