Read Nehemiah 4:7-14
7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.
10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”
11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”
12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!” 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (NLT)
Prayer and action are not opposites. The best sort of prayer leads to action. The best sort of action arises out of prayer.
Nehemiah is busily restoring the walls of Jerusalem after some of the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon. Locals who didn’t want this to happen were trying to stop the building work. Nehemiah doesn’t just call a prayer meeting. Nor does he just carry on with the rebuilding. He does both.
We read that he prayed. We read that he posted guards on the work. We read that he told his people to trust God and to be ready to fight. In other words, he trusted God to be at work and he urged his people to get to work.
Our everyday lives are to be marked by the rhythms of prayer and activity. We pray, we act. We commit things to God, we get to work on those things. Prayer and trust are not excuses for passivity. According to our physical capacities, we are to be up and about. Then again, we are not to confuse activity and achievement, hard work and godliness.
We believe God will fight for us but that doesn’t excuse us from the battle. We recognise we have to do difficult things but also realise God doesn’t leave us without his help. We pray, we act. We trust, we work. They go together.