Nehemiah’s Prayer 
Nehemiah Ch 1

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the

2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 

3 And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of
Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire." 

4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 

5 And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 

6 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. 

7 We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 

8 Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 

9 but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' 

10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 

11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer.

The book of Nehemiah tells the story of Nehemiah and of his leadership of the Jews. The Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate named this book “Second Ezra.” It is suggested by some scholars that the book of Ezra and Nehemiah may have once been joined together in a single book, as they are in the Hebrew texts.
Mid 16th century Reformed Protestant bible translations, produced in Geneva, were the first to introduce the name, 'Book of Nehemiah' for the text formally called the 'Second book of Ezra'.

The book of Nehemiah is told, largely in the form of a first-person memoir. However, some believe that Ezra is the author of this book as well as the book of Ezra, even though it recounts the events of Nehemiah.


Biblical history tells us that the Jews were a troublesome people. God had given them the land of Canaan as He promised Abraham. He
promised to be with them if they clung only to Him. The Lord saved the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. Before they entered the land, God gave them His commandments. This was accompanied by a solemn warning. If they obeyed the commandments, the Lord would richly bless them. But if they would be disobedient, God’s curse would fall on them. Part of the curse is found in the book of Deuteronomy, 
“the LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known” (Deuteronomy 28:36).

In 722 BC, God allowed a powerful nation, the Assyrians, to overcome Israel.

2 Kings 17:5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. 

6  In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 

7  For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from

under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, 

The Assyrians forced many Israelites to live in other countries. They also brought other people to live in Israel.

2 Kings 17:24 And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. 

These other people worshipped false gods. They also tried to worship the real God, but they did not worship him in the right manner.

2 Kings 17:25 And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD:

People called them Samaritans, because their chief city was called Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). Samaria was only about two days walk from Jerusalem. The Samaritans became Nehemiah’s enemies and we read how this strained relationship between Israel and the Samaritans 
continued into the New Testament.  

One of their leaders was Sanballat, who was Nehemiah’s chief enemy.


The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are two parts of the same story. They tell us about the time when the Jews returned from Babylonia to their own country called Judah.

The Book of Ezra is the first part. It tells us about the first two groups of Jews who returned to Judah. The first group returned about 70 years after the Babylonians had taken the Jews into exile.
The book also explains how the Jews built their temple again. Then, many years later, a man called Ezra helped the Jews. He helped them to know God’s commands and to obey them.


The book of Nehemiah is the second part. It tells the story of a man whose name was Nehemiah. He was a very important official who worked for the king of Persia.
God sent Nehemiah to Judah in order to do a special task. Nehemiah would help the Jews to build the walls round Jerusalem again. He
arrived in Judah about 13 years after Ezra went there. The king appointed Nehemiah to be the ruler of Judah. Nehemiah, like Ezra, helped the Jews to obey God’s commands.

In ancient times, most cities had city walls, especially those that had anything worth stealing. The wall was an important defence that
surrounded the city.
The walls were built to withstand attacks by enemies and without the walls a city was very vulnerable.

The book begins when Nehemiah had a visit from some of those that had returned to Israel. One such visitor was Nehemiah’s brother Hanani.
In this first chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we have a record of how Nehemiah reacted to the news from Israel.


V1 This is the record of Nehemiah, who was the son of Hachaliah. It was the month called Kislev in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes’ rule. I was in Shushan, the king’s castle.

Nehemiah, son of  Hachaliah was an important man in the Kings palace, he was Kings cupbearer. The king’s palace was in Shushan, Persia.

The story of Esther in the Bible happened in Shushan.

Esther 1:2  That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, 

Nehemiah was a pretty important man. Nehemiah is a cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes I of Persia – an important official position.

The month of Kislev is the Hebrew 9th Month,  (Our Nov – Dec on the Gregorian calendar.)

One day Nehemiah had some visitors from Jerusalem, one of which was his brother. Nehemiah enquired about the Israelites and the city.


Nehemiah 1: 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who

had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 

The news was not good.

3 And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of
Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire." 


We can read about this in the book of Ezra chapter 4. The Samaritans obstructed the Jews. So it was not good news.

Nehemiah V4 I listened to this. Then I sat down and I wept. I was sad for many days and I ate no food. I prayed to the God of heaven.

Not good when you are expecting good news and you get bad news. It can make you feel sick and unwell physically.
This is what happened to Nehemiah.
One thing that tends to happen when you are sad is, it puts you off eating. Another thing it does if you are a believer, it drives you to prayer.
Sometimes bad news shakes you so much that your strength goes. You go weak at the knees.
Very often before breaking bad news, the messenger says, you had better sit down.

This is how this news affected Nehemiah,
v4 “I sat down and I wept”

Someone once said, "Any great work of God, begins with God doing a great work in somebody".

In this case it was Nehemiah.
God needs men and women to intercede and make petition. He also needs those who will take up the challenge and do the work.
God sees all from heaven but he wants to move through His servants. God chooses to use humanity for action within the world.
Throughout history we see God choosing specific men and women for specific tasks.
It is no different for us today. God needs His people, who make up the body of Christ on the earth, to be available to fulfil His purposes in the world.

Sometimes we attempt, first of all to put things right in our own strength and when that doesn’t work, we turn to God, usually as a last resort, when there is nowhere else to turn.

This wasn’t a momentary concern for Nehemiah, this became a burden and a passion.

Sometimes we are moved so much by an event that happens, that we just can’t let it go, we have to do something.

From the month called Kislev (
Nehemiah 1:1) to the month called Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1) was 4 months.

Four months fasting and praying. This wasn’t something that could be solved over night.
Notice, Nehemiah did not complain, he knew who had the answer and he went right to the source.
If only we could learn this lesson and turn to God straight away.

V5 Notice what Nehemiah did first, he worshipped God. He acknowledges who God is.

v5 I said, ‘You are Jehovah, God of heaven. You are great. Everyone should be afraid of you. You always do what you promise. You have made an agreement with those people who love you. Such people obey your commands. 

Throughout scripture we see others doing the same thing. This is how Daniel started his prayers as well,

Dan 9:4  And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; 

We also, are exhorted to do this when we pray.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Interesting, this is also how Jesus taught us to start our prayers.

(Luke 11:2). Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

We see this often in scripture, prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.

Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our problem that we forget who it is we are talking to.
This is not a case of flattery, how to get on God’s best side.
This is something we may do with our spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend. “You are looking nice today dear” Can I have?

No, this is recognition of who God is, the mighty, powerful God of heaven, who is very often our last resort.
Nehemiah goes on, pleading with God for the nation and confessing his own, his families and the nation’s sin.

Notice, after addressing God, he recognises who he is himself in the presence of a holy God.

“My family and I”, sinners in the sight of God.

v6 I am your servant. Please take notice of me and listen to my prayer. I am praying to you day and night for the people of Israel. They are your servants. I confess the sins that the people of Israel have done against you. My family and I also have done wrong things. 
v7 We have done very wicked things against you. You gave commands, orders and judgements to Moses your servant. But we have not obeyed them.

Nehemiah knew that the God of heaven was a great and merciful God but he also knew that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I acknowledge my sin and also their sin before you.
As the Lord’s Prayer says,
“Forgive our trespasses”.

This is real intercession, it drove him to prayer and fasting, “I am praying to You, day and night”. This was not just a one off arrow prayer,

It has been said, “How big is your vision”? If you can fulfil your vision without prayer, then your vision is not big enough.
Nehemiah knew this was a big task and so it needed a big ask.

v4 I prayed to the God of heaven.
v6 I am praying to you day and night
v11 This is my request
v11 Please hear my prayer

“I am praying”, Nehemiah knew who was the one who had the answer.
He knew why the Israelites were in the position they were, they had broken their part of the covenant.

V8 You gave instructions to your servant Moses. You said, “If you are not loyal to me (God), I will make you scatter among the nations. 

God had not broken His part in the covenant. God is not slack concerning His promises.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should
perish but that all should come to repentance.


Just like the father with the prodigal son, God is always waiting for His people to turn back to Him.

V9 But if you turn back to me, I will bring you back. Obey my commands! Do what I say! Then even if I forced you to live in the most
distant places, I will bring you back from there. I will bring you back to the country where I have chosen to live.”


Notice, the same words God spoke to Abraham, “I will, I will, I will”.
Not I may do, I will.

V10 These people are your servants. They are your people. You are strong and powerful and you rescued them. 
V11 This is my request. I am your servant. Please hear my prayer and the prayer of all your servants. We love to respect your name. I am your servant. Please give me success today. And please cause the king to be favourable.’ I was the man who served wine to the king.

V8 Nehemiah knew the promises of God but he also knew that God had told Moses to warn the people. God would punish them if they did not obey him “the LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known” (Deuteronomy 28:36).

V9 He also knew the way back, it was through repentance.

Repentance is often left out of the message today. It is not enough to be sorry, sorry is easy to say but repentance is promising from the heart, never to do it again.
There can be no forgiveness without repentance and remorse.

V10 & 11 Nehemiah pleas for Israel.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the King's cupbearer.

Nehemiah pleads the promises of God. “Lord you said if we did this, You would do that”.

We can’t do better than stand on the promises of God. God will never renege on a promise.

Often our children come to us saying “Daddy, Mummy, you promised”

God will not forget His promises. Just like us, He loves to give good gifts to His children.
Nehemiah knows the way to God’s heart, he prays and quotes God’s words,
V9 If you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them: Nehemiah quoted a conditional promise. The condition was returning to God and keeping His commandments. 

This not just prayer, Nehemiah was ready to act and ask God to make him successful.

V11 Grant him mercy in the sight of this man: Let Your servant prosper this day:

Nehemiah was saying, grant me mercy, Lord use me, let me be successful this day and may I be granted grace to do your will.
He was saying, Lord, help us but more importantly, let it begin with me.

Quote (Spurgeon) “Laying the matter to heart, he did not begin to speak with other people about what they would do, nor did he draw up a
wonderful scheme about what might be done if so many thousand people joined in the enterprise; but it occurred to him that he would do something himself

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