The Bible Meets Life
The phone that used to be in my office had a red light that blinked with every new voicemail. It was annoying, but I had no idea how to turn it off. My solution? I put a piece of tape over the blinking light. That phone has long since been replaced with a cell phone, but now I am bombarded with constant notifications about messages, texts, and tweets.
Heaven doesn’t have a message machine with a blinking red light. Sometimes we may wonder if God hears our prayers, but we have no “message read” notification on our phones when it comes to prayer. Neither does prayer usually offer the same “instant gratification” we often get from social media notifications—but what it accomplishes is phenomenal!
Prayer can be a mysterious spiritual discipline, but God invites us to talk to Him! Nehemiah was a man who saw the need for prayer and realized its benefits. He knew prayer is more than just simply sending messages to God. Prayer is a spiritual endeavor that brings us into communion with God, focusing on His truth and leading us into action.
The Book of Nehemiah begins with bad news. Hanani brought Nehemiah a message he didn’t want to hear. The few people left in Jerusalem were in trouble, and the city was in ruins.
The news consumed Nehemiah. He was living in relative comfort in “the fortress city of Susa,” a place of safety and comfort. It was the winter residence of Persian kings, and Nehemiah was there personally serving King Artaxerxes. In contrast to Nehemiah’s daily life, the remnant of people in Jerusalem was in trouble. The city was devastated, like a scene out of an apocalyptic movie. Buildings and homes were abandoned, but worse, the city wall had been broken down and its gates had been burned. Furthermore, over the years, looters had surely taken what few valuables may have been left by the Babylonians.
But what could Nehemiah do? He was living hundreds of miles away. He visualized the damage, and then he internalized it. Surely the words in verse 3 echoed as he heard them: “Great trouble and disgrace … broken down … burned.” In the next verses, we’ll see how this news moved Nehemiah to pray, but let’s notice that he was able to pray effectively as he became aware of the specific need.
We can pray effectively, too, as we take note of the needs around us.
- Ask specific questions; don’t assume. We often miss this step. In verse 2, Nehemiah asked a specific question about the people and the city he loved. In order to understand the problems around us, we must first ask. We’re often guilty of making assumptions about other people and their problems without ever asking or learning the facts. Making assumptions does not reveal the true needs around us. Take the time to ask.
- Listen carefully; don’t jump to conclusions. After asking the question, listen. Don’t jump to conclusions. Drawing conclusions before listening is just as dangerous as making assumptions before asking. Nehemiah listened carefully as his brother shared the news. Personally, I would have been tempted to jump in and start offering solutions, giving my premature opinion on the matter. In order to become aware of the needs around us, we must listen without making immediate conclusions.
What helps you become aware of the needs around you?
This article is an excerpt from Nehemiah: Building a Life of Service, a six-session study in the Summer 2018 Bible Studies for Life. Learn more about this ongoing curriculum and preview one month for free at biblestudiesforlife.com.