In the presence of a King, you measure your words carefully. Not that I’ve ever been in the presence of earthly royalty, but I expect if someone powerful asked me an important question I’d stop to think before answering.
Nehemiah was the King’s cupbearer. The King was Artaxerxes (don’t try to say that out loud, you’ll get a cramp in your jaw!) Nehemiah was sad, and with good reason. The walls around his beloved Jerusalem lay in ruins, exposing them to enemies. Maybe Nehemiah didn’t know that he had an unhappy look on his face, but the King noticed. (Our prayer text for today is Nehemiah 2:4-6.)
Then the king asked me, “What is your request?”
So I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”
It would be easy to miss it … “So I prayed to the God of heaven…” but that would be a mistake. Nehemiah is a man of prayer and the book containing his story is littered with prayers throughout. I think we have a pretty good example here of pausing for prayer before we speak. The King’s response?
The king, with the queen seated beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So I gave him a definite time, and it pleased the king to send me.
A verse from the book of James seems to have a permanent place in my prayer journal:
My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. ~James 4:19-20
Can you think of a time when you would have been better served to keep your lips zipped and withheld the words that spilled out so easily? Me too. In my experience it is a lot easier to pause and pray than it is to crawl back later and try to apologize for words you can never take back.
As we approach our new year in prayer, let’s pray for the things that affect our every day life. Speech is one of those… and using wisdom before we use our tongues.
Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men’s souls, and a beautiful image it is. –Blaise Pascal
I’m very happy to tell you that some excellent thinkers are joining me on this journey of prayer in the role of guest writers. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to sharing with you a reflection from Job written by Tony Roberts.