“When Everything Seems Possible, Pray!”
This story from the life of Nehemiah is rich with spiritual insight. It is usually preached from the leadership point of view, showing how Nehemiah expressed the qualities of good leadership in the building of the walls. I am going to use this story to show that when everything seems possible, we need to pray. When it seems as though God is in control; and all is right in our world; and things couldn’t go better, we need to pray. This seems like I have it wrong, and it should be – “When everything seems impossible, we need to pray!” When it seems as though God has forgotten us; the world is falling apart; and nothing is going right, we need to pray. However, the Apostle Paul admonishes us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray continuously” or “without ceasing”…and again in Ephesians 6:18 – “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
When I have performed wedding ceremonies, I ask the bride and the groom to love and cherish one another “for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health…” How many know that good times can be as much of a challenge at times as much as tough times? Wealth can seem good, but at times has destroyed individuals as well as entire families…. just as poverty does. Success can erode as much as failure…No wonder Paul said, “pray in all occasions.”
I want to begin by going back to chapters one and two of Nehemiah in order to refresh our minds as to the background of this story, as well as to point out some things along the way;
In verse 3 of chapter 1 we find the problem; (read) “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” In chapter 2 – verse 5 we find Nehemiah’s passion; (read) “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” In verse 10 we find that there is opposition (read) “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” Then in verses 11-16 we find Nehemiah inspecting the needs in a time of preparation; (I won’t take the time to print it all, but verse 15 says, “so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall.” In verses 17 and 18 Nehemiah gives the people the vision and they accept the vision and it says “they began this good work.” And finally, in verse 20 we find Nehemiah revealing his power, his guidance, his source, “The God of heaven will give us success!”
Everything is going well, times are good, He has the King’s approval, he has the people’s approval, he has the passion and the provision, the preparation and the power of God…What could possibly go wrong! Again, I say – When everything seems possible, pray.
I know that many of you are not football fans, but have you ever seen a quarterback blindsided? He drops back to make a pass and out of the blue, somebody comes in and blindsides him and sacks the quarterback. Well, in this story we have Sanballat and Tobiah, who are like clones of Mike Ditka…Their job is to blind-side Nehemiah and take him down! Just about the time everything seems to be going well in your life, don’t be surprised if the enemy tries to take you out of the game! Scripture says; “Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour!” It’s no wonder scripture admonishes us to “be alert”…”stay awake”…”keep watch” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;” says Jesus, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Notice however, in 4:4 that Nehemiah sends up what I call a “bullet prayer”…without hesitation, he just shoots a prayer up…He does not stop to calculate; he doesn’t begin to argue; he doesn’t step back in anger or feeling hurt; he just simply calls upon the one who has the power to quiet the opposition….And look at what he reports after his prayer; “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height.” (Amazing!) This didn’t make the Arabs and the Ammonites happy, and it goes on to say that they again “plotted to fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble”….but, in verse 9 – “we prayed and posted a guard…”
When the enemy knows he can’t come against our faith in prayer, and the vision is within sight, his next ploy is to bring weariness and doubt. Before you know it, the people start complaining that they are getting tired, there is too much rubble, and they don’t have the strength to fight. Look at what Nehemiah tells them in verse 14 – “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your homes”. And, when the enemy heard that we were aware of their plot, and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work…”
There is something very important about being “aware” of the enemy’s plots and schemes. It is when we are unaware that wealth and success and good times, which are good things, can destroy and erode. It has been said that “the problem with prayer is that you have to have a problem to pray” …We ought to be people who pray before, during, and after a problem arises.
Notice also that there is a two-fold means of protection shown here; God is looking out for us and protecting us as we look out for and protect one another. Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” There is power in numbers to be sure…there is also power in two… one plus God! Prayer is our connection…Prayer is our lifeline. So, when everything seems to be possible…Pray.
Pray and set a guard. A guard upon your body, upon your mind, upon your heart, and upon your soul…And, of course when everything seems impossible…pray! In fact, why not just pray always, at all times, continuously, as Paul suggests.