Daily Bible Reading Reflections

Developing the Knee-Jerk Reaction to Pray

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. When he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and its gates destroyed by fire, he prayed “before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1 records a lengthy cry to “the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.”

But Nehemiah’s prayers weren’t always long. At times, they seem to have been spur-of-the moment, internal, knee-jerk reactions to what was going on around him. If you had been looking at him in the flesh, you might not have even been able to tell that internally he was approaching the throne of God above in prayer.

The king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. (2:4)

When Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews… Hear, O our God, for we are despised. (4:1, 4)

I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people. (5:18-19)

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. (6:9)

Tobiah and Sanballat had hired [Shemaiah] … that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did… (6:14)

Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love. (13:22)

Remember me, O my God, for good. (13:31)

What a great reminder for the day! What a worthy goal for our long-term spiritual health: to practice and develop and nurture the knee-jerk reaction to pray!

Most certainly, there’s a time to sit down–as Nehemiah did in chapter 1–to bow your head, close your eyes, and pray at length, perhaps even with tears and fasting. But there are also times, in the heat-of-the moment, to quickly seek the face and favor of the God who hears.

“Help me answer with wisdom.”

“Hear, O God, what is being said.”

“Remember me, O my God.”

“Strengthen me.”


Surrounded by far too many whose knee-jerk reactions trend toward bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice, and ugly retaliation, we have the opportunity to shine as lights today. Even if the people around you aren’t able to tell that your heart–in the blink of an eye–has entered heaven’s throne room…

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18)