“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.” Nehemiah 2:1
I know there are some people who, through a combination of convincing acting abilities and a natural tendency to always have their facial expression the same, are able to hide their emotions. Usually they end up having a perpetually pleasant, but passive, look on their face, broken only from time to time by a beautiful but rare smile.
Most people, even of those that are in the habit of shielding themselves from making emotional displays, are not able to do this for extended periods of time. Emotions tend to be like a weight to the spirit of a person and eventually that internal weight makes itself known on the outside.
Understanding the effect emotions have on a person, it amazes me, every time I consider this part of Nehemiah’s story, that he was able to carry the burden of his grief for as long as he had.
How long did Nehemiah grieve? Chapter one tells us that Nehemiah’s grieving began in the Jewish month of Chislev and our focus text, in the first verse of chapter two, reveals that he was confronted by King Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan. I know most of my readers don’t have the Hebrew calendar memorized so I’ll just tell you how much time has past for Nehemiah. Nehemiah has been grieving for about four months. That’s right, sixteen weeks or one hundred and twenty days. However you want to think about it.
Most of us would have moved on long before this amount of time had elapsed. Our attention spans are just too short to focus that long on something we’re incapable of affecting ourselves. We become bored or distracted and we turn our focus to other more immediate and actionable concerns.
But Nehemiah has not abandoned his petitions to God for the people of Israel, the restoration of the God’s city, Jerusalem, and the removal of this scar from the face of the honor of God.
Nehemiah’s dedication and perseverance in pressing his prayers to God are an example of how our prayers ought to be. Nehemiah continued until he received the answer to his prayer.
I believe that if it had been required he would have continued much, much longer.
Why do we need to persist in our praying? Because there appear to be things that God won’t do unless he has a request or perhaps even permission from us. Whatever the reason, it’s obvious that prayers, our prayers, open doors for God. Some requests take longer than others to fulfill so we need to nor lose heart as we continue to press our requests forward to the throne of God. Faith, unfaltering faith, takes hold of the hand of God and trusts in his love, his wisdom, his strength and his power to give the answer we’re looking for.