At fellowship this weekend we reflected upon the first chapter of Nehemiah, this of course sparked my interest as I had never read Nehemiah before, and I dug into the first few chapters this morning during my quiet time. What struck me as interesting, was simply how much Nehemiah relied upon God.
And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been formerly sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, (Nehemiah 2:1-2, emphasis mine)
He's afraid, the king has noticed how sad Nehemiah is (from hearing about the sorry state of Jerusalem). That's probably not a good idea. I would imagine kings don't like it when their servants walk around depressed, if the king was in a bad mood that day it could have created life threatening problems for Nehemiah, perhaps this is why he was afraid?
What does Nehemiah do in response to the king noticing his mood? He stops and prays.
Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 2:4)
Now, some people get it in their heads that praying always involves getting on your knees somewhere quiet but this isn't always the case. If I only prayed when I was alone in a quiet place I very well might never pray. Instead I frequently seek God in the midst of my activities, especially in the midst of my trials, I've found it is the only way for me to get through certain things. Surely he did not leave the court, go to his house, lock the door, pray, and then come back to talk to the king. That hardly seems reasonable or even possible. I'm pretty sure the king would not have appreciated having the guy that brings him his wine run out for the day. Really the only solution to calming Nehemiah's fears was a brief, silent prayer to God. And it is this type of prayer we see Nehemiah lift up to God before answering the king.
This man, from the very beginning of the book is depicted as a man of prayer. It is his fervent reliance upon God that gives him the strength to proceed and build up the walls of Jerusalem. It is his prayer life that sustains him in the midst of his trials.
At the end of verse eight Nehemiah says, "And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me." Nehemiah had served this man (most likely) every day for quite some time, he may have developed some sort of working relationship with the king (after all the king noticed he was sad, he noticed the change in Nehemiah's demeanor), he easily could have imagined that the king granted his request because he had served so well, but that is not what we see. We see that Nehemiah realizes that in the king answering his request it has nothing to do with who he is, and everything to do with the fact that God's hand was on him. It is easy for us to think that when things go well it is because of something we have done, or because of who we are, it is easy to become prideful when we are blessed, but we must continue to strive for humility before the Lord. We must realize that we are blessed, not because of anything we have done but because of God's power and mercy and provision. We do not see pride in Nehemiah, instead we see a humble heart wanting nothing more than to see God glorified. And so should we be.