The book of Nehemiah is actually a historic journal. It would never pass as a respectable history book in this secular age because the Hebrew historian interrupts his narrative eight times to offer up a prayer to God, mixing the vertical with the horizontal in a way unacceptable in publishing companies, but no doubt pleasing in heaven.
In some of these interwoven prayers, the fifth century B.C. governor of the Jerusalem returnees from Persia is beseeching the Lord for help. In one he is asking God to take vengeance on Israel’s enemies (see 1 Peter 2:23). And in the others he is asking God to remember him for the good deeds he is doing:
“Remember me for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people” (5:19).
“Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service” (13:14).
“Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come to guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love” (13:22).
I thought of this the other day when I had lunch with a friend of mine who has given up a lot for God. A few years ago, she and I were both engaged to be married at the same time, so we would meet and talk and smile a lot, as two excited women would.
But then a day came when God made it clear to my friend that it was not His will that she marry this man. Another woman might have brushed aside the warnings and continued full speed ahead, but this woman allowed herself to be led by the Spirit and not her desires, and though it ripped her heart out, she ended the relationship.
My friend remains unmarried, but it is clear to her (to me, too) that she made the right decision back then. And nowadays, whenever she comes to mind, I lift up my heart to God and pray, “Remember her, O Lord, concerning this. Remember her good deed and what she did in obedience to you in breaking off her engagement.”
We know that our salvation is of grace, not works. And yet our works are not chopped liver; they matter to God. The author of Hebrews says:
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name. …”
From Nehemiah I am reminded to pray for my friend that God will remember her act of faith and love, and will bless her accordingly. There is every indication in the book of Nehemiah that God is pleased with his servant’s prayer.