Nehemiah 2:4-5 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.
I have heard this particular incident described as a “telegraph prayer.” However, in current society it might be better called a “Twitter prayer,” since many people have never encountered a telegram in their lives. It was an emergency prayer, more emotion than words, but very focused on the reality that if God didn’t help out, he was in deep trouble. Nehemiah was obviously a liked and trusted member of the court, but Artaxerxes was an absolute monarch, and displeasing him was often fatal. As the Bible records, the results of this prayer were very good indeed. God gave Nehemiah the words to be clear and bold, and he softened Artaxerxes’ heart to respond well. The point is, our prayers don’t have to be long and involved all the time, but they need to be real. It is a blessing to be able to spend a long time in prayer, but length is no guarantee of either sincerity or success. When Jesus taught specifically on prayer He said, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:7-8) That’s why Nehemiah’s prayer was so effective. Probably it was along the lines of, “Lord, help!” We don’t have to spell things out because God already knows what we need. At the same time, specific prayer often crystallizes in our hearts and minds what it is we need. That’s why Jesus so famously told us to ask, seek, and knock. (Matthew 7:7-8) All of this comes down to recognizing our dependence on God and being active in our submission to Him. If you think you can do it on your own, you aren’t going to pray in the first place.
As I am grateful to remember, I was raised in a home where prayer was as natural as breathing. However, that doesn’t mean I’ve been 100% in relation to prayer ever since. Sadly, at times I have prayed more to be heard by the people present than by God. Jesus said that was empty. (Matthew 6:5) At times I have failed to pray, trusting what I’d already been given rather than asking for a fresh supply. That too is a recipe for disaster. I seek to lead others into a vital prayer life, but I tend to take it for granted myself. How foolish! I need to make full use, as called for, of emergency prayers, detailed prayers, and simply resting in my Father’s presence. Particularly, as I try to get across to others, I’ve got to remember that prayer isn’t a monologue; I need to listen to what He says to me even more than I rattle to Him. One of the very few times I have heard Him in what might have been an audible voice, He told me to shut up! I had been asking Him, nonstop, to speak to me, and He said, “Well then, shut up.” I was flabbergasted, but then I laughed at my own foolishness. I am to make full use of the privilege of prayer, and even more use of hearing what God has to say to me.
Father, thank You indeed for prayer. It defies all reason that You would want intimate communication with me, but Your Word and my experience both proclaim that very clearly. Help me never take that lightly or for granted, but operate always in full gratitude and obedience, so that Your will may be done in and through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!