In the Book of Nehemiah, we read about a man who served as cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes, in Shushan the palace. The cupbearer held a very trusted position in the kingdom, for that person would protect the king by tasting the drinks before serving them to him. This cupbearer’s name was Nehemiah.
While Nehemiah was serving in this occupation, he received word concerning the beloved city of Jerusalem. When one of his brethren, Hanani, and certain men of Judah came to him, he “asked them concerning the Jews [Judeans] that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.”
And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
This news deeply affected Nehemiah, and he prayed to God for His people and this devastating situation they were in. Jerusalem lay in ruins; its walls were broken down, and the believing of God’s people was broken down too. Nehemiah prayed, and God opened the door for him to leave his trusted position in the Persian kingdom and to fulfill a need for leadership, for project management, in Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.
In fifty-two days, this project was completed. In less than two months, the walls were rebuilt by the commitment of one man and a remnant of Judeans, who strengthened their hands and worked together. How did Nehemiah manage such a great work for God and His people? We’ll look at four Biblical principles he operated that can be applied toward accomplishing any project we are assigned or inspired to do as well. He prayed, he planned, he proceeded, and he persisted.
Nehemiah, chapter 1, clearly sets the scene in which Nehemiah found himself. Nehemiah had heard the news of Jerusalem’s desolation while he was serving in Shushan the palace as the king’s cupbearer. He held a very trusted position, which gave him great access to the king. But his life and job position were soon going to change. Verse 4 tells us what Nehemiah did when he received news of the condition of Jerusalem.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.
After he heard the news, Nehemiah sat down and wept and mourned and fasted, but that was not all. Nehemiah chose to pray. This is the first principle we’ll study. To accomplish any great work for God, we begin with prayer. Look at Nehemiah’s heartfelt petitions to God.
Nehemiah 1:5 and 6:
And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible [revered] God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants….
From the moment he heard about the dire condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah prayed day and night. And others prayed too.
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear [respect] thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.
In Nehemiah’s prayer, we see his plan emerging—he asked God to grant him mercy in the sight of the king. The first step of Nehemiah’s plan was to speak to the king. When we pray, we get as specific as we can with our requests.
Be careful [Be anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [specific requests] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
We can pray with believing and confidence, knowing that God hears our prayers. And we can ask for anything promised in His Word, which is His will.
I John 5:14 and 15:
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have [present tense] the petitions that we desired [past tense] of him.
Verse 15 of I John 5 states a fundamental truth about prayer: we have our requests before we have the manifestation of them. We can see this clearly in the life of Nehemiah. Four months after he first learned of Jerusalem’s condition, the door opened for Nehemiah to speak to the king (Nehemiah 2:1-3). During those four months, he prayed day and night and had time to think through this important project.
Prayer is a powerful component in our daily lives. For believers, it combines seamlessly with planning. When we pray, we poise ourselves for action; we are ready to walk forward to receive our requests. And this brings us to the second principle: we plan. Managing any great work requires planning….
This is an excerpt from the September/October 2015 issue of The Way Magazine.
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