"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." — Nehemiah 1:4
Prayer in Judaism is defined as “the work of the heart,” which profoundly changes the nature of prayer from one of entreating God to an act that transforms who we are – not what God does. Our devotions throughout this month are focused on the purpose of prayer, how to pray effectively, and the power of our prayers. Allow us to take your prayers to the holiest site in all Judaism, the Western Wall. To submit a prayer request to be taken to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, please go here.
Faced with difficult and unexpected news, how do you react? Do you break down and cry? Do you take action? Do you take time to consider possible solutions? Do you pray?
Nehemiah did all these things in response to the disheartening news about the state of the Jewish exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. And because of his willingness to get involved, Nehemiah is one of the true unsung heroes of the Bible, a remarkable man who made a difference.
As you may recall, Nehemiah was a Jewish exile serving Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, as his royal cup-bearer — the person who tested the king’s wine. The Jews, who had been exiled by the Babylonians, finally were permitted to return to Jerusalem. But things weren’t going so well for them. Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, brought him the following report: “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
When Nehemiah heard this news, he “sat down and wept.” His heart broke because his people were unprotected and Jerusalem disgraced because her walls — a symbol of strength and peace — lay in ruins.
But while Nehemiah deeply grieved over this news, he didn’t brood about it. Rather, after his initial grief, Nehemiah began fasting and praying to God, pouring out his heart to Him. In fact, Nehemiah spent four months praying, planning, and preparing himself to appeal to the king for help.
And so it happened that as Nehemiah was serving the king, Artaxerxes noticed that his servant was downhearted. When the king asked Nehemiah what was wrong, although badly frightened, Nehemiah had his request ready. And because “the gracious hand of [his] God” was upon Nehemiah, not only did the king listen, but he also granted all of Nehemiah’s requests.
Nehemiah made a difference in life. He saw a problem that needed a solution, and he used the resources available to him to take action. Moreover, Nehemiah trusted in God to afford him both the opportunity and the courage he needed to succeed.
We can make a difference in life, too. Look for opportunities where you live or work for how God can use you. Then, like Nehemiah, come to God in prayer and ask for the courage and wisdom to take action.