“How’s your writing going?” I asked a woman at a recent writers’ conference.
“Not very well,” she said. “I’m very discouraged.”
“The last time we talked, you were working on a new article. How did that turn out?” I asked, probing a little deeper.
“I haven’t worked on it in months,” she said with a sigh. “I sent out three queries and didn’t hear back from any of them. I was going to look into writing for our church newsletter, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.” She took a deep breath and blew it out in frustration, flinging her hands in the air. “I just can’t seem to get any breaks. I don’t understand it, because I believe God’s called me to write.”
And then she pulled out her trump card: “I pray about it all the time!”
Nehemiah was a man who also believed God had called him. Charged with the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, he faced a formidable job. The physical project was demanding, but the psychological challenge was even greater. Governors from the surrounding area harassed, intimidated, and threatened him and his workers, deliberately trying to derail the work.
Like my writer friend, Nehemiah prayed about the situation all the time.
“Hear us, O our God, for we are despised,” he prayed. “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” (Neh. 4:4-5).
But then Nehemiah went to work.
“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart” (v. 6).
Later in the chapter, threatened and harassed, he prayed again.
And then he went to work.
“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (v. 9).
I’ve been on a writing journey for years now. My “official” career began when I submitted the first devotional piece to the Christian magazine I now serve as editor. One piece led to another, which opened the door for assigned pieces. As my string of articles grew, I spent hours combing the Christian Writers’ Market Guide for suitable publications that might be interested in my work. I attended writers’ conferences to learn the craft and network with other writers and editors. I started my blog, knowing that the commitment to post twice a week would keep me accountable to write regularly. To date I’ve written 436 blog posts.
Today I pulled out my writing notebook. I use it to log articles I’ve written, magazines and websites I’ve submitted to, and queries I’ve sent out. When I receive a positive response to an article, I highlight the entry. When I receive a “no,” I note that, too.
The back of my folder has a special pocket for rejection letters. In it I have letters from nine editors who passed on the opportunity to publish my devotional book. Also in the back of my folder is a skinny pocket that holds the acceptance letter and contract from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, the company that will publish my second devotional book, Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time in November.
Along the way I’ve prayed a lot about my writing journey. I’ve sought God’s face, often with tears, asking for clarity and direction. When I stop talking long enough to listen, I usually hear his voice. Sometimes he gives me an idea for an article, a resource to pursue, or a contact to help me along the way. Other times he gives me the desire and perseverance to keep on working.
Nehemiah prayed. And then he worked.
So should we.
What are your hopes and dreams? Are you applying equal parts of prayer and work as you pursue them? Which is easier to do—work or pray? I invite you to leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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