In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “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 ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes of Babylon. Nehemiah was exiled from Jerusalem, like many of his countrymen. He was sad to be living in a foreign country. Yet how does one politely tell the king that one wants to return home? He was afraid to admit his true feelings in front of the king. So Nehemiah prayed before he answered.
There is much one can read in this book about the character of Nehemiah – like his courage and leadership qualities – but here we see him as a man of prayer, one who knows that God is ready to listen and give him guidance. He was afraid, because saying the wrong words could bring on some not so good consequences. Much was at stake, if Nehemiah was to return home to rebuild the city.
God has to be in the middle of our plans, no different than Nehemiah. Maybe you don’t have any significant decisions to make today, but even so, know that God is waiting to hear from you. Nehemiah’s prayer was quick, a mental shift to ask God for help before he replied. Sometimes that’s all it takes to allow God the means to enter into your words and actions. Give God the praise.
Gracious God, you are closer than a heartbeat, yet forgive me if at times I fail to perceive your presence. I miss an opportunity for praise when I fail to allow you to guide my words and actions. Keep me close to you in all I do today, to the glory of your name. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.