Nehemiah 4 – Pray AND Act

Today we see some opposition to the work from Sanballat and his cronies. He was very critical of the ongoing project and sought to undermine the confidence of the people (vv.1-3). Nehemiah’s prayer of response is strong and reminiscent of some of the Psalms (58.6, 69.25 for example). 

A plot is put together by the enemies of God’s people to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it (v.8). Much like the failed plot and plan we see in Revelation 20.7-10, things here never really get going. Nehemiah prays and takes action to prevent an attack, and we read that the people prayed to…God and set a guard as a protection…(v.9).

Whilst morale might have been low (vv.10-14), Nehemiah deploys the people well and takes up a constant vigilance against the threat of attack (vv.15-17), not even stopping when night fell (vv.18-23). 

For you and for me, we would do well to see how Nehemiah and the people dealt with the threat of attack. In v.9 we read that the people 

prayed to our God and stationed a guard to protect against them both day and night.


Some may offer a super-spiritual response to this and say something like, well, if they had prayed about it, they didn’t need to do anything themselves. Here, however, we see that yes, prayer ought to be the first thought (cf. v.4), the people 

…prayed to our God and stationed a guard to protect against them both day and night…

but that this doesn’t remove the responsibility of the people to protect one another,

prayed to our God and stationed a guard to protect against them both day and night.

The same is true for you and for me today: yes, pray about anything and everything that is going on in your life. If you feel under threat of attack, pray about it. If you feel the world, the flesh, and the devil are starting to impinge on your life of faith, pray about it. If you are working through something of a decidedly spiritual nature, pray about it. 

But, also, do something about it. I read recently that Nehemiah’s response to this idea of you’ve prayed, no need to do anything more, could have been something like this,

“Yes, God will protect us, 

and He will as He finds us doing our duty before Him. 

Set the guard.” 

So, friends, when something is bothering you, pray about it. Pray and do your duty. Pray and set a guard (Ephesians 6.10-20). I once heard someone describe situations like this in these words,

Pray as if it all rests in God’s hands,

And work like it all rests in yours. 

Because, really, don’t you want to be found doing your duty when your help arrives?

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

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