If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah.
If you are dealing with a difficult person in your life, be attuned to when God begins to open the door. That is the third principle found in Nehemiah 2 for handing difficult people: recognize providence. Look for the working of God in that other person’s life so that you will be ready to make your next move. That is what Nehemiah did. Look at verse 2: “So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’” No matter how hard you try to mask it, sometimes you cannot hide the feelings of your heart. One day Nehemiah could not help himself. He was sad, and it showed on his face. This was unusual for Nehemiah, so the king asked, “Why are you sad?” Nehemiah responded, “Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” (v. 3). Why did Nehemiah feel confident in telling the king what he really wanted? I think Nehemiah saw something in the king’s expression, or he heard something in the king’s tone of voice that led him to believe that God was beginning to work in his heart. And Nehemiah was ready to take advantage of the door that God had opened.
That leads to the fourth principle: when you recognize that God is beginning to work, be ready to make your petition. Look at verse 4: “Then the king said to me, ‘What would you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” I have heard this called a “telegraph prayer.” You say a telegraph prayer when you have a great opportunity, and you don’t have time to say, “I am going to go into my prayer closet for the next two hours, and then I will get back with you.” Nehemiah knew he had to take this opportunity, so he shot up a quick prayer–“God, help me know what to say.” Yes, this was a telegraph prayer, but it was backed up by the months Nehemiah had spent on his knees. You cannot survive in your spiritual life if all you send up are telegraph prayers. You have to regularly spend time with God in prayer. But there will be occasions when you call on God for immediate help. Nehemiah was saying, “Lord, show me exactly what to say to the king.”
I want you to notice how Nehemiah framed his request. He said, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it” (v. 5). Artaxerxes did not worship God, but he was superstitious. Superstitious people in those days believed that there was something special about the tombs of the dead, so Nehemiah’s request rang true with Artaxerxes. There is a great lesson here for us. When you are making a request of a person in authority, frame the request in such a way that shows how it will benefit that person. That is not manipulation–that is wisdom. That is what Nehemiah did here. When he saw that God was working in Artaxerxes’s heart, he made a petition that would appeal to the king–and the king was willing to listen.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How To Handle A Difficult Boss” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.