Great Prayers Of
Nehemiah’s Prayer for Success
Nehemiah Chapter 1:1-11
God responds in love to His praying, repentant people.
“In times like these we need a Savior,” goes the words of an old familiar hymn. When you think about it, there has never been a time when the world did not need a Savior.
Nehemiah, the cup bearer for the king, was very much aware of the fact that suffering people need a Savior, i.e., a deliverer. Sinful people need a Savior. Someone who can forgive them for their sins. He also discovered that in order to be successful, people need a Savior.
In this great prayer of the Bible, a prayer of Nehemiah, three ideas surface concerning the people of God, and remind us of the things for which we need to pray.
I. GOD’S PEOPLE SOMETIMES SUFFER - Suffering people need to pray, and prayers of intercession need to be made on behalf of suffering people. After learning of the Jewish remnant who survived the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah intercedes on their behalf. The words of Scripture reveal that which has gone on before Nehemiah takes his request to God...
“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:1-3).
Great praying issues out of great need. The need in Jerusalem was great. The wall had been broken down; the gates burned to the ground, and reproach had been brought upon the people of God. God’s people were suffering and they needed a deliverer. By the grace of God, Nehemiah became that man. See Nehemiah’s response to the need...
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
Perhaps we, like Nehemiah, need to mourn, fast, and pray, and then do as Nehemiah did, by putting feet on our prayer. After praying, Nehemiah became a man of action. Needless to say, if after praying, we are not motivated to action, prayer is of little use.
Not only do God’s people sometimes suffer...
II. GOD’S PEOPLE MUST CONFESS THEIR SINS - God’s people suffer directly and indirectly as a result of sin. Needless to say, not all suffering comes as a result of sins but much suffering is brought upon the people of God, as a direct result of their sin. In the case of Nehemiah, and the people of God, one thing that had sent them into Babylonian captivity, was their lack of clarity of the one true God. In the words of one writer, “They did not worship God alone.” This writer goes on to say, “They did not trust God to keep His covenant.” Not only that, “They refused to believe God would bring the covenant curse upon them.”
“Old Testament people lived among people who worshiped many gods. For hundreds of years God struggled with the Israelites, trying to help them see that the gods of the nations were no more than figments of the imagination or fetishes carved out of wood and stone.” “People continue to devote their energy and attach supreme value to things they can steal and carry around.”
This was an issue with which Nehemiah had to deal, before restoration could come to the people of God. Hear the earnest, heartfelt, intercessory prayer of confession, on behalf of himself, and for the people...
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:4-7).
Often in the Old Testament, God allowed natural disasters to come upon His people to discipline and correct them. Like the suffering in the Babylonia exile, the remnant who were faithful to the covenant, suffered along with those who had willfully sinned. The same is true today. Needless to say, while we do not have all the answers as to why the innocent have to suffer along with the sinful, we do know that even the righteous suffer. All sin is offensive to God, and must be dealt with.
The good news is, however, “All sin may be confessed to God,” wrote one writer, “who forgives repentant sinners and renews their lives.” It was the writer of 2 Chronicles who challenges us with these words...
“And My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
People must confess their sins before moving on to claim God’s covenant promises.
“Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell” (Nehemiah 1:8-9).
Once confession of sin has been made, and God’s covenant promises claimed, the people of God are ready to move on, as the next point of the message reveals, as ask God for success.
III. GOD’S PEOPLE MAY PRAY FOR SUCCESS - Is it wrong for God’s people to pray for success? No! If it is success for His glory. Yes! If success is an end in itself, and the motivation of success is for selfish purposes. Once Nehemiah had confessed his sin, and the sins of the people, he did not hesitate to pray for success. Hear his prayer...
“Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man (King Artaxerxes)” (v. 11).
“They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man." Now I was the cupbearer to the king” (Nehemiah 1:10-11).
Does God want you to be successful? This is a definite “Yes.” Does God want His church to be successful? You had better believe it. Did God give Nehemiah success? Let’s see...
“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).
As Nehemiah, and the people of God did, and every church needs to do, when success is granted, they need to celebrate it...
And the singers sang, with Jezrahiah their leader, and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar” (Nehemiah 12:38-43).
What can we conclude? 1) God’s people sometimes suffer, but God delivers His people. 2) God’s people sin, but all sin can be forgiven. Jesus, God’s Son, and our Savior, took care of the sin problem on the cross. 3) When God’s people are successful, they should celebrate it.