"...and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven." Nehemiah 1:4b
We have just begun a study of the book of Nehemiah on Wednesday evenings at Grace. In last week's message, "Nehemiah: A Man of Prayer," Brother Billy looked at how Nehemiah's prayer in the opening chapter of this book was based on his knowledge of God and His promises and on Nehemiah's right understanding of the sinful condition of the human race.
After we read Nehemiah's humble and earnest prayer on behalf of his people, we read this at the conclusion of chapter 1: "Now I was cupbearer to the king."
We didn't spend time looking at Nehemiah's position (perhaps that is the topic for next week's lesson?). As cupbearer, Nehemiah was a member of the royal court. It was his job to choose wine for the king and to make certain it was safeguarded from poison.
Because it necessitated access to the king, the position of cupbearer was one of prestige and influence. Nehemiah was not a menial servant. Rather, because he had the confidence of and regular interaction with the king, Nehemiah was a man who stood in a position of great power.
When saddened by the news of the miserable condition of his kinsmen in Jerusalem, Nehemiah did not immediately play the power card.
He did not assume that, because of his position and influence, he had the solution to his people's problem.
No. Instead of immediately going to King Artaxerxes and outlining the situation and saying, "This is what I think needs to be done....!" - instead, Nehemiah fasted and prayed.
For four months.
It struck me last week that not only was Nehemiah a man of prayer, but he was also a man of great humility and patience.
He was willing to wait for God and to submit to God's guidance instead of relying on his own knowledge and ability.
What about me? Am I quick to tell others "This is the situation..." and "This is what we need to do...," acting on an inflated view of my own understanding and wisdom? Or is my first response, like Nehemiah's, to pray?
Do I lead on my own authority, or do I submit to God's authority? Am I quick to act, or am I committed to waiting?
I have nothing like the influence of a member of a royal court. Nor have I the wisdom and insight of Nehemiah. Why, then, do I rush to state my opinion? Why am I so quick to speak and act, to place so much value on my own understanding and impulses?!
I will never be cupbearer to a king. I pray, though, that I will learn to practice humility and patience.
I hope it can be truthfully said of me one day:
She continued praying before the God of heaven...
...and she waited.