“6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” NIV

A common enemy and a common cause brought four different groups together in an attempt to stop the work on the walls. Jerusalem was now surrounded by enemy forces.

I remember hearing Dr. Howard Hendricks say, ‘If the devil isn’t working you over, maybe you aren’t all that significant!’ I think that was roughly and gruffly expressed and it could lead to unnecessary guilt.Nevertheless there is an important point enshrined in his words. When the work of God is progressing, the enemy will be greatly angered (1, 7) and we can expect persecution in some form. Here the opposition goes up a gear from verbal abuse to the threat of physical assault. Words can hurt and damage you, but they can’t kill you. Weapons, however can.

In the face of spiritual attack the church must pray ( 4, 9). Of course we must pray. But if there are other things we obviously should do, let us also do them. Prayer is not a substitute for taking wise courses of action.

‘’But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.’’

On a new year’s eve many years ago, an old gentleman from my church in Wigan, spoke to me about important exams I would be taking the next Spring. His sage advice came in the form of repeating what a general had famously said to his soldiers, ‘Pray to the Lord, and keep your powder dry!.’

PRAYER: Lord, may I never make prayer an excuse for failing to do my duty. Help me to see clearly what activities I need to link to my prayers.