Discernment and Prayer

John D. Barry

Nehemiah 6:1–7:65; 1 John 5:1–5; Psalm 109:16–31

“For all of them sought to frighten us.… And now, God, strengthen my hands” (Neh 6:9).

While God calls us to “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matt 5:44), he also calls us to act with discernment and prayer. Loving others doesn’t mean we should be weak or passive. Part of loving others means discerning their hearts and motives.

“Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). When Jesus spoke about being meek, He wasn’t referring to weakness. Instead, He was teaching us to focus on others rather than ourselves. That doesn’t mean we should be passive toward those who wish to harm us. Part of practicing meekness is being aware of our enemies and dealing with them cautiously. Doing so successfully takes strength and discernment—necessary components of any godly work.

Nehemiah demonstrates these traits in his interactions with his enemies. When his opponents ask him to meet with them, Nehemiah discovers that they actually wish to hurt him. He resists their attack—even calling them on their deceit (Neh 6:8).

Too often we allow ourselves to live passively. We enter into situations without thinking things through or recognizing that we’re about to be hurt by others. Yet we as Christians are at war against the evil in the world—not just against people, but also the unseen forces of evil (Eph 6:12). When we feel oppression, we must resist the urge to be reactive. Instead, we must appeal to Christ, who can overcome it all. We must refuse to engage unless it’s on our terms, by the power of the Spirit and completely in His will.

What battles are you engaging with that you should disengage from? Which situations in your life need discernment?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.