Prayer for the weary heart

Just because God’s timing is perfect does not mean life is free of difficulties.

My husband’s diagnosis of an ascending aortic aneurysm came at a very scary time. He was only thirty years old, and we were expecting our second child. My pregnancy was emotionally difficult, so I was relieved when the surgeon recommended a “wait and see” approach to my husband’s potential open heart surgery. I wasn’t sure how I would support Jeff through surgery and recovery when I just felt like someone needed to carry me through the remainder of my pregnancy.

Although immediate surgery was not ideal for our little family, the “wait and see” approach took its toll as well. For 19 months we kept appointment cards on the refrigerator and sighed with relief every time we heard “no change” after each CAT scan.

Eventually we needed to make a decision.

Though the aneurysm never grew, it still needed to be removed. Jeff and I agreed that the summer of 2015 was the right time. Circumstances were more ideal than when Jeff first received the diagnosis, but we still had a rough road ahead.Those first few weeks post-op were incredibly difficult. Recovery from open heart surgery presented a myriad of challenges. I was unprepared for just how much Jeff would need me—just as much (if not more) than my one-year-old and two-year-old. The support Jeff required left me physically and emotionally exhausted. I had felt as though I had nothing left to give.

I needed strength.

In His kindness, the Lord equipped me with the prayer I needed to pray to fight exhaustion, stress and fear. The Holy Spirit guided me to read the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s story is so encouraging to those facing any form of opposition. In no way could my exhaustion compare with the severity of Nehemiah’s situation, but I found so much comfort in his story.

Nehemiah was exhausted. He had so much responsibility on his shoulders. He was given permission by the king of Persia to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but with a deadline. A midnight inspection of the city showed the walls were rubble and the gates nothing but ashes. Because God’s hand was upon him, he convinced the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

Nehemiah had his work cut out for him. He needed physical strength.

Nehemiah also needed a strong heart. He made instant enemies back home in Judah, simply because he wanted to make the Israelites’ lives better. Fear was the primary weapon Nehemiah’s enemies used to bring the restoration of the wall to a halt. So, not only did Nehemiah have to oversee the rebuilding of the walls, he had to keep the morale of the people up as they worked with tools in one hand and weapons in the other.

As the leader of God’s people, Nehemiah remained focused on the task at hand and did not let his heart be ruled by fear.

In Nehemiah chapter six, five letters were sent to Nehemiah. These letters from his enemies contained lies that should have struck fear in his heart. But Nehemiah had the discernment to recognize the falsehoods for what they were. He sent a reply calling out on the lies; then, he kept working.

In verse nine, we get a glimpse into Nehemiah’s thoughts. “For they all wanted to frighten us thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

As I read that prayer during Jeff’s recovery, I latched on. I needed strong hands and a strong heart. I still do. I find myself praying “strengthen my hands” when I have a busy day looming ahead of me and little energy to accomplish my tasks. I pray Nehemiah’s prayer when I need patience dealing with my children. When the enemy attacks, I copy Nehemiah’s words. During difficult seasons in ministry, I have begged the Lord for strong hands.

Each time I pray Nehemiah’s prayer, the Lord is faithful to answer and give the strength I need to complete the task at hand. God always answers these prayers for two reasons: God always answers prayers prayed according to His will, and God always fulfills His purposes.

If He calls us to a task, He will see it completed.

Another advantage to praying Nehemiah’s prayer is the admission of dependence on God. I have a difficult time admitting I need help, and this stubbornness carries over into my walk with Christ. Nehemiah’s words cultivate humility and dependence on God in the prideful human heart.

“…God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b).

Asking God for help opens the door to receive much needed grace.

It is unlikely that God will call us to rebuild the walls of a decimated city. But He has given each of us a task. The Kingdom of God is an ever growing empire, and there is much building yet to be done. We all need strength to complete “our projects.” Like Nehemiah, we have an enemy that wants to stop our work. We need strong hands and a strong heart to see the work to its completion. We are not defenseless. One of the tools we’ve been given is Nehemiah’s prayer.

Hold on to this tool; use it and rejoice as God enables you to “finish your wall.”

Published July 24, 2017