Have you ever had this experience where you prayed about a frustrating problem and you ended up asking, “Lord, give me patience… but I want it NOW!”. Monday morning came, and nothing changed; a month from then, again, nothing had changed. Another month passed, and then another. That was Nehemiah’s experience.
Nehemiah’s story opened in the month of Chislev (December) (Neh 1:1) and it resumed in the month of Nisan (April) (Neh 2:1). In the diary Nehemiah kept, nothing was entered for those four months because nothing happened. There was no visible glimmer of hope, no change. However, Nehemiah kept waiting, trusting, and counting on God to move the heart of his superior.
Four months later, the king and his cupbearer had the following conversation (Neh 2:2-5).
King: Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.
Nehemiah: May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?
King: What is it you want?
Nehemiah: If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.
King: How long will your journey take and when will you get back?
Nehemiah had waited four long months to make known his desire and his petition was granted. The prayer warrior learned the patience of waiting.
Moreover, I admire Nehemiah’s marvelous response. “It pleased the king to send me, so I set a time” (Neh 2: 6b). Indeed, the presence of faith does not mean an absence of planning. Can you imagine what had previously transpired in Nehemiah’s mind in order for him to provide an immediate, on-the-spot answer? Nehemiah had been doing more than praying for four months. In addition to waiting patiently for God’s timing, planning is an exercise in faith.
Going out by faith does not mean going out in a disorderly manner. Nehemiah thought through the project and counted the cost financially. I (Nehemiah) also said to him (the king), “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me (Neh 2:7-9). Planning is hard work. Without planning, confusion is inevitable. During these four months of waiting, Nehemiah planned out what he needed for this building project!
Have you even had a similar experience as Nehemiah? You prayed, and nothing seemed to happen for days, weeks, and months. This does not excuse us from sitting on our own hands. Waiting and planning are pivotal preparation for Nehemiah and every one of us in aligning our hearts and equipping our minds and hands to God’s will and His work.
Swindoll, C. R. (1990). Hand me another brick. Nashville, TN: Nelson.