And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted…
"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his trouble!" But if this be true of sorrow on one's own account, how much more surely will God hear the petitioner who pleads for others. For selfish ness in prayer is no more comely than anywhere else. This man was a layman. He might easily have shifted the responsibility for the present condition of things upon the priests and Levites, on whom God had particularly devolved the religious interests of Jewry. But laymen then were no more absolved from such responsibility than laymen are in these days. Indeed, some of the affairs of Zion belong distinctively to them. Never yet was Zion safely left to her priests alone. There is always something for Nehemiah to do. The prayer of Nehemiah in this instance is given doubtless for our guidance. It is a model of supplication in many ways. Observe —
I. Its reverent spirit. It begins with adoration: "O Jehovah, God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him!" In our eagerness to present our requests at the throne of the heavenly grace there is always danger of precipitation. It must not be forgotten that we are approaching the Infinite. Therefore a reverent humility becomes us.
II. Nehemiah makes CONFESSION OF HIS SINS: "We have sinned against Thee; both I and my father's house have sinned." This cup-bearer knew that sin lay at the bottom of all Israel's troubles. "Both I and my father's house have sinned." Spurgeon says, "He spelled 'we' with an 'I' in it." His own transgressions and shortcomings loomed up before him.
III. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE DIVINE WORD. This was the prayer of faith. He caste himself upon the promises of God, which are evermore Yea and Amen. He ventures to particularise: he puts God in remembrance of a certain covenant which He had been pleased to make long before with Moses His servant in behalf of His people. The terms of this covenant are gathered from various passages of ancient Scripture (Leviticus 36:27-45; Deuteronomy 28:45, 67; Deuteronomy 30:1, 10). A glorious word of promise that for a nation of stiff-necked exiles! And the fact that on the part of the people themselves this covenant had been broken does not prevent Nehemiah from putting God in remembrance of it; for he knows that God is of long suffering and tender mercy. Faith at the mercy-seat conquers all.
IV. THE PRAYER OF NEHEMIAH WAS SPECIFIC. It is the part of wisdom to enter upon all enterprises with prayer. A Roman general would not march to battle until he had first offered a sacrifice. A right apprehension of this principle would keep us always in the spirit of prayer, because no man can estimate the importance of any act. The least thing we do may have momentous and eternal issues.
V. HIS PRAYER WAS FOLLOWED BY THE USE OF APPROPRIATE MEANS.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,