The Expository Files.

How Nehemiah Prayed

Nehemiah 1:5-11


Nehemiah was serving as cupbearer of King Artaxerxes in Persia when he received sad news. His fellow Jews who had gone back to Judah were suffering terribly in the ruins of Jerusalem. When he learned of the sad state of his brethren, Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed. Read his prayer, recorded for us in Nehemiah 1:5-11, and observe these important features:

He recognized the exalted position of God (1:5). Nehemiah was approaching the Lord who is the "Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God."
He recognized the humbled position of Man (1:6-7). Unlike arrogant men today who act as if they have the right to give orders to God, Nehemiah entered the presence of God with great humility. He confessed his own sins and the sins of his people. He did not, and could not, make demands. He was a helpless and humble supplicant, who recognized the enormous distance between the perfect God and sinful men.

He based his petition in the absolute faithfulness of God (1:8-10). Nehemiah did not try to convince God to change, because God is already perfect and just. He fulfills his promises. The suffering of the people was not a failing of God, but the result of their own sin. This same faithfulness was the basis for Nehemiah's hope. As surely as God had fulfilled promises to punish, he would fulfill his promises to rescue his chosen people.
He asked in faith (1:11). Finally, Nehemiah made his request. He asked that God open a door for him to help his brethren. He was preparing to ask the king to let him return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah placed his confidence in the Lord who is powerful to bless the plans of those who truly dedicate themselves to him.

We need to pray with the same humility and faith that Nehemiah displayed. We have no right to make demands of God, but those who serve him obediently enjoy the privilege of humbly talking to the God of heaven in prayer.

By Dennis Allan
From Expository Files 5.1; January 1998