Every now and then you may encounter someone who for some reason proudly makes it their aim to oppose the values and objectives of God in the world. They are not simply indifferent. They actively oppose the promotion of righteousness and those who would seek to honor God the Father and Christ.
We see them from time to time in the pages of scripture. It’s a Pharaoh, a Korah, or an Ahaz. For Nehemiah it was the leaders of the surrounding peoples who did not want to see Judaism thrive in Jerusalem again. Their attitude was much like that of Hamas today, but they were subject to Artaxerxes. The king had authorized Nehemiah’s project, and they could not overtly wipe out the Jews in Jerusalem. So they did all they could to undermine the effort.
There are some in our world who actively work to make Christianity fail. They may attempt to silence Christian thought, penalize those who honor Christ, and mock the God of the Bible. How should a Christ follower respond to this unique type of person? What should we pray?
Here’s what Nehemiah prayed, “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” (Nehemiah 4:4-5) As I look in the pages of the Bible, I find lots of godly men addressing God in similar ways.
At first sight, this prayer does not seem Christian. It doesn’t look loving and kind and gentle. Some would assume that Nehemiah was not enlightened, and that this kind of prayer is flawed and pre-Christian. But I wonder? Is the assumption that we should pray God’s blessing on all people justified? The Bible declares that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. He does not affirm those who choose unrighteousness. So are we sometimes guilty of asking God to do what he has stated he will not do?
I don’t sense vindictiveness in Nehemiah’s prayer. He’s asking God to help those who reject Him to experience the consequences of those choices. Perhaps it’s like Paul, who experienced immediate distress so he might reconsider and find Christ in the long run. This seems similar to Paul’s response to Hymenaeus and Alexander, who rejected the faith that was presented to them. Our aversion to pain and discomfort may say much more about us than it does about God. It may be time to reassess the way we pray so that our intercession more closely mirrors God’s declaration of who he is and how he acts.