And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted…
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."
II. HOW HUMBLY NEHEMIAH CONFESSES HIS OWN SINS AND THE SINS OF HIS COUNTRY.
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.)
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,