It was the month of Kislev in the twentieth year. At the time I was in the palace complex at Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem.
They told me, “The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.”
When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven. (Nehemiah 1:1-4 MSG)
Right off the start we find Nehemiah getting the news regarding his community in the city of Jerusalem and the effect it has on him. He mourns for the state of his community and he begins praying and fasting for what is on his heart. Now fast forward to Chapter 2 verse one.
It was the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king. At the hour for serving wine I brought it in and gave it to the king. I had never been hangdog in his presence before, so he asked me, “Why the long face? You’re not sick are you? Or are you depressed?” (Nehemiah 2:1-2 MSG)
The point of interest for me this morning was the timeframe that passed between starting to pray and fast and the opportunity and answer from God for NEhemiah to share his heart with the king. There is a three, or four month passage of time here depending on which Biblical scholar, or commentary you are reading. Now, most people would read that and think he might have prayed for a couple of weeks at the most as one month passed into another, but Nehemiah took his grief to God for an extended period of time waiting for God to answer and provide an opportunity for Nehemiah to support his community. Chapter 1:11 also shows that He was not the only one praying for his community.
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:10-11 ESV)
Even in the presence of the king months after e began praying and fasting Nehemiah could not hide his broken heart with a happy expression on his face. His face was long and full of sadness when he went before his king, which goes against the customs of the time. The king and Nehemiah go back and forth a bit based on facial expressions on Nehemiah’s face and in Chapter 2 verse 4 the king asks Nehemiah the following,
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?”…
However, it is what Nehemiah does next that shows how patient and how much he relies on God during this whole process.
So I prayed to the God of heaven.
Even in the midst of God’s answer and opportunity for Nehemiah to share his heart for his community Nehemiah waits and insures the words that he speaks to the king are not his, but words from God. His patience in waiting for God’s permission to move forward in restoring his community is inspiring and challenging all at the same time.
How long do we pray to God about one situation in our lives?
How often do we rush out and speak with passion without allowing God to be present in our words?
Do we have that much passion for anything in our lives to practice this type of patience?
Does our passion get in the way of our patience?