Action and Prayer go Hand in Hand

Chapter 41

Theme: Action and Prayer go Hand in Hand
Focus on: Nehemiah
Reading Portion(s): Nehemiah 2, 4, 6:1 to 16.
– Important Background Information
– Helps you find strength in God
What this article teaches you
There is a balance in the Christian life. Many learn it very late in life. This is so because it is not easy to strike this balance. Some pray all the time. Others go around doing good things and Christian activities all the time. The trouble comes when people compartmentalize these two. The fact is that both of them are separate and distinct; yet part of the same. It is like the white and yolk of the egg. Both are needed to make the egg what it is though each can be distinctly separated.

Prayer without action is like never putting the vehicle into gear. The engine will keep on running without the car moving forward. On the other hand action without prayer is like trying to drive a car without fuel. It simply does not work. So a balance has to be struck between prayer and action. They go hand in hand.

Nehemiah stands out in the history of the Israelite people as the man who led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The wall of Jerusalem had fallen to ruins following the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the king of Babylon. The people were exiled. After many decades God arranged circumstances in such a manner that the Persian kings allowed the people to return and rebuild the temple of God.

Even after this work was done the walls of Jerusalem remained in ruins. When some messengers came and reported this matter to Nehemiah he sat down and wept and mourned and fasted and prayed to God. He prayed that God would grant him favor in the presence of the king. At that point of time Nehemiah was cupbearer to the the king of Persia.

Then the opportune time came. One day when wine was brought for King Artaxerxes Nehemiah took it and gave it to the king. But the king noticed that Nehemiah’s face was looking sad. He also commented that since he was not ill this could only mean sadness of heart. Nehemiah became afraid. But he spoke up before the king. He told the king that his face cannot but be sad when the city where his fathers were buried were lying in ruins and it gates destroyed by fire.

The king asked him what was that he wanted. Nehemiah took a moment to pray before he answered. Of course it may not have been an audible prayer; but he might have prayed silently in his heart before answering. This is a remarkable quality that we find in Nehemiah. He made everything a subject for his prayer. Whenever he had to do something he simply prayed. There was no formality about it. It was quick, simple and straight to the point. It represented the confidence he had that his prayers were heard.

So after praying he told the king that he would like the king to send him to the city of Jerusalem where his fathers lie buried to rebuild it. Nehemiah therefore set a time for himself to go and return. Then he also asked the king for letters to be given to the officials for safe conduct and for timber needed to rebuild the gates and wall and his residence. Nehemiah records that because God’s gracious hand was upon him the king granted his requests. Escorted by army officers and cavalry Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem.

But there were enemies who did not like the idea of Nehemiah having come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. They became very unhappy by his arrival.

After three days of his arrival, Nehemiah went alone by night to inspect the
wall of Jerusalem. He had not mentioned to anyone what he had in mind to do.
Afterwards he told the people about his plans. He called upon them to rebuild
the wall of Jerusalem so that they will no longer be in disgrace. He also
reported to them God’s gracious hand upon him and the things the king had
said. The people responded by saying, “Let us start rebuilding.”

The enemies began to mock and ridicule them when they heard of this idea. Sanballat began to say that the feeble Jews will not be able to restore the wall. They asked whether they will finish the work in day or whether they could bring back the stones to life from the heaps of rubble which were burned already? Tobiah said mockingly that even if a fox climbs upon the wall of stones they were building it would collapse! Such was the ridicule hurled against the people. They did this in the presence of their many associates and the army of Samaria.

Nehemiah after hearing the insults prayed. He asked God to hear how they were despised and asked Him not to blot out their sins from His sight because they had thrown insults in the face of the builders.

He prayed but he also continued building. This is prayer in the midst of action and action backed by prayer. Here no distinction is made between prayer and action to make one seem better than the other. Both are found to go hand in hand.

The wall thus reached half its height for the people worked with all their heart. Then the enemies became angry and plotted together to come and fight against the city and create trouble against it.
Again the people prayed. But they also posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

But the people had grown tired. Instead of looking at the half-finished wall they looked at the remaining rubble and said that they will not be able to rebuild the wall. Some of the Jews who heard what the enemies were saying started speaking that they will definitely attack them to put an end to the work.

Nehemiah did not waver at this discouraging turn of events. He posted men by their families at the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places. He also encouraged the people to remember their great and awesome God and fight for their brothers, their sons and daughters, their wives and their homes, without being afraid. Then the enemies heard that the people were aware of their plot and God had frustrated it.

This allowed the people to return to the work on the wall. This time half of the people did the work while the other half stood guard. Those who carried materials did so with one hand and held a weapon in the other. They continued to work from dawn till the stars appeared at night. The people thus worked as well as kept watch.

When the wall was almost complete the enemies tried to intimidate Nehemiah. They tried to lure him away from the work by sending him messages one after the other. Nehemiah understood that they were trying to weaken them by their false campaigns. He knew that they were trying to somehow stop the work so that the wall would not be completed.
At this hour of need Nehemiah again prayed to God to strengthen his hands.


God did indeed strengthen his hands. The wall was completed in fifty-two days. The enemies heard about it. The surrounding nations became afraid and lost their self-confidence. This so happened because they realized that this work had been done with the help of God.


Some important thoughts are very evident in this incident of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. Before we can understand it in detail we should know what walls stand for. Walls generally serve some purposes. They help to distinguish and mark out clearly the boundaries of one’s property. It is also a symbol of protection. The absence of a wall brings thoughts of insecurity. It tells the world that they will not meet with any resistance if they plan to overrun the inhabitants of that place. So a wall is a symbol of strength, protection and distinctiveness of the people living within its boundaries.

In the case of Jerusalem things were a bit different. They had had a wall. But it was destroyed and burned with fire. The people had no chance to rebuild it because they were in captivity and exile. Yet they were without excuse for having neglected this work after many of them returned from exile.

As we look at the message that Nehemiah got it talked about the fact that the people who had survived the exile and were back in Jerusalem were in great trouble and disgrace. One major reason was that the walls of Jerusalem now lay in ruins. It loudly proclaimed the shame that had fallen on the nation. It talked about the nation that was thoroughly beaten and fallen to the ground; unable to rise!


Is this the condition of your life today? Have your walls been broken down? If so, was sin and rebellion against God the cause of it? Maybe there is yet hope! The walls could be rebuilt. For this action and prayer are required and both should go hand in hand.


On the one side you should pray for God’s help in rebuilding. On the other you should act to root out the sins that was the cause of your downfall. Then the Lord shall send help to build. You may need the help of many Christian brothers or sisters to strengthen you and help you build.


This is God’s work. It is going to build you up. But the enemies of God will oppose it. They will try to discourage you and frighten you. Do not be discouraged. You can pray to God to strengthen your hands. At the same time you should keep watch to avoid listening to their insults. You should take care not to give up. It is when the rebuilding is half-way through that enthusiasm slowly drains away. It is then that you feel like looking at the rubble that remain rather than looking at the half-finished wall.


There is no victory without hard work. You should spare no effort to rebuild your life. Then one by one the stones shall be in place and you will have God’s protecting wall around your life. Yet it would be foolish to work hard and not pray. Your hands will only be strengthened by prayer. There need not be any formality in your praying. Like Nehemiah you can pray as spontaneously as the prayer forms in you heart. Thus you act and pray; and pray and act.


Then when the walls of your life are rebuilt; it will stand as a testimony to the world that you had done it with God’s help.

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