“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
I had such a great plan. I had prayed and I thought God had answered with a big ol’ “YES!”
and then things started to fall apart.
What do you do when a plan begins to fall apart? I’ve tried to force circumstances before. To create situations and opportunities. To manipulate them. To push them.
It’s taken me decades, but I’ve learned that my efforts are only effective when God intervenes. Especially when a plan requires more than one person to accomplish it.
I find myself thinking of Nehemiah. He didn’t rebuild the wall all by himself. And he wasn’t the one who convinced the king to allow him – to actually help him – rebuild the wall. After finding out the wall had been torn down, the first thing Nehemiah did was pray:
“O Lord, please hear my prayer!…Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
After praying, Nehemiah didn’t say anything to the king at all. He had prayed and he trusted God to answer. He waited. He continued doing the work he was supposed to do.
The king noticed there was something wrong. Was he just a perceptive man? Or did God make him aware there was a problem?
The king asked Nehemiah what was wrong. He made a few guesses, but not assumptions. He didn’t presume to know. He asked. Was he just a curious man? Or did God prompt him to ask?
Nehemiah told him what was troubling him, but didn’t ask the king to do anything for him. Why not? He could have just asked the king for what he wanted right then. But he didn’t. He waited on the Lord. He had prayed and he trusted God to answer.
And the king said, “How can I help you?” Was he just a kind and compassionate man? Or did the Lord “put it into his heart” to help Nehemiah?
Back to Nehemiah. A powerful king just asked him “How can I help you?” Did Nehemiah blurt out his request? It’s interesting to me that the question and Nehemiah’s first response are both contained in one verse. The actual request follows in the next verse:
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven,
5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
Nehemiah didn’t say a word without God. He knew that the king would only say yes if God willed it.
That story has changed the way I approach problems and decisions. If a plan requires other people to accomplish it and God wants the plan accomplished, God will “put it into their heart.” When he doesn’t do that, I have a choice. Do I push through anyway?
or do I start praying about Plan B?