I recently discovered something about Nehemiah that I had never noticed before. There are lots of hints in the biblical book that bears his name that Nehemiah was a person who lived with an ongoing awareness of the presence of the Lord, and who highly valued the importance of communion with God.
Nehemiah is constantly praying:
- In 1:4 after learning about the disrepair of the city of Jerusalem, he writes: “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” In 1:5-10 he records his heart-felt prayer in which he asks God to act on behalf of the city of Jerusalem.
- In 2:4 when King Artaxerxes probes Nehemiah about his sadness, Nehemiah shoots up a quick prayer God for help before answering. He writes: “I prayed to the God of heaven.” (I have referred to this specific type of prayer as a “Nehemiah prayer” for years.)
- In 4:4-5 Nehemiah prays about the insults being hurled at God’s people who are trying to rebuild the wall by those who oppose them: “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity…”
- In 4:9 when enemies conspire to attack, Nehemiah parenthetically notes: “So we prayed to our God…”
- In 5:19, and four other times toward the end of the book (13:14, 22, 29, 31), Nehemiah asks the Lord to remember him for all that he did for the people.
- In 6:9 Nehemiah asks God for strength when facing opposition: “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”
- In 6:14 Nehemiah expresses to the Lord his fears about those who wanted to harm him: “Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.”
There are also two clear examples where it goes in the other direction. Nehemiah twice comments about God putting something into his heart or mind:
- In 2:12: “I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem.”
- In 7:5: “Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogies.”
When viewed together, these snippets reveal that Nehemiah was someone who deeply valued the importance of ongoing prayer and who was receptive to the guiding hand of God.