When you hear the news of events that are occurring in your country, does it ever make you cry with sadness, anger, or frustration? Does it make you feel powerless, that there is nothing that you can do – although of course, we all feel that someone, should do something!
Do we need to remind ourselves that when we have a strong reaction to bad news, it should always create in us one action – to take it straight to God in prayer.
Let us listen to a little bit of Nehemiah’s story¹, a man who openly admits he cried and wept on hearing some bad news. He was living in Susa, part of the dispersion of the people of Israel throughout Persia, and he had a trusted position working in the palace as a cupbearer to the king – a bit more than a waiter or a butler, as part of his job may have been to sample the king’s wine to make sure that it was safe for him to drink!
Some years earlier some of the Israelites had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, to resettle there and to start to restore the Temple. A group of travellers now come to Susa, from Judah, with the latest news. Nehemiah seeks them out to hear how the returned exiles are getting on in Jerusalem. But the news is not good, although they had survived the long journey and had been back in Jerusalem for some years, the walls of the city have been broken down, the gates have been burned with fire and the people are in trouble and disgrace. The community is under threat, and they have no protection.
Nehemiah was so overwhelmed by this bad news that he sat down and wept. His hopes and dreams to hear that his people were safely re-established in their homeland, were dashed. The bad news brought him to his knees, to mourn and fast and pray – for some days.
I believe during that time God stirred Nehemiah’s heart to respond, inspiration came and the motivation to act, that with God’s guidance and favour there was something that could be done to help. There was something that Nehemiah could do.
Through prayer God turned Nehemiah’s despair into hope!
Nehemiah started where he was, uniquely placed in the palace as a trusted servant to the king.
He used what he had, his position, to be able to speak directly to the king.
He did what he could, prayerfully he looked for an opportunity to speak to the king, to make a request and to trust in God for the outcome.
Although Nehemiah would be asking a favour of the king, he understood that ultimately the outcome was in God’s hands and so it was God’s favour that he sought. He had to wait, about four months, for an opportunity but when the moment arrived, he was ready and spoke with wisdom.
This was not a hasty reaction, this was a prayed through, thought out action.Tweet
His request was to ask for permission to go to the city of his ancestors to supervise rebuilding work – the king not only grants his request, but provides him with letters of safe conduct and the authority to obtain the materials that would be needed.
This step of faith for Nehemiah started a chain of events that changed his whole life and propelled him into the forefront of national events. He went from obscurity, taking with him all that he had learned there, to prominence and significance.
Nehemiah’s work started with the restoration of the city walls, but progressed far beyond that, to restoring faith and trust in God, to restoring right relationships between the people, to restoring justice and to restoring purity in the temple. Structural, social, and spiritual reform – this is what God can do with prayer and the willingness of someone, to do something!
When we feel strongly about something we need to check and examine prayerfully, is our reaction care and concern for others and for the honour of God’s Name, or anger, resentment, and frustration. If it is the latter, then are those painful emotions, rooted in past hurts, which still need to be healed and forgiven? If it is the former, then prayerfully we seek God, as he stirs and challenges our hearts to respond, and to act, to work for change and restoration.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Frances of Assisi
The necessary is always prayer, the beginning of any change.
The possible is to start where you are, to use what you have and to do what you can – to respond to God’s prompting, and to take a first step of faith.
The impossible is always what God does, we give the outcome and all glory to Him.
The someone who should do something, could be you….
¹Nehemiah Chapter 1
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