In Neh 1:1-11, when Nehemiah heard of the great affliction and reproach in the province of Judah and how the walls were broken down in Jerusalem and how the gates were burned with fire [Neh 1:3], he wept and mourned and then he prayed [Neh 1:4]. Notice some qualities of his prayer that ought to be in our prayers:
He prayed for days – Neh 1:4 – [see also v.6]. Nehemiah prayed day and night for days. He was like David who said, “Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray and cry aloud.” He was like Daniel who prayed three times each day, even when it was against the decree of the king. When we pray, we must remember that many requests require many days of praying.
He exalted the Lord’s faithfulness – Neh 1:5 – God is faithful. He keeps his covenant and mercy for them that love him and keep his commandments. When you pray, you are praying to our God upon whom you can depend [1 Cor 10:13; 1 Jn 1:9]. When you love and obey him, he’s there for you. When you put a request in the Lord’s hands, leave it there; don’t take it back and try to handle it yourself.
He prayed to the living God – Neh 1:6 – The Lord has attentive ears [v.11] and open eyes. The gods of men have ears that can’t hear and eyes that cannot see. Baal couldn’t answer at Carmel because Baal isn’t alive. Before attacking Judah, Sennacherib had only fought nations whose gods were “dead.” When he tangled with the living God he lost. Nehemiah’s prayer was not a superstitious, religious exercise. It was a real petition to a living God.
He confessed his sins – Neh 1:6-7 – in Dan 9, Daniel confessed his sins from Dan 9:5-11. This was not just a gesture. Ps 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. In Is 59:2, we read that your iniquities have departed between you and your God. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we must confess our sins to him. This keeps the fellowship sweet and “the line” of prayer open.
He acknowledged the Lord’s promise – Neh 1:8-9 – Nehemiah reminded the Lord of his promise to Israel… if ye turn unto me… I will gather and bring them. When you pray according to what God said, as in 1 Jn 5:14-15, you are praying according to his will and you are standing on his promises in the Bible. You have confidence that he will answer.
He affirmed his relationship to God – Neh 1:10-11a – the men of Israel are “thy people; thy servant(s) who desire to fear thy name.” When we pray, we say “Father.” We’re his children. And we come to him in the name of Jesus Christ. These are not mere rituals. We have a relationship with the God to whom we are praying and we have a relationship to his Son, in whose name we are praying. We are family.
He made a specific request – Neh 1:11b – Nehemiah prayed, “prosper thy servant… grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” He prayed something the Lord could definitely answer. And the Lord did answer, [Neh 2:1-4].
Conclusion: Nehemiah was sad in the king’s presence, but the king had mercy on him and granted him his petition. In Neh 2:4, Nehemiah prayed again before he replied to the king with his request. When we talk about the Nehemiah prayer, we usually talk about this quick prayer. However, that little prayer had hours of praying behind it. Consider your own prayer life. Pray longer, count on God’s faithfulness, confess your sins, stand on his promises, affirm your relationship to God and make your request specific.