Reflections on praying and doing

Back to Nehemiah. Because I’m reading and rereading, patterns start to show up for me. One pattern is Nehemiah’s mixture of praying and doing.

Lots of people who follow God pray and do nothing, waiting for a miracle or a voice from heaven. Others do something and don’t pray, assuming that God may not be interested in little things. Nehemiah’s approach challenges both of those groups.

Early in the story, Nehemiah is serving the king. After a brief exchange about Nehemiah’s sadness, we read:

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

Months later, when Nehemiah and his community were in the middle of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, a group of people were ticked off.

They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

Still later, there were more plots. And Nehemiah says,

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking “Their hands will get too weak for the work and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “now strengthen my hands.” 6:9

I have some thoughts about what we might be able to learn from Nehemiah. But I’m curious. Before I talk more, what do you think? What do these comments about Nehemiah’s approach to praying and doing suggest to you about praying and doing?

12 thoughts on “Reflections on praying and doing

  1. Scott Brune

    I wonder if Nehemiah’s approach to prayer and doing was more parallel than linear. The examples you show may indicate that he always prayed first then did. I think in his journey there were times he was doing and then prayed becuase of what he saw or perceived was coming upon him. He seems to be doing both at basically the same time. His prayer and work life were intertwined like chords on a rope. It was natural for him to be in close communication with God as he lived out his day, week, month…..

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  2. cjhinx

    I often find myself praying and listening and then either going the opposite way or praying again until I hear something more pleasing. The truth about prayer is you have to have the courage to respond to it. Maybe we don’t pray because we really don’t want to do what God might be calling us to do?

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  3. Susan Pieters

    I pray when I need to feel closer to God, but when I am “doing,” I am not worried about how I am feeling. In fact, I deliberately ignore my feelings in order to get the “work” done. Maybe Nehemiah knows that the feelings of courage and the doings of courage are one. And like Scott said above, they’re intertwined like the chicken-and-the-egg dilemma.
    I’m going to try today to be aware of this. Thanks, Jon. May God strengthen your hands!

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  4. Scott Howard (@ScLoHo)

    What I see in this example of prayer and action is to pray continually. Imagine as a child that we have a task to do and our Dad is there with us. Not to take over for us, but to open some doors we should walk through, lock doors that we need to stay away from, and to whisper guidance and direction when ever we ask.

    This is the type of relationship I am striving to have. Perhaps talking to God out loud more often will make it more real as I hear my words with my ears, I can hear his words on my heart.

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  6. Lon David

    Reminds me that prayer is simply talking to God. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Just talk. Often,we make it into something much more formal than it has to be.

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  7. Lisa Davis

    I was drawn to a similar phrase in the first two verses; “…I (or he) prayed and”. The word “and” stuck out to me. Reminds me of James saying “faith without works is dead”. The natural outcome of true faith is talking to God and then acting on what we believe. Prayer and action are inextricably linked.

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  8. aleon010

    It reminds me of something an old friend of my dads said me when I had a big decision to make. “A car isnt in motion cannot be steered.” Not sure he’s right in every circumstance, but it certainly has always stuck with me.

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