In the story of Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king has his life disrupted when he hears a report about his ancestral home, Israel. The walls of Jerusalem are pulled down, the gates are burned and the city is in a mess. The people are a shadow of their former selves, and they seem to have lost the sense of purpose and destiny as the people of God.
Nehemiah is so effected by this news that he decides he must do something about it. Yet, what can he do? He is cupbearer to the king, so he can’t just get up and leave to go to Jerusalem. Furthermore, the King is not likely to be in favour of the rebuilding of a fortified city in his realm. A city that is in the land of a people who used to be a powerhouse in the region. It all seems impossible, so he prays. He aligns himself with God, he confesses the part he and his ancestors have played in the current state of Israel, and he asks for an opportunity to speak to the king.
There is an old adage “be careful what you wish/ pray for.” After four months his prayer is answered, and Nehemiah has a moment before the king. Noticing that his servant is downcast and then hearing of the plight of Israel, the king asks Nehemiah “What is it you want?”
Nehemiah gets ready to give the king an answer. An answer which he has no doubt rehearsed over and over again during the last few months. But before he speaks we have this line.
“Then I prayed to the God of heaven”
Have you ever had a moment like that? God opens up an opportunity and you feel completely overwhelmed, so under your breath you pray. In your mind, you pray. When you are standing before the king and he notices that you are sad, you pray.
Nehemiah has the opportunity of a lifetime, and Nehemiah is a smart man. He is smart enough to know that this is not a moment of his making. He also knew that his success in this moment is utterly dependent on God. So he prays.
That line “then I prayed to the God of heaven” is NOT AN INCIDENTAL LINE to the story and success of Nehemiah, it is AN ESSENTIAL ONE.
Erwin McManus in his book, “Seizing the Divine Moment” writes,
“Prayer is an obstacle to seizing our divine moments when we neglect to pray. Prayer keeps you in step with God’s Spirit and in tune with His voice…. The purpose of prayer is to keep you connected, and when you’re connected to God, you are moving with Him. Prayer that connects you to God positions you to seize your divine moment. This kind of prayer gives you the courage to live the life of the adventurer.”
That is what Nehemiah does in this moment. He pauses, he connects with God, and finds the courage to step into this moment.
THIS LINE, “THEN I PRAYED” IS NOT INCIDENTAL, IT IS ESSENTIAL.
Could it be that the divine moment you are longing for needs you to be on your knees before you rush forward? When you feel overwhelmed, the wisest thing you can do is pause, connect with God and allow Him to give you the courage to seize the moment he is inviting you into?