Nehemiah 1:4
When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
The Church and Social EvilsAlexander MaclarenNehemiah 1:4
Prosperity and AdversityW. Clarkson Nehemiah 1:1-4
Careful Inquiry Helpful to Philanthropic EffortW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 1:1-11
City Walls ImportantA. J. Griffith.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Divine Purposes Working Through ProvidenceW. H. Booth.Nehemiah 1:1-11
God and His PeopleR.A. Redford Nehemiah 1:1-11
Interest in JerusalemJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Jerusalem, the HolyJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Man's Love for the Land of His BirthChristian AgeNehemiah 1:1-11
Nehemiah and His ContemporiesJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Piety in Unexpected PlacesJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Protective WallsSunday SchoolNehemiah 1:1-11
Sin Ruins a KingdomW. Jay.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The ExileW. Ritchie.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The Pious PatriotT. C. Finlayson.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The Royal Cup-BearerT. Rowson.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The Typical PatriotW. H. Booth.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The Use of a Great PurposeScenes from the Life of Nehemiah.Nehemiah 1:1-11
The Walls of JerusalemA. J. Griffith.Nehemiah 1:1-11
Walls and GatesJ. A. Lefevre, D. D.Nehemiah 1:1-11
A Model PrayerJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Compassion as a Motive PowerW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Constancy in PrayerJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:4-11
False Views of Sin and Prevailing ImmoralityW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 1:4-11
FastingHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 1:4-11
Forgotten Sins RememberedJ. Kidd.Nehemiah 1:4-11
God Provides Instruments for His WorkW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Intelligent Faith in PrayerA. J. Griffiths.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Nehemiah or the Characteristics of PrayerJohn Patteson, M. A.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Nehemiah's PrayerS. L. B. Speare.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Nehemiah's PrayerMonday Club SermonsNehemiah 1:4-11
Nehemiah's PrayerD. J. Burrell, D. D.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Nehemiah's PrayerThe Author of "The Footsteps of Jesus."Nehemiah 1:4-11
Patience Required in Waiting Upon GodJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Personal Interest Leading to Importunate PrayerMark Guy Pearse.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Piety and PrayerJ.S. Exell Nehemiah 1:4-11
Prayer and Quiet WaitingW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Religiousness of SpiritA. J. Griffiths.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Sad Tidings and Fruitful GriefW. H. Booth.Nehemiah 1:4-11
Sins of a Community ConfessedS. S. TimesNehemiah 1:4-11
The Church and SocialA. Maclaren, D. D.Nehemiah 1:4-11
The Majesty and Mercy of GodHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 1:4-11

I. The SORROW of prayer (ver. 4). Prayer was designed to be a glad communion with God; but sin has embittered it. Now it is often suffused with tears; but it will soon rejoice in God. Hannah's prayerful sorrow soon became her prophetic song. The sorrows of prayer are more joyous than the rejoicings of sin.

II. The IMPORTUNITY of prayer (ver. 5). Nehemiah besought God to hear his prayer; his whole being was engaged in his devotion. Sorrow makes men earnest; things spiritual must be earnestly sought.

III. The THEOLOGY Of prayer. True prayer has a right conception of the Divine character; it will see in God -

1. The Divine.

2. The exalted.

3. The faithful.

4. The powerful.

All true prayer is based on a right conception of the Deity; the more we know of God, the more true and acceptable will our worship become.

IV. The DURATION of prayer (ver. 6). Nehemiah prayed day and night. We must pray without ceasing. "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26).

V. The CONFESSIONS Of prayer (vers. 6, 7).

1. Personal.

2. Domestic.

3. National.

4. Unreserved.

VI. The SUPPLICATION of prayer. Prayer generally has some specific request to urge.

1. The Divine promise (vers. 8, 9).

2. The Divine mercy.

3. The Divine aid in the past. - E.

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept.

1. Not personal loss.(1) Men grieve on account of personal loss — failure of business, scarcity of work, pecuniary loss involving personal privation, etc.(2) Men grieve on account of spiritual failure. Neither of these explains the occasion of Nehemiah's grief.

2. But public calamity.(1) He had inquired carefully into the state of God's work. Every good man should thus interest himself in God's work. Men shun this conscientious inquiry for various reasons.

(a)Some on account of the peace which ignorance brings.

(b)Some dread the painful discoveries which careful inquiry may reveal.

(c)Others the sacrifices which such discoveries may demand.(2) He had received sorrowful tidings. To a good man tidings of the Church's desolation are ever sad tidings.

(a)It betrays unfaithfulness. A holy and loyal Church cannot be a dishonoured one. The shorn strength, as with Samson, betrays unwatchfulness and worldliness.

(b)It furnishes occasion of reproach to the enemies of the Church.


1. It was profound.

2. It was enduring.

3. It was self-denying. Real heart-pain is always ascetic in its bodily aspect. "And fasted." Observe —(1) Fasting is often associated with profound grief in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 12:16-21; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10; Daniel 6:8; Jonah 3:5). It may be the natural attendant of such grief, or the outward symbol of its presence.(2) Fasting is recognised and commended in Scripture as a religious exercise (1 Samuel 7:6; Jeremiah 36:9; Matthew 6:17; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

III. THE ISSUE OF HIS GRIEF. "And prayed before the God of heaven." Herein consists the difference between godly and selfish sorrow. The one invariably finds relief in prayer, the other ends in blank despair.

1. Grief is sanctified by prayer. It then becomes sacred, and softens the heart like showers on the thirsty soil. Rebellious grief is hardening in its effect.

2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons —

1. Profound grief on behalf of others is perfectly consistent with personal enjoyment of the Divine favour.

2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations

3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer.

(W. H. Booth.)

evils: — The accurate dates given in this book show that the period of Nehemiah's brooding sorrow lasted four months. The emotions excited in Nehemiah by his countrymen's sorrows suggest some plain lessons for Christian people.

I. THE DUTY OF SYMPATHETIC CONTEMPLATION OF SURROUNDING SORROWS. The first condition of sympathy is knowledge; the second is attending to what we know. How demoralising is the thought that many people seem to entertain, that the universe, and hideous vices and sodden immorality, and utter heathenism which are found down among the foundations of every civic community are as indispensable to progress as the noise of the wheels of a train is to its advancement, or as the bilge-water in a wooden ship is to keep its seams tight. Every consideration of communion with and conformity to Jesus Christ, of loyalty to His words, of a true sense of brotherhood, and of lower things — such as sell-interest — demands that Christian people shall take to their hearts, in a fashion that Churches have never done yet, "the condition of England question," and shall ask, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?"

II. SUCH A REALISATION OF THE DARK FACTS IS INDISPENSABLE TO ALL TRUE WORK FOR ALLEVIATING THEM. There is no way of helping men, but by bearing what they bear. No man will ever lighten a sorrow of which he has not himself felt the pressure. The Cross of Christ is the pattern for our lives. The "saviours of society" have still in lower fashion to be crucified. No work of any real use will be done except by those whose hearts have bled with the feeling of the miseries which they set themselves to cure.

III. SUCH REALISATION OF SURROUNDING SORROWS WILL DRIVE TO COMMUNION WITH GOD. All true service for the world must begin with close communion with God. The "service of man" is best done when it is the service of God. You will never get the army of workers that is needed to grapple with the facts of our present condition unless you touch the very deepest springs of conduct, and these axe to be found in communion with God. All other efforts at alleviate work by those who ignore Christian motive is but surface drainage. Get down to the love of God, and the love of men therefrom, and you have got an artesian well which will bubble up unfailingly. We hear a great deal about a "social gospel." Let us remember that the gospel is social second and individual first. If you get the love of God and obedience to Jesus Christ into a man's heart it will be like putting gas into a balloon — it will go up and the man will get out of the slums fast enough; and he will not be a slave to the vices of the world much longer. It is the work of the Church to carry to the world the only thing that will make men deeply and abidingly happy, because it will make them good.

IV. SUCH SYMPATHY SHOULD BE THE PARENT OF A NOBLE SELF-SACRIFICING LIFE, Nehemiah, like Moses, "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God" and to turn his back on the dazzlements of a court, than to "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," while his brethren were suffering. The spirit of this example must still be observed. It is no part of my business to prescribe to you details of duty. It is my business to insist on the principles which must regulate these, and of these principles in application to Christian service there is none more stringent than "I will not offer unto my God burnt offerings of that which doth cost me nothing."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The story begins with an account of the condition of Jerusalem. At this time the city was in a bad plight — walls broken down, gateways burned with fire, streets deserted and grass grown. The heathen passed by in scornful derision and said, "Is this the city which wag called beautiful, the joy of the whole earth?" Only six months go by, and what a wonderful change! The walls are built and the gateways are secure. Instead of a few people with bent heads and sad hearts, there is a great army of workmen. What had happened? Had God sent some prophet into their midst like Elijah, stirring the hearts of the people? or some mother in Israel like Deborah of old? or another warrior like Gideon or David? Less than that, a great deal less than that, as we count things, but more than that, much more than that, as we ought to count things. One man had taken the sorrows of Jerusalem in upon his heart — that was all. One man had taken the sad state of things in upon his heart, and began to sorrow about it, and weep over it, and thought so much about it that it quite spoiled his appetite. He could not rest by day or night, and at last he had to take the burden right in before God and cast it upon Him. That was all. Ah, but that is all that is wanted! The world's salvation rests not upon organisations, upon means, upon preachers, or upon arrangements, but upon deep personal interest — personal interest leading to importunate prayer, and importunate prayer leading to earnest effort. That is the only way in which the Church can ever be victorious, and can ever be saved. The saddest thing to-day is that men are Christians without being Christlike, that men do not take the sins and sorrows of the world in upon their hearts. Now what are the most of us doing?

1. Here is one who has heard these evil tidings of to-day, and of a thousand other ills that afflict and disgrace our land. "It is sad," he says, "very sad indeed; I do wish I could help you. But you see I can do so very little. I will double my subscription for a year; but of course I am not in a position to do anything more. You see I am not a prophet, or then I might go forth and preach to the people. I am not a priest, and must not take upon myself a task which belongs to others. I am not a warrior, and cannot head a host of soldiers, or no doubt I should fight. I don't see that I can do anything." And the man is going away quite satisfied that he at any rate has done his duty. This is the average Christian of the nineteenth century. Now there comes some simple man who lays his hand upon this man's shoulder, and says, "There is one thing we can do; we can pray about it." Then there comes the amiable smile which we keep for weak, well-meaning people — "Of course, my friend; of course. We all do that, you know." And the adversity continues as it always does when we pray without personal interest.

2. Then I think of another who has heard of the sad condition of things, and he says, "Well, I really am very lorry, indeed; yes, quite distressed. You know, I think that there must be a great deal of mismanagement up in Jerusalem somewhere; Ezra cannot be looking after it as he ought to be; I feel he is wrong altogether; I think it is a disgrace to him. I wonder whether he thinks David would ever have allowed a condition of things like this to come about?" Personal interest leading people to abuse the workers — that is not a very uncommon thing. "It is dreadful, this condition of things in London. But do you think that ministers are doing their duty?" It is so easy, is it not, when we are disappointed and sad, to fling stones at other people? It is such a relief to be able to find fault with somebody else. Then I think this simple man comes up and says," Do not you think we ought to pray for them? They have got hard work, and it is difficult to get at." "Oh, pray! yes, of course; pray all day, of course." That is a horrible spirit, the spirit that prays as a matter of course, and finds fault with everybody else as a matter of course, too. If you cannot do good, do not go shooting arrows into the hearts of others. I marvel that the great God of heaven has such patience with those people who criticise every method, who find fault with everybody's failure, and who never in their lives lifted a finger to help souls to Christ — personal interest that can only find fault and blame other people, and that kneels down and prays as a matter of course, but neither has heart, nor earnestness, nor expectation in its prayer.

3. I see another type of character, the man who says, "Well, really, it is very sad indeed." He is a man not given much to weeping; he has a tender heart; he is sharp, definite, exact, likes to have things down in black and white — your typical Englishman. "Come here" he says; "now let us just have it down. You tell me that the walls have been broken down: how many yards of wall will you want? It is a very serious matter; we shall want so many loads of stone; and our gateways? yes, burned with fire; yes, and so many loads of timber. We are practical men. It is very sad. How many men have you got up there? You have got twenty men. We shall want a thousand men to build up that city. It cannot be done; it is no good, it cannot be done." Do not you know that man? It is personal interest stopping short of importunate prayer.

4. I think I see another, who has heard of the condition of the poor, and thinks this is a dreadful city, perhaps can think of nothing else; perhaps, like Nehemiah, he feels that relish for appetite is gone; his tears are falling, and he is haunted by the thought of the homeless and outcast ones and hungry little children — Nehemiah weeping and fasting. God loves hearts that fret because of the sins and sorrows around us. God set such store by men who sighed and cried because of the abominations that He sent an angel down from heaven to put a mark upon their foreheads. Do you know what the angel was doing? I think he was taking their measure for their crowns, it is a great thing in the midst of this London to keep alive a tender heart, and if Christ does not give a man a tender heart I question whether that man knows much about the Lord Jesus Christ. But look! fretting will not mend the evil. Earnest personal interest, passing into importunate prayer, will. Nehemiah got as far as fretting, and then he went to God. That is a grand saying of John Wesley's: "I dare no more fret than I would curse or swear." It would make the fortune of life insurance offices if we could hit upon that happy receipt. He that only frets will do much, but he who cannot fret will not do anything. I think a Christian ought to be a man who frets — frets, mark you, until he gets to God, and gets hold of God sufficiently, and feels: "Great Father in heaven, Thou canst remedy these ills, and Thou writ!"

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

When God has work to be done He provides suitable instruments and places them in favourable situations to promote His plans. Martin Luther, called to withstand the power of the Papacy, found the God-fearing Elector of Saxony ready to afford him the needed protection, and when the persecuted Waldenses cried for help, Oliver Cromwell so threatened the oppressor that deliverance was wrought.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

Some men work because they are urged to it by others, some because it is the fashion with professors or with those among whom their lot is cast; but the true workers because, "moved with compassion," they cannot help working.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

And fasted
Homiletic Commentary.

1. Afflictions of the Church (Nehemiah.)

2. National judgments (Joel).

3. Domestic bereavement (David).

4. Imminent danger (Esther).

5. Solemn ordinances (Paul and Barnabas set apart).



1. Forms part of general principle of self-denial, essential to true discipleship (Luke 9:28).

2. Implied, and therefore enjoined, by words of Christ (Matthew 17:21).


1. Sometimes total abstinence from food for a time (Esther 4:16).

2. More often abstinence from superfluous food (Daniel 10:8).


(Homiletic Commentary.)

I. TO GIVE NO PLACE TO DESPAIR, HOWEVER DEEP OR PROLONGED OUR GRIEF. No calamity can be so overwhelming as to block our way to the God before whom Abraham and Daniel, and every devout soul, has bowed in fervent petition for help in dire extremity. God does not forsake or forget the lowliest or weakest or most unworthy. The more we need God — for any reason, our misfortune or our fault — the more reason for our seeking Him, and, in some true sense, the more ready is He to be sought and found.

II. WE SHOULD NOT OVERLOOK THE SEVERITIES OF GOD'S CHARACTER OR DEALINGS WHEN APPROACHING HIM WITH PETITIONS. Modern ideas of God's fatherhood tend much to put His sterner attributes out of sight. His unquestionable love seems to preclude severities of character or dealings. But our prophet could unite ideas of God as "great and terrible," and also keeping "covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments." By true reasoning we should be wary of views of God which leave out His severity, for there is the side of His character which is the necessary counterpart of love for righteousness and obedience.

III. THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPORTUNITY. The prayer of our lesson had lasted for days, attended by fasting. Fasting prepares the way for clear thought and tender feeling. Nehemiah did not say, "God fully understands the situation. I need only refer to it." With familiar urgency he pleads for the "attentive ear" and "open eyes," that God may know his case and care for it. Similar travail of soul has been an element of prevailing prayer in all ages. Why it is necessary we do not fully know. It may be that importunity is the only safe mood to which answers to prayer can be wisely accorded. Without it the desired boon or the answer would not be appreciated.


V. MOSES WAS AN HISTORIC CHARACTER, AND OUR RECORD OF HIM IS TRUSTWORTHY. Nehemiah would not talk with God about a mythical person.

VI. NO DEPTH OF FALL OR DISTANCE OF WANDERING CAN INVALIDATE GOD'S COVENANT MERCIES. Though "cast out into the uttermost part of the heaven," their return would be certain if they would but return unto God and keep His commandments.

VII. PAST MERCIES AND MIGHTY RESCUES ARE A LOGICAL BASIS OF CONFIDENCE, OF FAITH, AND BOLDNESS OF PETITION. What is the probable logic of the appeal, "Now these are Thy servants and Thy people, whom. Thou hast redeemed by. Thy great power, and by Thy strong hand"? This, m part: God had made an investment of grace in these children of His adoption; from true economy He would not wish it wasted. Again, the love that sought them in the beginning proceeded from its own internal impulses; such love cannot be easily exhausted. Being a motive unto itself, that motive abides unchanging in character and sufficiency. Again, these subjects of His grace were more needy than ever; any help based upon that need could not be lacking on occasion. All this can be said of individual cases as truly as of Israel. The individual backslider has been "redeemed by great power, and by a strong hand." The heavenly Father began the work with a full knowledge of the weakness of the material and the possibilities of failure. Let the tender conscience, the sensitive honour writhing in the memory of past mercies that have been abused, grow calm and hopeful in the assurance that redeeming grace does not depend upon dates or any conditions, but genuine brokenness of heart and absolute return to obedience.


IX. PRAYER SHOULD BE PRACTICAL IN ITS OUTLOOK. Communion with God may well have our time and attention for its reflex influence; for the nobler soul-life gained thereby; but Nehemiah counted prayer a practical reliance in achieving business results. He needed and coveted the king's help. His example, in this respect, may well be copied in all our undertakings. God is not an uninterested spectator of our toils or plans. We may come to Him for help where our own strength ceases.

(S. L. B. Speare.)

Monday Club Sermons.
I. One quality which makes Nehemiah's prayer effectual WAS ITS IMPORTUNITY. Two considerations inspired this —

1. He was burdened with a single great desire. Our praying often lacks at this point. We ask amiss because we ask for nothing — in particular. It is the time for devotion, or the place; so we approach the mercy-seat, because we ought to, rather than because we have any pressing need — coming, sometimes, in so vague a way that it might not be easy afterwards to tell just what request had been presented. Nehemiah's prayer did not have such lack. He was in sore trouble.

2. Another element which gave importunity to his prayer was a conviction that this relief could come only from God. "Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man." During the civil war a gentleman from New England, travelling in South America, noticed one day a Spaniard reading a paper, and asked him the news. "The news is," replied the other, "that your government is getting beaten. They have taken to praying, and when people have to call on God for help it shows, evidently, they are in a bad way." That is always the reason why men call on God, because they cannot help themselves. This was what made Nehemiah so much in earnest. Dr. Bushnell remarked once in the Hartford ministers' meeting, "Brethren, the thing which I have to struggle against most in my praying is a spirit of submission. I give up too easily. I want to learn how to plead more as Jacob did, with a determination not to let God go without the blessing." He qualified afterwards his words, explaining true submission, but pressed, in his strong way, the importance of persistency. So Nehemiah prayed, not once, but "without ceasing." He wept and mourned, and fasted "certain days," "day and night."

II. A second quality that made Nehemiah's prayer effectual was its SPIRIT OF CONFESSION. He seems to have apprehended, very distinctly, the truth which the Bible urges in many ways, that men must come into right relations with God before they can ask any favour of Him.

1. It was particular. He specified some of the points of his guilt. "We have dealt very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which Thou commandest Thy servant Moses."

2. Then his confession was individual. He began with an acknowledgment in behalf of the "children of Israel"; but it occurred to him to bring that nearer home, so he added, "Both I and my father's house have sinned." He was conscious of his own shortcomings. With all his zeal, his loyalty so constant and so brave, he saw that at many points he had failed, and for these shortcomings he asked forgiveness. When David has made his confession that is so particular, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight"; and so individual, "I acknowledge my transgression"; "Have mercy upon me, O God."

III. A third quality that made Nehemiah's prayer effectual was its faith. Trusting God first in his own behalf for pardon, guidance, strength, he could trust Him in behalf of the nation. He prayed, "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandest." He seemed to know the Divine will by some clear intimation. That appears, at first, to diminish the worth of his example. We say, "Yes, certainly; no wonder he had faith; any one could ask for wonderful blessing if the Lord told him to." But how did God put that purpose into the heart of Nehemiah? by a vision, a voice, some supernatural revelation? There is no intimation of either. It may have been simply by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as we all are moved, through conscience, enlightened by the Word of God.

IV. A fourth quality in Nehemiah's prayer which made it effectual WAS ITS SPIRIT OF GOOD WORKS. When he sat down to pray he did not mean to stay in that attitude. He had in his mind a plan to secure permission to go and build the wall.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

And prayed before the God of heaven. —
"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.


(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

Nehemiah was evidently a man of high integrity, as appears from the situation which he held, that of the king's cup-bearer. Only a person who was thoroughly trustworthy would be permitted to occupy such a position, inasmuch as the lives of eastern monarchs were in constant danger from the aspiring courtiers; and as one of the most common methods of causing death, in ancient times, was by mixing some poisonous ingredient with the wine that was drunk, it is quite obvious that no one would be intrusted with the above circe in the king's household who was likely to be influenced by the bribes of the king's enemies, But, in addition to his strict integrity, he was a man of sincere and fervent piety. Very frequently did he give himself unto prayer, and it is thus we find him engaged in the present chapter.

I. THE OCCASION OF THIS PRAYER. It is stated in the first three verses. "The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass," etc. It is said of the Redeemer — "In all their affliction He was afflicted; and HIs people are like-minded with Him in this respect. They feel for others.

II. THE BEING TO WHOM HIS PRAYER IS ADDRESSED. Those among whom he dwelt were accustomed in their distress to invoke the aid of their heathen deities; but, knowing full well how vain it was to seek relief from such lying vanities, he called upon the God of heaven. In applying to Him he felt assured that he was not praying to a god that could not save. There were two aspects of His glorious character in which he more especially regarded Him.

1. As great and terrible.

2. As faithful and gracious.


IV. THE POWERFUL PLEA WHICH IS EMPLOYED. "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandeer Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations; but if ye return unto Me," etc. "Remember," says the Psalmist, "Thy word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." And this was the argument of Nehemiah; he pleads that God would accomplish what He had formerly declared (Deuteronomy 4:25-29; Deuteronomy 30:1-6.)

V. THE EARNEST IMPORTUNITY WITH WHICH IT IS PRESENTED. "O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive," etc.

(The Author of "The Footsteps of Jesus.")

A large part of the greatness of this man lies in the intense religiousness of his spirit. It is this which constitutes his history so very valuable a study to Christian people. There is no reason beyond this why I should select Nehemiah as a subject for the study of this Church, and not Pericles, or Julius Caesar, or Charlemagne, or Cavour, or any other great statesman or hero who has raised the position of his country to a front rank amongst the nations of the earth. But this advantage does lie in the careful examination of the lives of the great heroes of the Bible and of the Church. Through their history we obtain an insight, not only into the greatness of the human soul, its capacity for conceiving great plans, its energy and resources in carrying them out to a successful and glorious completion, but also into the measure in which the human soul can depend upon Divine help, into the worth of communion with God as a solace in anguish, and as s stimulus to enterprise, and further into the certainty with which God responds to such communion, and administers fortitude, patience, self-control, and other virtues which make the soul of man strong, brave, and triumphant over obstacles.

(A. J. Griffiths.)

Nehemiah's prayer reveals the great thoughts of which God was the subject, and by which he nourished his courage and determination in preparing himself for his great task. For we must ever remember that the result of our praying — the comfort, or support, or stimulus we receive from the act of prayer — depend not only upon the fact that we do pray, but also and especially upon the clearness and vividness of our conceptions of God. We must be sure that we are not praying to ourselves, or into the air, but into the ear of a God who will hear us, and whom we can move by our entreaty. Intelligent faith — not faith without intelligence, mere blind, superstitious faith — nor intelligence without faith, a hard, dead knowledge — but both together, intelligence and faith, constitute the very soul and life of true prayer.

(A. J. Griffiths.)

Some when they have prayed think that they must at once begin to act, and if doors are not open, force them open for themselves. Running before they are sent, such persons usually find that failure ensues. Nehemiah, on the contrary, stayed where he was, pursuing his ordinary course in life, and still waiting on the Lord.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

A woman who resided on the sea. shore in the Isle of Wight thought that she heard, during a terrible storm, a cry for help. She listened and the cry was repeated. She could not be mistaken; between the pauses of the storm there it was, the piercing cry of endangered mariners. She dressed hastily, she roused up the beachmen; the lifeboat was launched, and with the blessing of God the storm-beaten crew were rescued. Again and again must we plead in Christ's name, at the mercy-seat, if we would come off more than conquerors. One brief cry is not sufficient.

(J. M. Randall.)

An eminent minister of Christ was laid aside from his work by severe and prolonged sickness. Sometimes he was almost ready to repine and to faint under his chastisement. One morning after unusual suffering he fell into a sweet sleep, and as he slept, he thought he saw a luminous pillar of graceful proportions rise before him. It was so beautiful that it attracted his eye and fixed his attention. Then he thought he saw letters of gold coming out upon the pillar; at first they were very indistinct, and not a little study was required to decipher them. At last the letters shone out in perfect form and order, and he read "Patience" inscribed upon the column. The effort at attention and the joy of discovery awoke him, and he said, "Patience; yes, Lord, I will be patient, and through grace I will yield myself to Thy disposal." God sometimes exercises the faith of His people by long delay, but patient waiting will be rewarded.

(J. M. Randall.)

Nehemiah's spirit of prayer particularly appears —





(John Patteson, M. A.)

For matter, this prayer is replete with instruction. Let us observe —

I. HOW NEHEMIAH ADDRESSES HIMSELF TO GOD. He calls upon "Jehovah, the God of heaven," infinite, supreme, and everlasting. "Great" in power and dominion, and "terrible" in justice and holiness. And withal as a God who keepeth covenant and mercy. As Bishop Reynolds remarks, "God in creation is God around us; God in providence is God above us; God in the law is God against us; but God in Christ is God for us, God with us, God in us, our all-sufficient portion for ever."


III. HOW HE PLEADS WITH GOD, WHAT WEIGHTY ARGUMENTS HE EMPLOYS! He lays hold upon God's word. This is a firm rock in a troubled sea (Deuteronomy 30:1-5). Let us come to God with a promise, and reverently remind Him of His own engagement: "Lord, do as Thou hast said; remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." We shall then realise the consolation, happily expressed by a pious man who said, when he was asked concerning the abiding peace which he enjoyed, "Master, me fall flat upon the promise, and me pray straight up."

IV. OBSERVE THE PARTICULAR REQUEST WHICH HE MAKES. "Prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." Its matter is very full: its manner very suggestive.

1. How reverent was Nehemiah before God! How just were his views of the Divine majesty! Shall angels thus humbly prostrate themselves before God? Oh, with what "reverence and godly fear" should sinners come to His footstool

2. How earnest was his prayer: "I beseech Thee," "hear the prayer of Thy servant which I pray before Thee." Many say their prayers, but do they pray in prayer? Prayer is the expression of want: it is not eloquence, but earnestness; not fine words, but deep feeling. To be effectual it must be fervent. Prayer is incense: but if the fragrance is to ascend before the mercy-seat, it must be kindled by holy fire from the altar. Prayer is an arrow, but if it is to travel far and pierce deep, the bow must be bent, and the string must be tense, else our prayer shall fall at our feet. "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me."

3. How constant too was Nehemiah! "Day and night" did he plead. "We ought always to pray, and not to faint."

4. How believing was his supplication! Faith is an important element in prayer; it honours God, it pleads the Saviour's merits, it rests upon the sure promise. Faith laughs at impossibilities, and says it shall be done.

5. How fervent was the charity which dictated this prayer! Nehemiah was a patriot in the best sense of the word. He earnestly desired the welfare of Jerusalem. There was not a particle of selfishness in his prayer. May we not learn to be charitable and large-hearted in our prayers — to intercede for others, our country, and the Church of God, and in this respect to copy the example of Nehemiah?

(J. M. Randall.)

The great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him.
Homiletic Commentary.
From this sublime invocation we gather —




1. The contemplation of Divine compassion alone tends to antinomianism.

2. The contemplation of the Divine holiness alone tends to legalism. Hence spring meritorious works, penances, and self-inflicted flagellations and other useless tortures.



(Homiletic Commentary.)

It is to be feared that in our day sin is often made light of, and false views of sin lie at the root of much of the evil that we see around us, both in the Church and in the world. Such views are largely caused by an imperfect apprehension of the righteousness of God, and this in its turn usually proceeds from a refusal to bow to the authority of His Word. Thus truths about His judgments are set aside, statements concerning His wrath are explained away, and His mercy is magnified at the expense of His justice.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

And confess the sins of the children of Israel
S. S. Times.
Confession of sin is essential to success in prayer. "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me." Nehemiah feels that God has reason to be displeased with His people. They have been guilty of sins of omission (have not kept) and of commission (transgression). Their privileges have aggravated their guilt: they have sinned against light; the commandments, statutes, and judgments given by Moses bear witness against them. And Nehemiah is conscious that he shares their guilt. He has sinned himself; and he has sinned in their sins. For all of us have a part in the sins of the community. Our influence helps to mould and shape its life. It is a principle in Chinese law to hold the relatives of a criminal in some degree responsible for his crime, so that the whole family is concerned in the conduct of its individual members. That principle is founded on a true conception which applies in both directions. The community has a responsibility for its members, each of whom shares a like responsibility for the life of the community itself. So we need to say "our trespasses," "our debts," in our daily prayer.

(S. S. Times.)



1. Ignorance of the true nature of sin.

2. Self-love.

3. Hurry of business.

4. Elevation in worldly circumstances.




(J. Kidd.)

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