Don’t be afraid of reading a person’s mind. The language of the mind is expressed in the architecture of a person’s life. Look at what is built, what is expressed, what results and you read the mind. If you see chaos the mind is chaotic. If you see order the mind is ordered. If you see both the mind is both.
Take this a step further and you realize that the thought precedes the project. Most athletes will tell you they run their races in their thoughts before they run on the track. Games are won by those who out-think as well as outplay.
So to Nehemiah. From the beginning of his journal to the end of what we call the first chapter, four months pass. This fact alone tells you something of his mind. He was sitting with his pain – not rushing to pain relief. He knew the pain had to do its work and he would not hurry that process. But he was also visualizing his plan. You know this because, by the time he is asked what he wants, by his King, he knows how to answer. He’s been thinking for four months.
What you read is expressed in a prayer. I want to suggest that prayer-thinking or thinking-praying is an essential spiritual discipline. Let the same mind that Jesus had be in you, or let your mind be renewed, are part of Paul’s language outlining his thinking about the mind of Christ.
With the benefit of hindsight we can now realize that Nehemiah was thinking about wall building. He knew for a fact that several attempts had been already made to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and they had failed. But this wall project started in his mind, not in mortar.
So what was forming in Nehemiah’s mind? Why walls? His four months of praying, thinking and pain was about the rebuilding of his mind. Thought by thought he creates new boundaries in his mind. Somewhere, a real wall is being built to stop the invasion of his forefathers’ fallacies and failures. Thoughts are being assembled to keep pollution, discouragement, and mocking out as foreign elements. At the sides of his mind he sees team-work, delegation and cooperation as boundary building concepts.
There will be gateway thoughts through which new ideas can flow and out of which garbage can be discarded. Cornerstones of prayer and humility are manoeuvred into place.
These months (and perhaps most of his adult life) were about mental architecture, running the race in his head and seeing the structure before it materialized.
If you are a software engineer have you learnt to think-pray or pray-think before you build? If you are a teacher, preacher or trainer have you learnt to harness prayer and thinking to create a beautiful boundaried learning experience?
If you are in business do you know how to think-pray your business plan or do you just rush into paper?
It could be that our workplaces are the poorer due to the lack of the think-pray discipline. Perhaps our business, our teams, our churches or our careers would be better built if we took such time.
But deeper still, Nehemiah needs this for his own well being. He needed a reconstructed inner-life so he could have a life at all. He needed to find boundaries, gateways and walls. He needed to dream, to see, to long and as he did so he was assembling a mighty thought-force which could be deployed for the people of God to their benefit, and to his, and to yours.
Think on these things.
1The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. ”
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
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