“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven…” (Nehemiah 2:1-4)
Nehemiah was a Jew who lived in a foreign land. A hundred years before he was born, Nehemiah’s ancestors had been captured by the Babylonians and carried away into captivity. By the providential hand of God, Nehemiah was selected and promoted to a noble position in the king’s palace. Scripture says that he was the king’s cup-bearer which meant that he tasted the wine before the king drank it in order to make sure that it had not been poisoned. Such a position put Nehemiah in direct contact with the king on a daily basis.
One day, some of Nehemiah’s relatives returned from a trip to Jerusalem and informed him that the Jewish city still laid in ruin and that those living there were in great disgrace. This deeply saddened Nehemiah and scripture says that for the next forty days, Nehemiah spent much of his time in prayer and fasting.
One day the king noticed the sadness on Nehemiah’s face and he asked him the reason. Perhaps the king was suspicious that Nehemiah knew something about the wine that he didn’t. Nehemiah said to the king – “Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said something that no one could have imagined. “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’” In other words, “How can I help you?” What would you do if such an open door suddenly stood before you? Scripture says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven…”
Prayer should be a vital part of every Christian’s life. Sometimes we are able to schedule our moments of prayer and other times we are not. Sometimes things happen to us very unexpectedly. Whenever I sense such a moment is about to occur, I begin to pray immediately. “Lord, guide me” I start asking. “Lord, help me” I begin to pray. “Lord, give me grace” I plea with Him. And just like Nehemiah who prayed such a prayer and received God’s help, so the Lord comes to assist me as well.
Many years ago I used to listen to a man on the radio by the name of Robert Cook. I’ll never forget something he said one day.
“Before you answer the phone that is ringing, say a short prayer. Before you open the door to the one who is knocking, say a short prayer. Before you open the mailbox and take out the mail, say a short prayer. You never know what you might be about to face.”
Those words stuck with me and I have tried to make them a part of my daily walk with Christ.