I hadn’t slept much in the previous 24 hours. Our first baby, a son, was born just after midnight. We had gotten settled in our room and Jon was in the nursery. I was just too excited to sleep. At about 6 a.m., I took a stroll down to the nursery to gaze upon my beautiful son. But, I couldn’t find a bassinet with our name.
As I stood there looking, a newborn nurse—also a family friend—saw me and pantomimed, “The baby is here?” I nodded enthusiastically and then shrugged my shoulders to indicate I did not know where he was. She gave me that “Wait one-minute” gesture and went further back into the newborn nursery suite.
I could see a group of nurses gathered around her and they kept looking nervously in my direction. Soon my friend pointed for me to move down the hall. She met me at the nursery side door and pulled me in. She said, “He is not doing well. We moved him to NICU.
I started trembling as we walked through several doors into the NICU. There, I saw my little boy, gasping for air and for his life. I could hardly breathe myself. I couldn’t even get two thoughts into reasonable alignment. What do I do?
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. We see that in his prayer of intercession in Nehemiah 1. He asked God to give him favor with “this man.”
Nehemiah 2 identifies that man. He was none other than King Artaxerxes, the most powerful man in Nehemiah’s world. Nehemiah was his cupbearer. Besides being the last defense against an attempt to poison the king, the cupbearer was constantly in the king’s presence, hearing nearly every conversation the king had.
The cupbearer was also sometimes a confidante and advisor to the king. About four months after Chapter 1, Nehemiah was going about his duties when he let his front down and the king observed his sorrowful face. Any appearance like that could cause a moody king to have you dispatched on the spot. But Nehemiah faced his fears and told of his grief for the still-ruined city of Jerusalem. And surprisingly, the king asked for Nehemiah’s request.
Nehemiah 2:4 simply adds, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah showed he clearly had a plan in mind. He had given a lot of thought to it for four months. But this was clutch time and he knew what to do. He prayed. We don’t have the text of this prayer, but the storyline demonstrates the importance of it.
What can we learn about desperate prayers from Nehemiah?
- Praying is what you do first. We are so slow to realize prayer shouldn’t be our last resort. Prayer is always our best first step. Nehemiah prayed before he answered the king’s question.
- Praying without ceasing. A continuous prayer pattern in your life means you never rush into God’s presence with a sense of shame or embarrassment. Who is shameful when simply continuing a conversation with an old friend? All through the book bearing his name, Nehemiah was praying.
- Prayer is a conversation with God. A conversation means there is an exchange of words—both speaking and listening. Our Father desires such a conversation with each of us. We speak what we need to say, and we listen for His words.
- Effective prayer is born out of a knowledge of God and an awareness of the circumstances. Notice how Nehemiah verbalized the circumstances to the king and no doubt to the Lord.
- Sometimes effective prayer is born out of our desperate need. I felt this at the birth of our first son. Please know that after nine days in NICU, they discharged our son to us (very inexperienced and very scared) and we naively took him home, praying for the help we needed. God answered. That tiny preemie now towers over me, quite a healthy and big guy.
- These quick prayers may be desperate, but they are not offered in panic. We have confidence before a loving Father who desires only our best. You never sense Nehemiah in panic. But he still made his request urgently.
I started this blog about three weeks ago. I have been driving several “trains” at the same time. Now I feel like all of my trains have jumped off the tracks. Some of these issues are pressing. I had no idea I would be practicing prayer in just the way I describe to you.
I hope these thoughts about prayer will encourage you to take on a deeper, richer, and ongoing prayer conversation with the Lord.