But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. (New 4:9)
“Let’s just pray about it.” was not quite enough for Nehemiah. They were going to pray about the danger, but also arm themselves and be ready to protect themselves should the enemy show up. Their prayers to God were backed up with immediate human action. They believed that God would protect them, but they also believed that they themselves would be the means through which God would do the protecting!
“God we need your protection, but I have my sword here straped to my side, so that you can answer my prayer through it’s blade.”
What enemies do Christian people have in the western world today, and what possibly could be the application for a text like this? Regarding enemies I would have to say it would mostly be hostile world views and wicked philosophies of life, as far a actual people as enemies, well, there are many tempter’s out there both computer generated and real and smooth talking charlatans abound.
So whats the application? It’s certainly good to pray about those dangers but it’s also just as important to take drastic action against them. What exactly that looks like I’m not even sure. My faith tradition is against violence of any kind. So punching out a smooth talking charlatan is probably not the right course of action, (though, I must confess sometimes the thought is appealing) but it would seem according to this story that in some cases we will need to push back aggressively against real enemies. Prayer is part of the pushback but so to is action.
Does this contradict Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies and pray for them? Maybe. But in some cases I wonder if the best way you can show love for someone is to resist them, to fight against them and their beliefs. Was it not the best thing for white people when Martin Luther King resisted them? The entrapments of racism and superiority had blinded white people for centuries. It was a soul eating cancer. Kings active resistance against it not only liberated black people but it also freed many whites from their blindness.
Christian people will always need to be praying but sometimes they will also need to stand up, raise their metaphorical sword and say “No more!”