[NEH:1:1-11]; [NEH:2:1-8]; [NEH:9:1-38].

Lesson 445 - Senior

Memory Verse

"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"(James 5:16).

Cross References

I Nehemiah's Prayer

1. Sad tidings came from Judah, [NEH:1:1-3], [1SM:4:12-17].

2. Nehemiah mourns, fasts, and prays for the Children of Israel, [NEH:1:4-6]; [EXO:32:11-13], [EZR:8:23], [DAN:9:4], [LUK:18:1]; [EPH:6:18].

3. Confession of sin is made, [NEH:1:6-7]; [EXO:32:31-32]; [2SM:12:13]; [2SM:24:10]; [PS:51:1-4]; [PRO:28:13]; [MAK:1:5]; [JAM:5:16].

4. Nehemiah reminds God of His promises of mercy, [NEH:1:8-11] [LEV:26:40-45]; [2CH:7:14]; [2CH:30:9].

II Prayer Answered

1. Nehemiah comes before the king and his countenance betrays sorrow of heart, [NEH:2:1-2].

2. Nehemiah reveals the cause of his sorrow and makes requests for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, [NEH:2:3-8].

3. The king is moved by God to grant the request, [NEH:2:8]; [EST:7:2].

III Prayer of the People and the Levites

1. After completion of the walls, the Israelites assembled to hear the Law read and to make confession of their sins, [NEH:9:1-3]; [DEU:31:11-13]; [2CH:34:29-33].

2. The Levites prayed, rehearsing the history of Israel -- God's mercy and goodness in keeping His covenants, and Israel's sin and failure of keeping their covenant, [NEH:9:4-37].

3. A new covenant is made to God on behalf of the people, [NEH:9:38]; [HEB:8:8-12].


From this historic lesson in the account of God's chosen people, we realize that the way back to re-establishment in the Promised Land was not easy. The Jews brought much suffering upon themselves because of their disobedience and sin against God. They had been amply warned that sin would cause separation from God, and the loss of their homeland. True to what had been prophesied, the Jews had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and the City of Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Temple had been burned by their enemies.

The Medes and the Persians had taken the empire from Belshazzar; and in the very first year of Cyrus their king, the Lord Himself moved upon the king's heart to make proclamation that the house of the Lord should be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Any who wished to go back were allowed to do so. (See [EZR:1:1-3].) This no doubt was glad news to many of God's chosen people. After 70 years of captivity, many of the Jews returned and began rebuilding the Temple.

However, due to much opposition round about Judea and a change in kingship in the capital of Persia, the work was stopped shortly after the foundations were laid, and for sixteen years the work on the Temple progressed no further. Finally Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, with the help of Joshua the high priest, again started the work on the Temple; and though there was much opposition, the Temple building was completed.

But even after the Temple was completed the walls of Jerusalem, the gates, and a great deal of the city itself still remained in ruins for many years. In fact, 91 years had elapsed from the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple until Nehemiah was permitted to undertake the task of rebuilding the walls and the city.

Nehemiah's Burden

Many of the Jews did not return to Jerusalem when the 70 years of captivity ended. Some who had secured good positions and comfortable homes chose to remain in the foreign land. Nehemiah must have been a son or possibly a grandson of those who remained in the foreign country, for in telling the king of his concern for Jerusalem he refers to it not as his birthplace or home town, but as "the place of my fathers' sepulchres." He was not to be considered a captive, but rather he had a much coveted and influential position in the king's household -- known as the king's cupbearer. But his heart was burdened for his own country and his own people.

It does not seem possible that Nehemiah could have been totally ignorant of the fact that the city was still in a great deal of desolation. Thirteen years before this time, King Artaxerxes had granted that Ezra and a company of chief men go back to Jerusalem for the purpose of teaching the Law, appointing magistrates and judges, and encouraging the worship in the Lord's house in Jerusalem. Communications of course were extremely slow in those days, and no doubt Nehemiah's heart was very much concerned about how things were progressing since Ezra's return to Jerusalem. The Lord's blessing had certainly been with Ezra, the prophet priest. Still the news Nehemiah received from the men returning from Jerusalem was extremely discouraging, for nothing had been done to rebuild the city itself and the Jews were in great reproach from the neighbouring people. Nehemiah felt the need for rebuilding the walls as a means of protection for the Temple of God, the homes of the people, and the people themselves. This burden was so heavy upon Nehemiah that he wept and mourned.

Nehemiah's Prayer

Nehemiah, realizing the condition in his homeland and feeling the burden upon his heart, did not proceed with action on his own. But he did that which godly men have done down through the ages: he took it to the Lord in prayer and fasting. This problem was far too big for Nehemiah to solve in his own wisdom or to accomplish by his own strength, but he knew a God in Heaven who was able to do all things. Indeed, this was no trivial prayer on Nehemiah's part. He continued to pray for four months. His prayer, a brief summary of which is given in our text, was a prayer which God heard.

Solomon prayed at the dedication of the first Temple that if Israel would be taken captive due to their sin, God would forgive them if they met certain conditions. These conditions were:

"Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly;

"If they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name:

"Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee" [2CH:6:37-39]).

At the conclusion of Solomon's prayer, God had promised:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" [2CH:7:14]).

Nehemiah prayed in this very manner, confessing the sins of his people. He also reminded God of His promises to His servant Moses, that though because of transgression God would scatter His people among the nations, if they would turn unto Him and keep His commandments and do them, God would gather them back and would bring them into the place where He had chosen to set His name. Oh, the effectiveness of such praying! It reminds us of Paul's message to the Romans that the Spirit itself would make intercession for us when we know not what we should pray for as we ought.

The Answer

God in His own way moved upon the king to tender his heart toward Nehemiah and to bring up the subject which Nehemiah knew not how to bring before the king. In the 4th verse of the 2nd chapter we see that Nehemiah, faithful to his God, even after the king had asked what his request was, said: "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Every detail of his request was granted and Nehemiah was very careful to return and give credit where credit belonged. He said, "The king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me."

Spiritual Application

Perhaps we today may wonder why we do not see all our prayers answered. An examination of ourselves in the light of this lesson may be helpful. Do we approach God in the true humility that Nehemiah had? Are we willing to confess our own faults or sins before Him; and then in intercession remind Him of His promises, with faith that He will do His part? Then, last of all, are we willing to importune in prayer as Nehemiah did? God is the same yesterday, today and forever; if we come to Him as Nehemiah did we shall receive the same results. (See [JAM:5:16].)

Can we not see in the history of God's people a spiritual application for ourselves today? No doubt we can observe some who once lived holy lives for God, lives that were rich in spiritual blessing to themselves and an inspiration to others. But now, due to turning back to sin, all this is lost and their lives are in ruins and veritable deserts to all that is holy. Perhaps the enemy of their soul told them that if they lost out spiritually it would not be hard to be saved again; the way back would be easy. We are indeed thankful that there is a way back for the backslider and that God is merciful to restore such a one, but the hard part is for the backslider to come to that place where he will repent and return. Many times it takes years of suffering and sorrow to bring the backslider to humility and repentance. How much better it would be not to believe the lies of the devil and always be true to our wonderful Saviour. How different the entire history of Israel would have been had they always kept the Lord's commandments and walked according to His precepts! Oh, the sufferings and sorrows they would have spared themselves!

The backslider today need not continue in his hopeless suffering for God is merciful and there is a way back if one will take the way outlined in God's Word, that Nehemiah pursued. God will answer his prayers. The walls against sin will be rebuilt. The beauty of holiness may be restored though it may take much humility and endeavour. God will never fail to do His part.


1. What was Nehemiah's nationality? Where was he living, and what was his occupation?

2. What was the message that caused Nehemiah to pray and fast?

3. In what attitude did Nehemiah approach God in prayer?

4. Upon what grounds did Nehemiah have a right to expect God to answer his prayers?

5. How was Nehemiah able to bring his request before the king?

6. To whom did Nehemiah give the credit for the favour the king granted?

7. What is the main theme of the prayer of the Levites and the people recorded in the 9th chapter of Nehemiah?