Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. (Nehemiah 4:9)
Nehemiah faced opposition to the refortification of Jerusalem in many forms. At first he and the Jews were laughed at (2:19) by their enemies, to which Nehemiah responded, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build” (2:20). When marginalizing the efforts of the Jews had no effect, their enemies resorted to ridicule and mocking. Nehemiah turned the matter over to God: “Hear O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders” (4:4-5), but the work went on. Seeing that their vitriol was feckless, “they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it” (v. 8).
The threat of violence failed to hinder the progress. Again, Nehemiah gave the matter over to God, but he did not stop there. He “set a watch against them day and night because of them” (v. 9). Furthermore, he motivated the people to defend the part of the wall that directly protected their families: “I even set the people after their families with their swords, and their bows” (v.13). He also made preparations in case of a realized attack: “And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us” (vv. 19-20).
Nehemiah is an example of prayer with action. Sometimes we ask God to intervene on our behalf and are disappointed when it appears that God has not answered our prayer. The problem is that we fail to take personal responsibility in the resolution to our problems. While it is true that some of our requests can only be accomplished by God’s miraculous intervention, more often than not, we are able to resolve our own issues with His help. He provides the resources, the intellect and the abilities, but we need to be motivated to defend our section of the wall. Jesus illustrated this with God’s provision for the ravens (Luke 12:24). God provides for the needs of the birds, but the birds still have to leave the nest and search for the food God has provided. Pray with action!