Waiting for the answer
The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” – Nehemiah 2:4-5
4 I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
5 Then I said, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands,
6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!
7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations.
9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’
10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants.
11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
“Like large doors, great life-changing events can swing on very small hinges. It was just another day when Moses went out to care for his sheep, but on that day he heard the Lord’s call and became a prophet (Exodus 3). It was an ordinary day when David was called home from shepherding his flock; but on that day, he was anointed king (1 Samuel 16). It was an ordinary day when Peter, Andrew, James, and John were mending their nets after a night of failure; but that was the day Jesus called them to become fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11)” (Wiersbe).
Nehemiah was having an ordinary November day in 445 BC. He was going about his normal duties as cupbearer to the king when his brother Hanani came to see him. Hanani had just returned from Jerusalem. Nehemiah wanted to know how things were going for the Jewish people residing in Judah. The news Hanani brought back from Jerusalem was very disturbing. The wall of the city of Jerusalem which had been torn down during the Babylonian invasion was still in disrepair. The city was unprotected.
Nehemiah was grief-stricken. The Babylonian conquest of the Jews had occurred in 586 BC. It was now more than 100 years later. The Babylonians had been conquered by the Persians. The Persians issued governmental decrees which allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland. But only a small number returned. They had no success in restoring the city’s defenses. The city was vulnerable to attack and defenseless. Nehemiah was despondent. His people were not safe, they were struggling just to survive.
2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
3 But I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
Nehemiah began to mourn, fast, and pray when he heard the news. He faithfully prayed from November 445 BC until April 444 BC. He was waiting for an answer for over 5 months. During times of waiting, nothing seems to be happening, many children of the King become discouraged and give up. Often self-doubt begins to torment their souls.
Was Nehemiah doing something wrong? Was there rebellion in his heart? Was he asking the Father for the wrong thing? The answer to these questions is a definite no. Nehemiah was in the right place, praying for the right thing. Further, Nehemiah had access to the king, the human authority through whom the Father could answer Nehemiah’s prayer.
Why then was in his prayer not answered? Why did Nehemiah have to continue in prayer, month after month, with no response from the Father? Why did he have to wait?
The Father often leads us in the way He wants us to pray. In some inexplicable way, He lays upon our hearts what to pray for. Remarkably, in some mystical fashion, children of the King receive a spiritual burden or heaviness to pray. When we pray according to the Father’s direction, seeking His will, things happen. The Father is more than willing to act on our behalf. A marvelous ad hoc cooperative partnership is formed.
Our part is simply to pray as we are led. But only the Father knows the time when our prayers are to be answered. We cannot rush Him, nor can we slow Him down. Our prayers are answered according to His timetable, not ours.
It was as though the Father started a countdown at the moment Nehemiah began to pray. When the countdown reaches zero (0), Nehemiah’s diligent, Spirit-led prayer would be answered. Nehemiah was in the doldrums waiting for the mighty wind of the Father’s breath to blow. We so easily forget that the Father answers prayer only when His precise time arrives. Finally, the countdown ended and the Persian king, Artaxerxes, issued an edict. Nehemiah received permission to return to Jerusalem and restore the wall and the city’s defenses.
REFLECT & PRAY
Make prayer your first priority, instead of the last resort.
Father when You lead me into periods of testing, encourage me to take the matter to You in prayer and wait for Your perfect timing.
When unforeseen events occur, the Scriptures are quite clear. We are to wait upon the Lord.
Psalms 27:14 Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
The Hebrew word translated wait is qawwah. The root of qawwah means to wait or to look for with eager expectation. Qawwah connotes patient enduring in confident hope that the Father will decisively act on behalf of His people. Waiting with steadfast endurance is an expression of faith.
Learning to wait patiently is a spiritual skill that develops over time. Waiting in faith, trusting in the Father, has a remarkable internal impact. It engenders unswerving constancy, confident expectation, and renewal of optimism and strength.
Isaiah 40:31 Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
While in a waiting mode, children of the King increase their trust in the Father and His promises. Our faith and integrity grow.
The Scriptures do not encourage making hasty decisions. Rather they encourage reflection in the seeking of advice and counsel. But not just any counsel. We are to askew ungodly advice and accept godly counsel from wise and spiritually mature children of the King.
Proverbs 15:22 Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.
Proverbs 20:18 Plans succeed through good counsel.
There are times we may need to hear from the Father quickly. We may have to move swiftly. When we are certain of the Father’s will, we can move swiftly.
However, Satan frequently encourages us to act immediately. Why? The enemy knows if we slow down and ponder the situation long enough we may reconsider, and take another path. How many people have made decisions they regretted for the rest of their lives?
Saul king of Israel was warned by the prophet Samuel. He was told to wait for Samuel to arrive before he made any decisions.
1 Samuel 10:8 You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions.
King Saul jumped the gun. Because of disobedience, Saul lost his throne. Saul did what many of the children of the King often do. He got ahead of the Father and made terrible mistakes which resulted in horrendous consequences.
In stark contrast, Nehemiah waited for God’s timing. He fasted and prayed “for many days” (Nehemiah 1:4). Nehemiah had learned to wait for the Father’s perfect timing. While he was waiting, he repeatedly prayed and asked God to intervene. After four months, the king himself asked Nehemiah why he was so downcast. He told the king about the report that he had heard regarding the condition of Jerusalem. He confided that he wanted to help his people rebuild the wall. Consequently, Artaxerxes granted his wish and provided him with all the necessary authority and building materials, and funding to do the job (Nehemiah 2:1-11). While Nehemiah prayed, the Father was at work setting the stage. At the exact moment, the Father acted and the rest is history.
When difficult circumstances arise, is diligent, specific prayer your first response?
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