“4 The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.’ 6 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. 7 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? 8 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. 9 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.” NIV
I believe it is a character in the wonderful Winnie the Pooh stories who declares, ‘Thinking’s not my strong point.’
As we have seen, prayer does not preclude planning. Prayer and thought go together. When the king asks Nehemiah, ‘’What is it you want?’’ (4), it becomes obvious that Nehemiah has thought about it – a lot. Warren Wiersbe says that basically his request was two-fold: ‘Send me’ (4-6), and ‘Give me’ (7, 8a). Nehemiah had done his research well. He even knew the name of the ‘’keeper of the king’s forest’’ (8a).
Furthermore, Nehemiah was clear that he got what he asked because of God’s intervention (8b. Note that he had shot up one of his many ‘arrow’ (or ‘telegraph’) prayers in verse 4b). But he had also been praying and fasting intensively for some time.
As I read this, I believe Nehemiah got more than He asked or thought (9). I don’t see any evidence that he’d asked for the ‘’cavalry’’. Again and again we find ourselves amazed at the Lord’s abundant generosity.
‘The king’s response is evidence of the sovereignty of God in the affairs of nations…While it may be helpful to have believing officials like Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah, we must remember that God is not required to use only believers.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘Old Testament Commentary’, p.756.
Prayer: ‘’Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’’ (Ephesians 3:20, 21).