Position Does Not


      Preclude The


    Need For Prayer


     Let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, 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. Nehemiah 1:11.  

     Nehemiah, the Hebrew exile, occupied a position of influence and honor in the Persian court. As cupbearer of the king, he was admitted to the royal presence, and by virtue of this intimacy and his own high abilities and tried fidelity, he became the monarch’s counselor. He was a man of high principle, unbending integrity, and great sagacity.    

     In that heathen land, surrounded by royal pomp and splendor, Nehemiah did not forget the God of his fathers or the people who had been entrusted with the holy oracles. The dignity of his position did not rob him of his piety or his love for his brethren. . . . He was not ashamed to own his relationship to them and to the truth. He felt that he must honor the truth in all places. He did not make apology for holding a faith distinct from the faith of those in the Persian court. . . .  

     Days of peculiar trial and affliction had come to the chosen city. Messengers from Judah described to Nehemiah its condition. The second temple had been reared, and portions of the city rebuilt, but its prosperity was impeded, the temple service disturbed, and the people kept in constant alarm by the fact that its walls were still in ruins and its gates burned with fire. The capital of Judah was fast becoming a desolate place, and the few inhabitants remaining were deeply embittered by the taunts of their idolatrous assailants, “Where is your God?”  

     The soul of the Hebrew patriot was overwhelmed by these evil tidings. So great was his sorrow that he could not eat or drink; he “wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted.” But when the first outburst of his grief was over, he turned in his affliction to the sure Helper. The record says that he “prayed before the God of heaven.” He unburdened his heart to God. He knew that the affliction that had come upon Israel was the result of her transgression, and with deep humiliation he came before God to ask for pardon and a renewal of the divine favor. Faithfully he makes confession of his sins and the sins of his people.  

     Taking hold by faith of the divine promise, Nehemiah lays down at the footstool of heavenly mercy his petition that God would maintain the cause of his penitent people, restore their strength, and build up their waste places.

Faith And Works Should Be Combined

     And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. Nehemiah 2:5.  

     At last the sorrow that burdened Nehemiah’s heart could no longer be concealed. Sleepless nights devoted to earnest prayer, care-filled days, dark with the shadow of hope deferred, leave their trace upon his countenance. The keen eye of the monarch, accustomed jealously to guard his own safety, is accustomed to read countenances and to penetrate disguises. Seeing that some secret trouble is preying upon his servant, he suddenly inquires, “Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart.”  

     The question fills the listener with apprehension. Will not the king be angry to hear that while outwardly engaged in his service, the courtier’s thoughts have been far away with his afflicted people? Will not the offender’s life be forfeited? And his cherished plan for restoring Jerusalem—is it not about to be overthrown? “Then,” he says, “I was very sore afraid.” With trembling lips and tearful eyes he reveals the cause of his sorrow—the city, which is the place of his father’s sepulchre, lying waste, and its gates consumed with fire. The touching recital awakens the sympathy of the monarch without arousing his idolatrous prejudices; another question gives the opportunity for which Nehemiah has long sought: “For what dost thou make request.

     But the man of God does not reply until he has first asked the support of One higher than Artaxerxes. “I prayed,” he says, “to the God of heaven.” The silent petition then sent to God was the same that he had offered for many weeks—that God would prosper his request. And now, taking courage at the thought that he has a Friend, omniscient and all-powerful, to work in his behalf, the man of God calmly makes known to the king his desire to be released for a time from his office at the court and be authorized to build up the waste places of Jerusalem, and to make it once more a strong and defensed city.        Momentous results to the Jewish city and nation hang upon this request. “And,” says Nehemiah, “the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.”    

     While Nehemiah implored the help of God, he did not fold his own hands, feeling that he had no more care or responsibility in the matter. With admirable prudence and forethought, he proceeded to make all the arrangements necessary to ensure the success of the enterprise. 1903. CTr 182-183