You’re taking an exam, but can’t remember the answer. A friend says something unkind, and you don’t know how to respond. Your patient hasn’t followed your orders again, and you feel yourself getting angry. You get cut off in traffic, and want to terminate the offender. You get pimped by your attending, and don’t know what to say.
There are times where we need to pray, but don’t seem to have the time. What can we do?
The answer comes to us from the story of Nehemiah’s interaction with the King of Persia (Nehemiah Chapter 2). Nehemiah was one of the King’s most trusted officials.
One day, the King noticed Nehemiah was unusually sad and asked him about it (see verse 2). He gave Nehemiah the chance to make a request, but it was risky: as an Israelite, his desire to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, now part of a Persian province, could be perceived as disloyalty. It’s not like he had all day to craft his response. What could he do?!
The story tells us simply that he “prayed to the God of heaven” (3), probably silently in his heart for just a second or two. We don’t know exactly what he prayed, but it was probably something like, “Give me the right words to say!”, or, “Help!”
God honored his prayer (8), and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s encouraging to remember that we serve a God like this. In moments where we’re afraid (see verse 2 again) and ‘on the spot’ like Nehemiah, we just need to turn quickly to God in prayer.
You may be thinking, “Come on. We can’t just throw up a little prayer whenever we’re in trouble and expect God to answer, can we?” It’s true that our relationship and conversations with God should go beyond those short prayers (see Nehemiah 1:4). Knowing and trusting Him in ‘normal life’ forms the foundation we need to turn to Him in more pressured situations.
But this story reminds us that there’s a real place for in-the-moment prayers. At the end of the day, it’s not our prayers to God, but the God of our prayers, that makes all the difference.