I need to pray the prayer of Nehemiah.
My body finally succumbed to the cold virus going around town and for the last week, I’ve been down for the count. Sunday morning, I doped myself up with three kinds of cold remedies and asked my husband to drive me the one block to church. In spite of my crackly voice, pounding head, and wobbly knees, I was willing to trust that God would help me lead the singing in the worship time. And God was gracious. My speaking voice was hardly audible, but even the high notes carried over the microphone without so much as a scratch.
After dinner with a church family, I came home to collapse on the couch and experience the best sleep I had had in three days. But after 45 minutes, the phone penetrated the fog of my sleep, one of those phone calls that left me wondering why the person felt it was necessary to call me. I had given all I could that morning in church – couldn’t I even get a decent nap before I had to start ministering to people again?
I grumbled to my husband. “I feel like Nehemiah. Every time he faced a problem in his leadership, he said to the Lord, ‘Remember me.’” My husband gave me a blank look so I grabbed my Bible, ready to buttress my point with Scripture references. Yes indeed, Nehemiah prayed four separate times that God would remember his work for the Lord in spite of the opposition and pressures he faced.
Yet, as I skimmed through his account of directing a skeleton work force, standing up to those who didn’t want the Israelites back in Jerusalem in the first place, dealing with his own people’s sin including his right hand man, the high priest’s consorting with the enemy, my eyes stopped at one verse. At the height of the antagonism, when Sanballat tries to lure Nehemiah out to the plain in order to harm him, Nehemiah candidly notes their motivation: “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will grow too weak for the work [of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem] and it will not be completed.’”
How Nehemiah responded caught my eye. This time, he didn’t ask God to remember how hard he had been working. Instead he prayed:
“Now strengthen my hands.” – Nehemiah 6:9.
I dropped my Bible and lifted my hands. Hands that had been sapped of strength while leading worship. Hands that would touch a computer keyboard the next morning to write of God’s love and grace. Hands that needed to fix healthy meals for my diabetic husband. “Strengthen my hands, O Lord!”
I guess God thought I needed a review on that important lesson. The next morning, in the wee hours when I couldn’t sleep because of my stuffy head, I checked the daily devotional from Our Daily Bread. The verse for the day?
“Now strengthen my hands.” Okay God, I guess this is a message You really want me to remember.
I love Nehemiah’s response to the troubles he faced. Instead of pulling a “Woe is me” on God, instead of complaining about how hard it was to be a leader, instead of caving to discouragement and threatening to quit, he turned to God and asked that God strengthen his hands.
Why? Because quitting was exactly what the enemy wanted. They didn’t want the work to be completed and they knew if they could knock out Nehemiah, the victory was theirs.
Nehemiah knew that he didn’t have it within himself to do the work or to lead the people. His help had to come from the Lord.
Look at your hands. What work does God have for your hands to do today? What opposition forces threaten to weaken your work for Jesus? What do other people or Satan himself wish you wouldn’t be able to complete?
You – and I – can’t do it alone. Like Nehemiah, our strength to do God’s work comes from Him. If He could help me sing those notes with a congested voice, He can give me the grace to meet the needs of a lonely person over the phone, to get off the couch and fix that meal, to put hands to the keyboard and write His message. His grace is waiting for you.
“Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit.’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6
Pray with me: “Now strengthen my hands.”