Pray First

How often do we enter into a challenging situation and forget to pray for God’s assistance?  It may be a difficult meeting with the boss at work, or an effort to resolve a disagreement with our spouse, or a discussion with one of our children over a certain disciplinary action we plan to take.

The following stories (one from scripture and one from personal experience) illustrate the value of praying first to request God’s assistance before we proceed in any situation.

Nehemiah was the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes of Persia.  He had learned that the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed and the gates burned by the Babylonians, and he weeps for Israel.  He prays that God would grant him favor with the King when he is his presence.  When he brings the wine to the king, the king notices how sad he is and observes that he has never seen him sad like this before.

Nehemiah responds, “Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins.”  The king then asked Nehemiah, “What is it that you want?”  Nehemiah says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.”  Nehemiah asks the king to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild it, giving him letters of safe passage through the surrounding territories and a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest to get wood to rebuild the gates destroyed by fire.  (Neh. 1:4 – 2:1-9)

Notice how Nehemiah prays before he meets with the king and also while he is in his presence before stating his request.  He is relying on God to go before him to prepare the king’s heart for his request.

Over the years I have experienced times when I have neglected to pray and times when I remembered.  At work, I often found myself praying in the hallways and elevators as I walked to meetings where potential conflicts needed to be resolved.   The outcomes always seemed to be better when I prayed.

Here is a non-work story for which I have found memories.  A number of years ago our oldest daughter was in a serious dating relationship with a young man who I had met on several occasions.  He called one day to have lunch.  Since on a prior occasion he had expressed interest in a workplace ministry I was involved in, I had thought that he wanted to follow-up on that conversation.

As I was leaving my office to meet with him, the thought hit me, “What if he wants to ask permission to marry our daughter?  How will I respond?   So, I started to pray, asking God what I should say.  We had no reservations about the young man being a good husband for our daughter.  It was more a matter of what form should my response take for such an important request.

After a prolonged discussion on a variety of subjects, there was a pause and then a request for permission to marry our daughter.   As a result of my prayer, I said, “Well, I have two requirements.”  His countenance gave a worried look.  “The requirements are that you love God and that you love our daughter.”  He let out a sigh, and said, “Oh, I can do that!  That will not be a problem.” 

In postscript to this story, it turns out that our second daughter was also in a serious dating relationship.  About a month later I received a call from the young man she was dating who lived out of state.  He said that he had hoped to talk with me in person, but his circumstances did not allow it.  He was coming to town to see our daughter and wanted our permission to marry her.  Thinking back to what happened the month before, I said, “Well, I have two requirements,” and before I could state what they were, he said, “Yes and yes.”  He had obviously consulted with our other daughter’s fiancé.  This past year both marriages celebrated their twenty-first anniversaries, and their families have given us many happy memories.

“In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

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