There are times and places to pray a big, long prayer. Right after the king asks you an important question is NOT it! In Nehemiah Chapter 2, Nehemiah was distressed about Jerusalem when the king asked him why he was sad, and then he asked him “what would you request?” It was in that context, then, that Nehemiah said in verse 4: “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
What do you think that Nehemiah did when he “prayed to the God of heaven” in :4? Do you think he stopped, knelt down, closed his eyes, and prayed through a six-paragraph outline of the Model Prayer, while the king and all his court were looking on? Of course not! This was NOT a long prayer. He didn’t have time for it. He was in the middle of a conversation with the king, and it was a grave occasion. He knew he needed divine assistance in saying just the right thing.
So undoubtedly, very quickly, Nehemiah “prayed to the God of heaven” and asked Him for help. This must have been just a quick “breath” of a prayer, something like, “God help me” or “God, give me Your words to say”. It wasn’t anything he had planned out; he didn’t pray it out loud; it was just a silent, brief, spontaneous prayer to God.
And that is exactly the kind of prayer that every true servant of God needs to pray, throughout each day. We see examples all through scripture of godly people praying spontaneous prayers: Abraham’s servant as he went to find a bride for Isaac; Joshua on the battlefield, Stephen as he was being stoned, etc. We have countless occasions for the same thing every day: before each phone call, just before we knock on a door, as we make a decision, as we see a hurting person.
I Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to “Pray without ceasing.” Nehemiah shows us how we can apply this command more literally than many of us have ever realized, by following his example of spontaneous praying all through the day.