The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “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.” Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. 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. Nehemiah 2:4-10
Ask For What You Really Need
When the king asked Nehemiah what he wanted, he quickly prayed to God to make sure his request would be well received by the king. This was a very quick prayer followed by a carefully calculated request. Nehemiah knew what to say because he was led by the Holy Spirit. He did not delay in responding to the king because he might not have had another opportunity to present his request to the king as such. Verse 5 captures the three essential features of Nehemiah’s response. First, the response is very diplomatic. Nehemiah honors the kings and shows deference to his royal position. He answered the king, “if it please the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight.” Second, the response demonstrates great wisdom as he reverently asks the king for a leave of absence. Third, the response was specific and direct. He asked to be sent to the city in Judah where his ancestors are buried so he can rebuild it.
Nehemiah abstains from mentioning the name Jerusalem. Instead, he talks about Judah, which would have been more acceptable to the political sensitivities of the king. In that same verse, Nehemiah reveals his ultimate goal and desire: he wanted to rebuild the broken walls of the land of his ancestors. This was not a simple request. Losing one of his most trusted confident and wine taster was a big deal. It took years to develop the level of trust the king had in Nehemiah. Naturally, the king wanted to know the length of Nehemiah’s leave of absence. This was both a personal and a professional question that necessitated a careful and thoughtful response.
Nehemiah’s prompt and clearly defined response demonstrates that he had a plan. It is suggested that “the four months in prayer were not only spent in talking to God but also in listening to Him and in working out a Spirit-led plan for what to do when God did open the door (Guzik). Therefore, Nehemiah set a time. As a strategic leader and planner who had been praying and conferring with God for four months, Nehemiah knew he would need royal protection to make it to Jerusalem unscathed. Therefore, in verse 8, he specifically requested that the king give him letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates so that they will provide him safe-conduct until he arrives in Judah. In addition, Nehemiah asks the king for a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give him timber to make beams for a reconstruction project
Without the letter of protection to the governors, it would be too risky, or even impossible, to carry the timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall. The enemies of Israel would have hijacked the timber and possibly kill Nehemiah. However, because of the king’s protection letter, he was guaranteed to make to and from Jerusalem safe. Upon the approval of the king, Nehemiah wasted no time in going to the governors of Trans-Euphrates to give them the king’s letters. Because the favor of the Lord was upon Nehemiah, the king sent army officers and cavalry with him for protection. That lets everyone know that Nehemiah was operating with the king’s blessing. Obviously, this was not well received by the enemies of the Israelites. Thus, in verse 10 we are told that Sanballat and Tobiah were very much disturbed that Nehemiah was coming to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
This section of chapter 2 teaches us four significant lessons. First, every decision or plan must be bathed in prayer. Yet we must strike the iron while it is hot, so to speak. When the king asks Nehemiah what he wanted him to do for him, Nehemiah prayed for a brief minute and made his request known immediately. At times, prayer does not need to be lengthy. A quick prayer can be as effective as a lengthy prayer. The point here is that if a person has been deliberate in sharing his or her vision with God in prayer over a period of time, that person should be willing to grab the bull by the horn when the opportunity presents itself and not delay so they can go pray. Secondly, we should not be afraid to ask for what we need at the opportune time. Nehemiah was very respectful to the king, but he did not hesitate to ask the king what he needed. It is especially important to note that Nehemiah did not ask the king for anything until the King volunteered his support. Another way of saying this is, when the right person in the right position asks the right question or volunteer their support, we should jump at it.
Thirdly, when asking, make sure we ask for everything necessary to accomplish the goal. False modesty is not a virtue. If a person needs one hundred million dollars to complete a goal, he or she should ask for one hundred million dollars. Many people make that mistake in their prayer to God. They ask for less than they will need or want. Subsequently, they get frustrated and end up working harder rather than smarter because of limited resources. I recently had to adjust my petition to the Lord because the Holy Spirit asked me to be specific and comprehensive in what I was asking God to give me.
Fourth, Nehemiah did not make any assumptions and covered all basis. He asked the king for letters to the Governors of Trans-Euphrates so that they will provide him safe-conduct until he arrives in Judah. He also asks the king for a letter to Asaph to give him timber to make beams for the temple and the wall. Moreover, the king sent army officers and cavalry to protect Nehemiah.
Nehemiah demonstrates boldness in seizing the moment to implement his vision. After we prayed about a vision or plan, we need to move by faith and be bold in taking all the necessary steps to fulfill that vision. Too many people are forfeiting their God-given blessings because they are afraid to seize the moment. Do not allow the paralysis of analysis to neutralize our effectiveness and impede our ability to do great things in the name of the Lord.
Blessed Lord, please help us to be bold in moving forward by faith as we try to live a purpose-driven life.