Read Nehemiah 2:1-5
1 Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”(NLT)
Nehemiah wanted to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city. He needed the Persian king’s permission. He approached the man who had the power of life and death over him.
This passage tells us two things about him. One is that he was afraid, terrified. We know from an earlier chapter that he had already offered lengthy prayer about his situation. And yet in front of the king he was terrified. Never assume that just because we pray that all our fears are instantly dissolved. Let’s not beat ourselves up for still having fear even after prayer. We might pray before the storm hits that we will be safe, but when the storm does hit, our fears might resurface.
Which brings us to the second noteworthy thing: he prayed again just as he addressed the king. It is a reminder to us that when the terror comes on us, we can turn to God again. And it is a reminder that some of our prayers are extensive and reflective and some are mere wordless cries for help. Nehemiah, faced with the king, didn’t drop on his knees and have a prayer time. He simply fired up a ‘telegram’ prayer to God.
Each sort of prayer is proper and necessary. One can be likened to a general planning to win a victory in battle prior to engaging the enemy. The other can be likened to a frontline soldier asking for courage as the enemy attacks.