Take It to the Lord in Prayer

By Major Beth Desplancke

This morning on the news I heard story after story about one crisis or another: the continuing COVID pandemic, the situation in Afghanistan, political fireworks regarding masks and vaccines… the list goes on. It sometimes feels dark and hopeless. But what do I do with the information? Yes, I am upset, but does it stir me to action? Does it lead me to my knees? To be honest, I might discuss it with others briefly, but after the initial shock of the news story, I go on, unaffected and untouched.

Nehemiah responded differently to a crisis in his time. He served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. On a visit from his brother, Nehemiah asked about his fellows Jews who had survived the exile and about the condition of Jerusalem. Nehemiah got news he probably wasn’t expecting. I am sure when he asked, he was hoping to receive a great report, but in Nehemiah 1:3, he is told some sad news, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the providence are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Nehemiah didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s too bad. I am so sorry to hear that,” and then quickly change the subject. No! It stopped him in his tracks! Verse 4 tells us that he sat down and wept and for some days, he mourned and fasted and prayed. The news he had heard touched his heart enough to take it to the Lord in prayer.

Notice, in a crisis moment Nehemiah didn’t panic. He didn’t talk to a lot of people about the situation. I had a Sunday school teacher that always said, “Before you go to the phone, go to the throne.” Instead of grabbing the phone and calling one of your friends to discuss your problem or situation, you should first go to the throne of heaven and talk to God about it.

Instead of talking about the problem, plotting and planning a way of action, fretting and stewing over it, or stress eating and shopping to deal with the feelings, he prayed about it. He turned to the One who could do something about the situation. He doesn’t focus on the problem in front of him; he chose to focus on the One who is big enough to handle this big problem. He begins his prayer with these words, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (v. 5).

Nehemiah didn’t just pray once and move on, but it says he prayed for days. In verses 1 of chapter 1 the Bible tells us that it was the Jewish month of Kislev, which occurs in November-December on our calendars. In chapter 2, verses 1 we read that is now the month of Nisan, which is March-April. That is about 4 months that Nehemiah prayed over the situation and what was to be the God designed solution. Nehemiah didn’t simply pray one panicked prayer but had a pattern of prayer. He prayed continuously and consistently over the situation. I know I am guilty of praying a prayer once, and then moving on as if the situation no longer matters.

Nehemiah is often described as a great leader. He approached the king with a plan, and the king allowed him to go to Jerusalem and provided him with resources, and Nehemiah lead the people to rebuild the wall in 52 days. But Nehemiah’s leadership, plans and skills are secondary. The major thing needed was a deep commitment to prayer. Nehemiah viewed himself as a humble servant, and he was dependent on God for his direction and instruction.
Joseph Scriven penned these familiar words:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
  Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
  Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
  Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
  Thou wilt find a solace there.

What problems are you facing whether personally or corporately that has stirred your heart lately? How have your responded? May we be women who learn from Nehemiah’s example, and when problems arise, may we be women who pray instead of panic, who focus on the Problem-Solver rather than the problem, and who persistently bring the situation to the Lord until He provides an answer. Whatever burden or care that is on your heart today, take it to the Lord in prayer.