Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

5 Prayer Pointers from Nehemiah

5 Prayer Pointers from Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah is one that is filled with vision, courage, efficient leadership, faith, suspense, and an unflinching desire to honor God. When Nehemiah received information that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and in ruins and that the gates had been burned with fire, he clearly understood the dangers and disgrace involved (Nehemiah 1:3). It meant that his beloved city was probably now a laughingstock to the surrounding nations, with its security under grave threat from enemies.

Thankfully, without allowing discouragement to overcome him, Nehemiah resolved to do something about the situation. The great task that he undertook subsequently to rebuild the walls of the city, was covered with much prayer.

In this article, I would like to focus on five important prayer pointers seen in Nehemiah’s life that paved the way for the success of his dangerous mission. These prayer pointers can help us in our own Christian lives as we battle the challenges and the insecurities that surround us today. So, what were some of the prayer strategies that Nehemiah adopted?

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1. Nehemiah prayed fervently (Nehemiah 1:4).

The Bible says that when Nehemiah received the distressing news about the walls of Jerusalem, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed (Nehemiah 1:4). He also prayed earnestly, day and night for his beloved nation (Nehemiah 1:6). In response to Nehemiah’s fervent prayers, God gave him military, political, administrative, and leadership strategies that helped him accomplish an extremely difficult task successfully!

Similarly, there is always a place for fasting and fervent prayer when we face stubborn challenges that seem to refuse to leave us, as well as the problems that seem to mock us. In James 5:16, the author says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (NKJV). We can therefore be victorious through the principle of fervent prayer, accompanied by weeping and fasting. Jesus Christ Himself said so in Mark 9:29.

I remember hearing a story about a prayerful missionary who was deeply disturbed by the enmity between two tribes in the area that he was ministering in. It is said that this man of prayer pitched his tent at the intersection where the two roads that led to the different tribes met. He then went inside the tent and began to pray fervently. Within a short period of time, the tribes made peace with each other, and any possible violence was averted.

A quote by Martin Luther goes as follows, ‘If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I will lose a great deal of the fire of faith.’

Let’s seek God in fervent prayer.

Bible open to Book of Nehemiah

2. Nehemiah focused on the greatness of the One he was praying to (Nehemiah 1:5).

Nehemiah clearly understood the greatness of the God he was praying to. He, therefore, identified God as the ‘God of Heaven,’ who is ‘great’ and ‘awesome,’ and as the One ‘who keeps His covenant of love.’ Understanding who his God was, clearly gave him the courage and faith he needed for the dangerous journey ahead.

We too need to keep our faith constantly fixed on “Jesus Christ (who) is the same yesterday and today and forever,” more than on our problems (Hebrews 13:8). The Psalmist said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills… My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).

Let’s ask God to open our eyes to His greatness so that we may ‘walk by faith, and not by sight.’

I well remember the day, 8 years ago, when I was given the depressing news that the retina in my left eye had broken (collapsed). I was further informed that there were issues with the retina of my right eye as well and that I would need urgent surgery on one of the eyes. Being the father of two small sons at that time, the thought of possibly losing my eyesight if the surgery failed, brought a crippling fear into me. The surgery itself would be a complicated one (there were 2 in fact).

As I was battling this fear while preparing for the surgery, the Lord gave me strong assurance of His greatness through the lyrics of the hymn, ‘In Christ Alone.’ I, therefore, trusted Him through this totally unexpected challenge and He was faithful. The surgery was successful and I am still doing well by His grace. He is truly a great God!

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3. Nehemiah prayed for favor and success (Nehemiah 1:11).

We should never forget that God’s favor is upon His children at all times; even in the seemingly darkest moments. How true this was when it came to the opposition that Nehemiah would face. The scriptures speak of God’s favor repeatedly and we should believe and pray accordingly.

Nehemiah prayed for favor and received amazing favor from none other than the King himself (Nehemiah 2:6). In fact, his focus was not on getting favor for himself, but for the work of God (Nehemiah 2:5). As a result, Nehemiah received bodyguards, a security contingent, letters of recommendation, and the required timber, not only for the repairs of the city but also for his own future residence in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:7-9). Talk about having favor!

Nehemiah had also prayed for success (Nehemiah 1:11). Therefore, when the king asked him what help he wanted (Nehemiah 2:4), it is said that Nehemiah prayed (a quick prayer) to God before he answered. He then asked for favor, so that his endeavor would be successful. In response, the Lord gave him amazing success beyond what he could have imagined!

Do you need God’s favor today? Have you been crying out to the Lord about finding success in what you do? Are you willing to continue praying till God comes through? John Wesley said, ‘I have so much to do that I must spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it (successfully?).’

4. Nehemiah prayed against the opposition (Nehemiah 4:4).

The opposition and resistance to God’s work came from a man called Sanballat and his associates (Nehemiah 4:1-3). It included threats with incensed anger, mockery, and humiliating insults (Nehemiah 2:19, Nehemiah 4:7-8). Nehemiah’s immediate response however was prayer. He prayed, “Hear us, our God…” (Nehemiah 4:4), and also confirmed that prayer was raised to God against the threats (Nehemiah 4:9).

As Nehemiah prayed, God gave Him strategies to negate the ungodly plans of his opponents and He also frustrated their plans (Nehemiah 4:15)! The people, therefore, were encouraged and the work kept progressing.

We too can be sure that whenever we attempt something great or small for God, or strive to draw closer to Him, the enemy will come against us. But, he can never defeat us for the Bible says that ‘we are more than conquerors through Jesus!' (Romans 8:37). I once heard a man of God say that ‘Prayer doesn’t just stop the enemy’s plans; it pushes back those plans!'

It is said that Missionary John Paton’s mission house was once surrounded and on the verge of being attacked by hostile natives. As darkness fell and the threat became more serious, Paton and all in the compound used the only weapon they had; prayer. As they prayed, the attack did not materialize and the threat ended.

Much later, as one of the tribal chiefs turned to Jesus, it was discovered that on the eventful night, the attackers had seen a vast army (God’s army) surrounding the mission house with a protective cordon. They realized therefore that it would be futile to attack as the compound was securely and strongly protected.

Through prayer, we too can overcome all opposition.

Praying hands, football coach is denied right to pray after games

5. Nehemiah prayed for strength (Nehemiah 6:9).

In chapter 6, Nehemiah’s enemies were scheming to trap and harm him through deception. They attempted to trap him in this manner on five different occasions (Nehemiah 6:4-5). They were also trying to frighten and weaken his team through political intimidation (Nehemiah 6:5-9). Isn’t that how the evil one comes against God’s children as He makes repeated attacks, bringing fear and intimidation?

Nehemiah’s response however was two-fold. He refused to be distracted from the great work he was doing (Nehemiah 6:3), and he PRAYED. He prayed “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

In praying for strength, Nehemiah also discovered a great truth that so often encourages us in our own struggles. He proclaimed, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

The world is facing tremendous challenges today, including an unceasing pandemic, and people need added strength to cope physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe that’s you. Let’s learn from Nehemiah and ask God to strengthen our hands and renew our joy. A quote I came across says, “Bruised knees and worn-out trousers open the windows of heaven.”

In closing, let’s look at how Nehemiah’s prayers impacted the difficult mission he was involved in. We could say that ‘Mission Impossible’ became ‘Mission Successful’. Let me clarify through a quote from the NIV Study Bible which says:

“The walls that lay in ruins for nearly a century and a half, were rebuilt in less than two months, once the people were galvanized into action by Nehemiah’s leadership” (Page 703 – unquote). To be exact, it was done in just 52 days!

As we reflect on this inspiring story and on these prayer pointers from Nehemiah, may we be strengthened in our own prayer lives today.

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Palitha Jayasooriya is an Executive/Preaching Pastor at the People’s Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He  is also an experienced Radio Broadcaster, having served for over 20 years at The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. He is happily married to Regina and blessed with two sons, Sheriah and Sheramiah.

Palitha’s articles have been published on Preaching Today, Our Daily Bread, You Version, and Thoughts About God. He also hosts the 3-minute Strength From God’s Word podcast on YouTube. His inspirational sermons can be downloaded here - Popular Sermons by Palitha Jayasooriya -  

Palitha’s favorite hobbies are spending time with his family and listening to music. He can be contacted on