Nehemiah 2:8 – …the good hand of my God was upon me.
When my wife Grace and I first got married, we quickly realized that we approached problem solving very differently. She would spend a lot of time praying so that she was unburdened, filled with faith, and trusting God to take care of us. I would spend my time planning, doing research, looking at calendars and budgets, and seeking to strategize a way to overcome our frustrations to get on to a better future. Early in our marriage, her praying and my planning became a point of disagreement. She felt I was not spiritual enough. I felt she was not practical enough. Having now been married for over three decades, we’ve learned from each other. I pray a lot more before and during our planning. Grace still prays but has learned to also join me in making plans.
Like a left foot and a right foot, Nehemiah’s walk with God involves both prayer and planning. In Nehemiah 1, God gave him the heart of Jesus for a devastated city, and a devastated church within that city. Tragically, that sad state had been unchanged for 141 years despite many failed efforts to revive both the city and the church. Then, God called Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding and revival. Nehemiah starts by praying for God’s wisdom and favor with the king, and finances from the king, while developing a comprehensive strategic plan.
Standing before the king, Nehemiah could not hide his burden. It was expected that anyone present before the king, especially if the queen was also present, would have a joyful spirit and not bring a burden. Nehemiah’s request to leave his job to rebuild a city and church is bold because it would leave the king’s life at risk. So, he briefly stops to pray yet again. What makes this request even more audacious is that some 13 years prior, the same request was made to rebuild the same city and church and that effort was opposed by the very king who Nehemiah was asking to reverse his own policy! (Ezra 4:7-23) The king wanted to know Nehemiah’s plan and how long it would take – an incredible 12 years of time away (5:14, 13:6). Can you imagine asking for 12 years of paid leave from your job?
Nehemiah sketched out his plan, requesting letters from the king as military protection for the journey. He also asked the king to personally fund the project with timber from his private forest, along with a personal residence as a secure base of operations. Amazingly, Nehemiah’s huge prayer (1:11) was answered. God alone is given credit for every success (2:8, 2:11-12, 2:20, 4:14-15, 4:20, 6:15-16, 7:5, 8:1).
Are you better at praying or planning? How can you improve at the one you’re not as good at?