The wall that surrounds us must be built through the knowledge and experience of THE Master Craftsman of life
This week we are continuing to discover the right tools for Nehemiah’s job – and for our job – as we build the walls of our lives. In Nehemiah’s time, the wall was physical. For us, it is more metaphorical. But it is no less important even though it is not a physical wall. In order to be secure, the wall that surrounds us must be built through the knowledge and experience of THE Master Craftsman of life. Lets continue here in Nehemiah 2 and discover what other tools are available to us as we prepare to build into our lives.
We should be a praying people who plan.
Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, “How long will your journey be, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.” And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me. Nehemiah 2:4-8 NASB
The Pick of Prayer
The next tool we discover in the toolbox is the Pick of Prayer. Verse 4 begins with a direct question from the King: “What is it you want?” Before answering the King of Persia, Nehemiah needed to speak briefly with the King of Heaven. I love this. The text says, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” This had to be a short prayer because it happened between the time the king asked his question and Nehemiah’s answer. I picture him sending up a really quick prayer or in contemporary jargon, sending God a text message. He obviously didn’t have the time to drop to his knees or even bow his head. He prayed where he was and as he was. He could have done this because of time constraints or because such an action could have looked treasonous to the king of Persia. Nehemiah’s quick prayer though had been preceded by months of fasting and intercession.
This is encouraging to me. You and I can pray at any time, in any place by sending up a brief prayer to God. Right before we have to give an answer to our boss, or before responding to our spouse, or when disciplining our kids, or when looking for a way to impact our neighbors for Christ, just shoot up a prayer. It doesn’t have to be long or even audible. We need to make good use of these chance moments to send up “text message” prayers to God. I’m convinced that this is the only way to fulfill 1 Thessalonians 5:17 where we’re challenged to “pray continually.” But don’t go overboard with these quick prayers. Remember the time Nehemiah spent – up to four months – in prayer and fasting before this meeting with the king of Persia. There is no substitute for deep, intercessory prayer if we desire to have a deep walk with our God.
The Polishing Tool of Planning
We see this in verses 5-8a. Nehemiah has lifted his heart to God; now he must open his mouth to the king. He practiced both dependent praying and deliberate planning. We need to hear this. Far too often we fall on one of these two extremes: we pray only or we plan exclusively. Really there isn’t one more important than the other because we see both in Scripture. Instead of being either a praying person or a planing person, we should be a praying people who plan. It isn’t an either/or proposition. It is a both/and one.
Nehemiah anticipated the king’s questions and had answers for them. So when the king asked, Nehemiah gave him a timeframe. He also knew how to plan the dangerous journey by asking for letters on the king’s stationery, which would give him safe passage through the different territories he came across.
He didn’t stop there. Look at verse 8. We see here that he wanted permission to take some timber out of the king’s own forest — he was not asking for a gift certificate to Lowes! He had done some research to know that the keeper of the king’s lumberyard was named Asaph. This forest was also called “paradise” in Hebrew and looked like a park filled with orchards. All along Nehemiah had planned to ask for the king to help in his journey and in supplying him with materials.
Nehemiah asked for, and received three things from the king: permission, protection, and provisions. Why? Because he had prayed for wisdom, relied on God’s intervention and planned for permission.
The Pry Bar of Proclamation
After all this was accomplished, look at what Nehemiah does next. He proclaims. He gave a testimony to the goodness of God in answering his prayers, guiding his mind, directing his speech and meeting his needs. Look at the last part of verse 8: “And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.”