The “Nehemiah Two-Step”
by Tom Vander Well
Published on August 25, 2022

The “Nehemiah Two-Step”

By Tom Vander Well

They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 4:8-9 (NIV)

This life journey always comes with a certain amount of opposition. It can come from any number of sources, and it can take multiple forms. Opposition can be spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, personal, internal, public, subversive, passive, violent, and etc. We all face opposition, conflict, and threats from time to time, even if it is in relatively small ways.

In Chapter 4 of Nehemiah, the exiles are attempting to repair the walls of Jerusalem when they encounter opposition from the neighboring tribes. Conflict with these tribes and towns had been part of the political landscape of the area for centuries, so it was not a surprise. It was expected.

I found it fascinating that Nehemiah records a “two-step” response to the threats. I think the “Nehemiah Two-Step” is a great move to know when I find myself dancing with the fires of opposition in any form that the antagonistic force might present itself. The first step was to pray. The second step was to respond with the appropriate action

Along my life journey, I’ve experienced many times when I get this very simple dance move wrong:

  • I pray without responding with action. In hindsight, I realize that sometimes I have placed all the responsibility on God with the expectations that He will supernaturally make it all okay without me being responsible for doing my part.
  • I act without praying. Other times, a threat or attack comes and it elicits from me an immediate reaction. When I react without praying, I’ve come to realize that I have refused to seek, submit, and subscribe to my higher authority. My reactions are often raging but not rational, passionate but not prudent, willful but not wise.
  • I act before I pray. When I get the order wrong, I find myself determining the response I think is warranted and then ask God to honor my plan rather than honoring God to seek His plan for how I should respond.

In the quiet this morning, as I pondered these things, I was reminded of this quote:

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

Albert Einstein


The great scientist’s words have always reminded me that no matter what I set out to accomplish, I can expect opposition. And, it’s likely that the greater endeavor I attempt, the greater opposition I’m likely to face.

From a spiritual perspective, God’s Message continually reminds me of the same thing. Specifically, that spiritual opposition is always a threat:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 

I Peter 5:8 (NIV)


I long ago recognized that the time I spend, first thing in the morning, in quiet reading, writing, and contemplation has a positive effect on the rest of my day. It’s another form of the “Nehemiah two-step.” Pray, then act.

So, now I’ve prayed. It’s time to take action on today’s task list.

Have a great day, my friends.

Sentence Divider

Tom Vander Well believes the universe is a work of God’s artistry— embellished by Van Gough’s brush, Miles Davis’ trumpet, and Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Tolkien’s imagination, and Michael Jordan’s jump shot. He believes in hot coffee, Gregorian chants and quiet conversations with God before dawn. Michael believes that life is a journey with an eternal destination, and in having good companions for the sojourn. He also believes grace is costly and salvation is free.

Michael and his wife Wendy live in Iowa. He is an amateur actor and playwright, and regular teacher among his local Jesus followers. He serves as president and CEO of Intelligentics (formerly C. Wenger Group), a QA firm helping companies measure and improve customer service, satisfaction, and loyalty. You may find out more about Tom at his website

Feature Photo by Wallpaper Safari



  1. Alan

    Excellent post, thank you for this reminder to get the order of life right before God.

  2. Craig Ruhl

    Man. this one hit the nail on the head—for me, at least. Often I have the cart before the horse and seem to say, “Ready, Fire, Aim.” Thank you for reminding me to be intentional in my prayer time, anticipating God’s answers according to His will, and then acting prudently and accordingly. Simple, and yet often challenging.

    • Andy Oldham

      Amen, Craig! I’m right there with you, brother! I wonder why pryaer in one of the things we often put last, when it s so important to our walk!


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