Nehemiah is a cupbearer for king Artaxerxes of Persia. His job is to taste food and wine set before the king to ensure that he dies in the kings place if there is any attempt to assassinate him by poisoning. As a foreigner in the court of the king he would not have had any position of power or influence, and would not have chatted to the king unless the king addressed him.
His job was to be happy, least they mistook sadness for poison-induced illness and quiet unless addressed.
But Nehemiah can’t hide what’s going on in his heart and in his mind, he is battling to keep up the facade of pleasantries all because his heart has been sensitised by God to the news of the ruinous state of Jerusalem.
The king can see something is wrong and so addresses Nehemiah his cupbearer; “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?” (vs2)
Nehemiah is terrified, what should he say? This is the king of the marauding captors of Israel wants to know why Nehemiah is sad, but what he is sad about is the very fact that Babylon invaded and destroyed and took Israel captive! Awkward!
Nehemiah courageously or foolishly tells king Artaxerxes the truth about what’s bugging him – probably fearing for his life as he does so. Pause, nothing happens…
Then the king says; “What are you requesting?” (vs4)
Scripture records that Nehemiah multi-tasked at this point, way before Windows & iPhones and Android.
“So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king…” (vs4-5)
Nehemiah knows how he responds now in this moment is crucial, he is still alive after being honest, maybe in this moment he might be granted some favour? Sensing the moment he cries out to God under his breath, in his mind. It might have just been; “HELP!” but Scripture indicates that this is happening as he is simultaneously replying to the kings question.
Nehemiah proceeds to converse with the king and make his bold requests known, he asks for time, for permission and for resources and for protection & favour. And importantly vs8 reports;
“And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (vs8)
Scripture acknowledges the source of the favour extended to Nehemiah as being directly linked to Nehemiah’s multi-tasked prayer!
What I have found is that it is not the length or the might of your prayer or even the faith of your prayer that matters! What really matters is the fact that you prayed, and who you prayed to!
What can you learn from this moment in Nehemiah’s life and Nehemiah’s prayer?