Nehemiah 2:1
Now in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence,
Sermons
A True PatriotM. G. Pearse.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Divine InterpositionHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 2:1-8
Effective Ejaculatory Prayer the Outcome of the Habit of PrayerW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerJ. A. James.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerSpurgeon, Charles HaddonNehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerW. F. Adeney, M. A.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerCanon Titcomb, M. A.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory PrayerA. Fuller.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory Prayer in Critical JuncturesL. O. Thompson.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Ejaculatory Prayer Possible to Busy PeopleE. J. Hardy, M. A.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Gaining the CauseW. Clarkson Nehemiah 2:1-8
Prayer Before ChoosingHomilistNehemiah 2:1-8
Prayer Heard in HeavenWilliams of Wern.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Prayer in Few WordsSignal.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Prayer in PerplexityNehemiah 2:1-8
Religious Patriotism Exemplified in the History of NehemiahJ. G. Lorimer.Nehemiah 2:1-8
Royal Dislike of the Sight of SufferingW. Ritchie.Nehemiah 2:1-8
SadnessJ.S. Exell Nehemiah 2:1-8
Spiritual RecollectednessHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 2:1-8
The Devotional SpiritHugh Stowell, M. A.Nehemiah 2:1-8
The Flame of Devotion ConstantHugh Stowell, M. A.Nehemiah 2:1-8
The Praying PatriotT. Rowson.Nehemiah 2:1-8
The Reward of Faith in the Answer to PrayerR.A. Redford Nehemiah 2:1-8
The Spiritual TelegraphJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 2:1-8
The Swiftness of PrayerR. Scriver.Nehemiah 2:1-8

I. THAT IT WAS THE OUTCOME OF A TRUE PATRIOTISM (ver. 2). This sadness was not occasioned by temporal loss, by domestic bereavement, or by unfaithful friendship, but by the desolated condition of Jerusalem. The city was "waste." Many cities of our own country are laid waste by sin; the good man cannot be indifferent, he must sympathise with and help the work of moral restoration. If men are anxious about the walls, they ought to be much more so about the morals of a city; if for the tombs of the dead, much more for the welfare of the living. Sin consumes a city as by fire. The desolation wrought by sin, in commerce, in society, in the home, and especially amongst the young, cannot but awaken deep sorrow of heart.

II. THAT IT WAS EXPERIENCED IN THE COURSE OF HIS DAILY AVOCATIONS. "And I took up the wine, and gave it to the king "( ver. 1). How many men go to their daily toil with a heart sorrow which occupation and industry cannot make them forget. Nehemiah was wont to be cheerful before the king; business should be done in joyous mood; but there are times when sorrow will prevail.

III. THAT IT WAS MANIFESTED IN THE APPEARANCE OF THE PHYSICAL FRAME. "Why is thy countenance sad?" (ver. 2). How much of the world's sorrow is concealed. In a very true sense it is sorrow of heart; it is never vocal in explanation or complaint. But such sacred grief is not hidden from God. The face reflects the emotions of the soul; it revealed the sorrow of Nehemiah, the joy of Stephen. How many sorrowful faces do we meet in a day. A sad countenance should awaken tender inquiry, wise consideration, and willing aid. Let us not be heedless of the world's sorrow. Christ is only true consolation.

IV. THAT IT WAS AIDED BY SECRET COMMUNION WITH THE DIVINE. "So I prayed to the God of heaven" (ver. 4).

1. Sorrow often has great opportunities opened up to it. "For what dost thou make request?" Nehemiah's sorrow opened up the king's resources to him. Our sorrows often make heaven rich to us.

2. Sorrow needs guidance, so as to make good use of the opportunities presented to it.

3. Sorrow finds in prayer the guidance and culture it needs to use aright its opportunity.

(1) Memory is aided;

(2) difficulty is anticipated;

(3) preparation is accomplished (ver. 7);

(4) agencies are perfected (ver. 8).

V. THAT IT WAS EMPLOYED IN THE WONDROUS PROVIDENCE OF HEAVEN. "And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me" (ver. 8).

1. The sorrow of Nehemiah was allied to the welfare of his people. It led to the rebuilding of the broken wall of Jerusalem. Our trials are often the means of promoting the welfare of others. Christ's sufferings are allied to our best delights, and to our noblest achievements. It is indeed true that others build because we have suffered.

2. The sorrow of Nehemiah was allied to the beneficence of the king. It awakened the monarch's sympathy and help. The sorrows of men awaken loving ministries.

3. The sorrow of Nehemiah was allied to the providence of God. By its means Heaven opened the heart of the heathen king in sympathy and his hand in help. The pain of the world is made to achieve high moral ends; a wise providence employs it in the building of broken walls. - E.







And it came to pass in the month Nizan.
Homiletic Commentary.
I. Was OPPORTUNE.

1. That God's plans are worked out with the utmost precision.

2. That God often interferes on His people's behalf when they least expect it.

3. That God generally interferes on His people's behalf in their most urgent extremity.

II. REQUIRED HUMAN CO-OPERATION.

III. WAS ACCOMPANIED BY PROVIDENTIAL COINCIDENCES.

1. Nehemiah was unusually sad.

2. The king was unusually friendly.

3. The queen also was present.

(Homiletic Commentary.)

That is only a small part of the gospel which leads a man to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" The glorious gospel of the blessed God goes forth with us interested in everything that concerns us as men — at home, in business, in town, in country, in all national affairs, in the whole world. A Christian may thoughtlessly throw himself into political exitement with no other motive than that of party feeling; but because he is a Christian he will be glad to let the light of God shine in upon his aims and motives, and will be glad to see his duty in the quietness and sacredness of this hour. The Bible, which gives us examples of men in every position where duty leads, has given us amongst its most brilliant and noble characters this of the statesman. If any should think such a position inseparable from ambitious craft and party ends, let them note this fact. Nehemiah is living at the court of the king, occupying a position of high rank, of much influence, of great trust. If the chief thing in life is to take care of one's own ease and luxury, and not to trouble much about the wants and sorrows of other people, then here is a man who has all that heart can wish. There are men, thousands of them, who have no thought or purpose in life beyond themselves. Surely that is to degrade our manhood. But what of any man who should call himself a Christian and yet should live all taken up in himself as if nothing were worth a thought but how he may be as happy as possible on earth — and then happier still in another world? Now to the court where Nehemiah dwells come certain Jews from Jerusalem, and he goes forth to inquire about the state of his countrymen and the beloved city. As a man, as a brother, as a servant of the Living God, he is bound to feel the deepest concern in the welfare of his nation. It is easy enough to think of what Nehemiah might have said, if he had been easy-going and selfish, "I really am sorry, very sorry — but I do not see that I can do anything, you know. It is as much as I can do to look after my own duties here without troubling myself about the affairs of the nation." There are some good people who talk so to-day and think it sounds pious. He might have given them a subscription, say of a guinea. And then he could have turned into the palace thankful not to be mixed up in these worldly matters. Or he might have sipped his wine out of a golden goblet and thought what a pity it was that everybody could not be as comfortable as he was. Well, if he had, you may be sure that neither this Book of God nor any other would have found a place for his name. Or he might have pleaded that he was in a very delicate and responsible position, holding office under the king, and that it would never do for him to get mixed up in these matters. Those good people who separate themselves from the duties of citizenship can find no example in the Scriptures. Of all false notions about regenerating the world, the most utterly false, as well as the laziest, is to think that this is the victory which overcometh the world to run away from it. This Book does not teach that the world is the devil's, and the less we can have to do with it the better. No, indeed! "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." The men of the Bible are not monks and recluses; but they are in the very midst of the world and busied with its affairs. Its prophets and messengers are men whose whole life has to do with the councils of kings, with the ways of cities and courts. Surely it is impossible to think of the religion of Jesus Christ as anything but a profound and eager interest in the welfare of our fellow-men — of their bodies as well as their souls; of their work as well as their worship; of their homes on earth as well as their getting to heaven. Nor have any the right to hold themselves aloof from politics because it is mixed up with party strife. We deplore and condemn the bitterness of party politics — but is there not a great deal of nonsense talked about party politics? How are you going ever to have polities at all without party politics? If you want abuses overthrown, and iniquities set right, and the privileges of the few shared by the many, and abominations like the opium trade swept away, and the great curses of drink and lust and gambling east out, are we to fold our hands because we are Christians, and let the devil have his own way because these things involve strife! Of course they do, and always will. We must expect opposition, excitement, abuse. The blessed Lord Jesus accepted and discharged the duties of citizenship. Together with His holiness, His meekness, His majesty, there is another grace and virtue — there is in Him a perfect patriotism. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are cent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate." And this example, sublime it is, is followed closely by the apostle Paul, whose passionate love to his countrymen prompts that daring utterance (Romans 9:1). And now to turn to ourselves. What think you? Can we dare to call ourselves by the name of Jesus Christ and yet be indifferent to the needs, the sorrows, the wants, the burdens of our country? Lastly, see how this brave man served his country. Nehemiah sees that his power to help his country is not mostly in his rank, nor in his influence with royalty; it is in his power to pray. This is the great truth we want to lay hold of. The greatest power to bless this land is in our power to pray for it. Here all are on a level. Women as well as men. We need not wait for Parliament in this matter. Women's rights are as ours at the throne of the heavenly grace. Beginning thus in prayer right speedily a glorious reformation is wrought in the face of plotting foes. In spite of the poverty and fewness of the people the city is rebuilt. So shall the city of God once more be set up in the midst of men, if every Christian man and woman will take in upon their heart the wants, the woes, the wrongs, the sorrows of our land, and will plead with God to send us a parliament that shall seek first in all things His kingdom and its righteousness.

(M. G. Pearse.)

The patriotism of Nehemiah was based on religion; and hence the interest which he discovered in his far distant but afflicted countrymen, and the sacrifices which he made for their welfare. The love of country, because it is the country of our birth, and of countrymen, is no narrow-minded bigotry, as some shallow infidels in their pretended love of universal mankind have imagined. It is a principle of human nature implanted in our hearts for the wisest purposes. There is a patriotism which is quite selfish in its nature. Their own aggrandisement, or that of their friends and partisans, is the sum and substance of their patriotism. True patriotism, like every other great virtue, must be founded in true religion. Had not Nehemiah been a pious man, and loved the God of his fathers with all his heart, and loved his countrymen because they bore the image of God, he never would have relinquished his high advantages in the palace of Artaxerxes, and sacrificed so largely for their benefit. The true way to love man is to begin by loving God. On hearing of the affliction of his countrymen, who he might have expected by this time would have been in prosperous circumstances, Nehemiah betakes himself to prayer. All this shows Nehemiah's acquaintance with his Bible, and also the warmth of his piety. We might have expected that living at heathen court, remote from the means of grace, with few to strengthen or encourage him, he, though a good man, would have discovered in his piety the disadvantage of the circumstances in which he had been placed. But no — God can and often does compensate in richer effusions of His grace, for an adverse outward situation. And here let us mark the course which he pursued in seeking to relieve and restore his afflicted countrymen. He did not say, as many would have done, in a proud, vaunting spirit, "I am the king's cup-bearer. Backed by his authority, and armed besides with wealth and power, I will soon reduce Jerusalem and its people to a right condition; I will soon quell all opposition, rebuild the wall, and set up the gates, and make the city glorious as of old." This had been the spirit of man flushed with the pride of power; but he had been taught of God, and so begins with humility and prayer. Let us, and let all, follow his example. All are occasionally in the providence of God required to discharge great duties. Important undertakings, involving the glory of God and the good of others, ever and anon call for our services. How should we engage in them? In a spirit of pride and self-confidence? No. But in a spirit of prayer and penitence. We are apt to despair of an undertaking when it is suspended on the will of man, and he is high above us, and we have ground to apprehend his hostility. Let this encourage us to be much in prayer for a good cause, even where it seems to hang upon the will of man, and that will appear hopelessly opposed. Nehemiah having thus prepared himself by prayer, is not slow in setting out in his work. Here we may notice the prudence and piety of this excellent Jew. He showed prudence in addressing a motive to the mind of the king for his journey, which the monarch could understand and appreciate. He did not ask leave to go to Jerusalem for the sake of his religion, but for the sake of his fathers' sepulchres. This was an argument to which even a heathen would defer. With regard, again, to his piety, he did not only pray to God for counsel before making his request, but he strengthened and emboldened himself by prayer at the very time he stood in the presence of Artaxerxes. And then, after he had been successful in the petition, he did not refer the success to his own wisdom, or to his services as a faithful servant, but to the good hand of God upon him. He arrogated nothing to himself; he ascribed all to God. How much piety is here, and how beautiful is the union between piety and prudence! Considering the difficulties with which Christians have to struggle, well may the Saviour exhort His followers to be wise as serpents, at the same time that they are harmless as doves. It is worthy of notice, that deeply prayerful and dependent on God as Nehemiah was, he was not unmindful of the duty. of using all legitimate means to secure the important object which he had in view. Prayer rightly understood does not destroy the use of means; it only strengthens and regulates its application. Prayer without means, and means without prayer, are equally presumptuous. Duty lies in employing both, but keeping both in their right place. This excellent man now set out on his journey, received the aid of the heathen governors upon the way, and soon reached Jerusalem in safety. With his usual prudence he did not, in the first instance, inform any one — priests, nobles, or rulers — what his intentions were. He wished to see the city with his own eyes, and draw his own conclusions, before acquainting them with the object of his mission. This enabled him to speak from personal observation, and so to speak with greater effect.

(J. G. Lorimer.)

Why is thy countenance sad?
A late empress of Russia enacted a severe penalty, if any funeral procession should pass within sight of her palace. A princess of France, on her way to the capital, once ordered all beggars and persons suffering under disease to be removed from the line of her journey that she might not behold them. This Persian monarch notes signs of grief on his faithful servant with signs of displeasure. How different it is with our Saviour King! His heart is the seat of compassion for the afflicted.

(W. Ritchie.)

So I prayed to the God of heaven
It is he that cultivates the habit of prayer that will seize the fitting opportunity for such ejaculations. Some think because they may pray in any place and at all times that therefore seasons of prayer may be neglected with impunity; but only he who delights in communion with God, and does not omit set times for such communion, finds that when the emergency arises, and but a moment is given, he can pray as truly and with as much calmness as in his own closet.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

I. THE NATURE OF EJACULATORY PRAYER. It differs from other kinds of prayer, in that —

1. It is dependent upon no place. Prayer is founded upon a full conviction of the natural perfection of God; His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. On the conviction that the object of prayer is everywhere present, and that we may in every place make known our request. Artisan, merchant, physician can pray wherever they may be.

2. It is dependent on no particular time.

3. It is dependent on no particular occasion. No need to wait for Sabbath or hour of public worship.

II. EXAMPLES OF EJACULATORY PRAYER. Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:12); Samson (Judges 16:28); Stephen (Acts 7:59, 60); Christ on various occasions.

III. NECESSARY OCCASIONS FOR EJACULATORY PRAYER.

1. When suddenly called to important and difficult duties.

2. The Sabbath day and the assembly of the faithful. If hearers were more engaged in ejaculatory prayer, ministers would be more successful preachers.

3. The hour of temptation.

4. The hour of sickness.

IV. THE ADVANTAGES OF EJACULATORY PRAYER.

1. It main-rains an habitual sense of our dependence upon God.

2. It preserves our minds in a proper tone for the various exercises of devotion.

3. It is a powerful preventive against sin.

4. It makes us bold to contend with enemies or difficulties.

5. It quickens our zeal and activity in the cause of God.

(J. A. James.)

Homiletic Commentary.
This is a remarkable illustration of religious presence of mind.

I.THE OUTCOME OF A CONSECRATED LIFE.

II.THE RESULT OF LONG HABIT.

III.A MARK OF SELF-DISTRUSTING HUMILITY.

IV.A SOURCE OF INCALCULABLE BLESSING.

(Homiletic Commentary.)

Homiletic Commentary.
It was —

I.SUDDENLY REQUIRED.

II.SILENTLY OFFERED.

III.SUITABLY ADDRESSED.

IV.VERY BRIEF.

V.COMPLETELY SUCCESSFUL.

(Homiletic Commentary.)

Nehemiah had made inquiry as to the state of the city of Jerusalem, and the tidings he heard caused him bitter grief. "Why should not my countenance be sad," he said, "when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" He could not endure that it should be a mere ruinous heap. Laying the matter to heart, he did not begin to speak to other people about what they would do, nor did he draw up a wonderful scheme about what might be done if so many thousand people joined in the enterprise; but it occurred to him that he would do something himself. This is just the way that practical men start a matter. The unpractical will plan, arrange, and speculate about what may be done, but the genuine, thorough-going lover of Zion puts this question to himself — "What can you do?" Coming so far, he resolved to set apart a time for prayer. He never had it off his mind for nearly four months. When he slept he dreamed about Jerusalem. When he woke, the first thought was "Poor Jerusalem!" The man of one thing, you know, is a terrible man; and when one single passion has absorbed the whole of his manhood something will be sure to come of it. Before long Nehemiah had an opportunity. Men of God, if you want to serve God and cannot find the propitious occasion, wait awhile in prayer and your opportunity will break on your path like a sunbeam. There was never a true and valiant heart that failed to find a fitting sphere somewhere or other in His service. That opportunity came, it is true, in a way which he could not have expected. It came through his own sadness of heart. This matter preyed upon his mind till he began to look exceedingly unhappy. But you see when the opportunity did come there was trouble with it, for he says, "I was very sore afraid." You want to serve God, young man; you want to be at work. Perhaps you do not know what that work involves It is not all pleasure. Thus have we traced Nehemiah up to the particular point where our text concerns him.

I. THE FACT THAT NEHEMIAH PRAYED CHALLENGES ATTENTION. He had been asked a question by his sovereign. The proper thing you would suppose was to answer it. Not so. Before he answered he prayed to the God of heaven. I do not suppose the king noticed the pause. Probably the interval was not long enough to be noticed, but it was long enough for God to notice it. We are the more astonished at his praying, because he was so evidently perturbed in mind. When you are fluttered and put out you may forget to pray. Do you not, some of you, account it a valid excuse for omitting your ordinary devotion? At least, if any one had said to you, "You did not pray when you were about that business," you would have replied, "How could I?" So habitually was he in communion with God that as soon as he found himself in a dilemma he flew away to God, just as the dove would fly to hide herself in the clefts of the rock.

1. His prayer was the more remarkable on this occasion, because he must have felt very eager about his object. The king asks him what it is he wants, and his whole heart is set upon building up Jerusalem. Are not you surprised that he did not at once say, "O king, live for ever. I long to build up Jerusalem's walls. Give me all the help thou canst"? But no, eager as he was to pounce upon the desired object, he withdraws his hand until it is said, "So I prayed to the God of heaven." I would that every Christian's heart might have just that holy caution that did not permit him to make such haste as to find ill-speed.

2. It is all the more surprising that he should have deliberately prayed just then, because he had been already praying for the past three or four months concerning the selfsame matter. Some of us would have said, "That is the thing I have been praying for; now all I have got to do is to take it and use it. Why pray any more?" But no, you will always find that the man who has prayed much is the man to pray more. If you are familiar with the mercy-seat you will constantly visit it.

3. One thing more is worth recollecting, namely, that he was in a king's palace, and in the palace of a heathen king, too; and he was in the very act of handing up to the king the goblet of wine. But this devout Israelite, at such a time and in such a place, when he stands at the king's foot to hold up to him the golden goblet, refrains from answering the king's question until first he has prayed to the God of heaven.

II. THE MANNER OF THIS PRAYER.

1. It was what we call ejaculatory prayer — prayer which, as it were, hurls a dart and then it is done. It was not the prayer which stands knocking at mercy's door.

2. Notice, how very short it must have been. It was introduced — slipped in, sandwiched in — between the king's question and Nehemiah's answer.

3. We know, also, that it must have been a silent prayer; and not merely silent as to sounds but silent as to any outward signs — perfectly secret. Artaxerxes never knew that Nehemiah prayed, though he stood probably within a yard of him. In the innermost shrine of the temple — in the holy of holies of his own secret soul — there did he pray. It was a prayer on the spot. He did not go to his chamber as Daniel did, and open the window.

4. I have no doubt from the very wording of the text that it was a very intense and direct prayer. That was Nehemiah's favourite name for God — the God of heaven. He knew whom he was praying to. He did not draw a bow at a venture and shoot his prayers anyhow.

5. It was a prayer of a remarkable kind. I know it was so, because Nehemiah never forgot that he did pray it.

III. To recommend to you THIS EXCELLENT STYLE OF PRAYING.

1. To deal with this matter practically, then, it is the duty and privilege of every Christian to have set times of prayer.

2. But now, having urged the importance of such habitual piety, I want to impress on you the value of another sort of prayer, namely, the short brief, quick, frequent ejaculations of which Nehemiah gives us a specimen. And I recommend this, because it hinders no engagement and occupies no time. It requires you to go to no particular place. No altar, no church, no so-called sacred place is needed, but wherever you are, just such a little prayer as that will reach the ear of God, and win a blessing. Such a prayer as that can be offered anywhere, under any circumstances. The advantage of such a way of praying is that you can pray often and pray always. Such prayer may be suggested by all sorts of surroundings.

3. These prayers are commendable, because they are truly spiritual. This kind of prayer is free from any suspicion that it is prompted by the corrupt motive of being offered to please men. If I see sparks coming out of a chimney I know there is a fire inside somewhere, and ejaculatory prayers are like the sparks that fly from a soul that is filled with burning coals of love to Jesus Christ. Short, ejaculatory prayers are of great use to us. Oftentimes they check us. Bad-tempered people, if you were always to pray just a little before you let angry expressions fly from your lips, why many times you would not say those naughty words at all. The bit of offering these brief prayers would also check your confidence in your self. It would show your dependence upon God.

4. Besides, they actually bring us blessings from heaven. I believe it is very suitable to some persons of a peculiar temperament who could not pray for a long time to save their lives. Their minds are rapid and quick. But if I must give you a selection of suitable times I should mention such as these. Whenever you have a great joy, cry, "Lord, make this a real blessing to me." Do not exclaim with others, "Am I not a lucky fellow?" but say, "Lord, give me more grace, and more gratitude, now that Thou dost multiply Thy favours." When you have got any arduous undertaking on hand or a heavy piece of business, do not touch it till you have breathed your soul out in a, short prayer. When you have a difficulty before you, and you are seriously perplexed, when business has got into a tangle or a confusion which you cannot unravel or arrange, breathe a prayer. Are the children particularly troublesome to you? Do you think that there is a temptation before you? Do you begin to suspect that somebody is plotting against you? Now for a prayer, "Lead me in plain path, because of mine enemies." Are you at work at the bench, or in a shop, or a warehouse, where lewd conversation and shameful blasphemies assail your ears? Now for a short prayer. Does sin begin to fascinate you? Now for a prayer — a warm, earnest, passionate cry, "Lord, hold Thou me up." And when the shadow of death gathers round you, and strange feelings flush or chill you, and plainly tell that you near the journey's end, then pray. Oh! that is a time for ejaculation. "Hide not Thy face from me, O Lord"; or this, "Be not far from me, O God," will doubtless suit you. "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," were the thrilling words of Stephen in his extremity.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Such a sudden uplifting of the soul to God is the most real of all prayers. The man who can thus find God in a moment must be in the habit of frequently resorting to the Divine presence. This ready prayer only springs to the lips of a man who lives in a daily habit of prayer. The deliberate exercises of adoration, confession, and petition prepare for the one sudden ejaculation. There we see the deep river which supplies the sea of devotion from which the momentary prayer is cast up as the spray of a wave. We may compare Nehemiah's two kinds of prayer with our Lord's full and calm intercession in John 17. and the short, agonised cry from the Cross.

(W. F. Adeney, M. A.)

I. THE PERSON NAMED.

1. As patriot.

2. As statesman.

3. As a man of God. Not guided by the policy of the world. He did nothing without prayer.

II. THE OCCASION. A moment needing great wisdom.

III. THE LESSON TAUGHT. The great duty of ejaculatory prayer. Various uses

:

1. Throws light on such texts as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and 1 Corinthians 10:31.

2. Comfort in bodily pain (Psalm 103:13; Psalm 119:2).

3. Helps to victory over sin.

(Canon Titcomb, M. A.)

Homilist.
At the outset two things strike us here.

1. A rare opportunity for worldly advancement. Here is a king saying to his cupbearer, "What dost thou want me to do for thee?" What a chance this for any man! Wealth, dignity, influence, all put within his reach, left to depend upon his choice.

2. A rare treatment of such an opportunity. What should we say if our sovereign should speak thus to us? Most would say, "Give us a mansion to live in, lordly estate as our inheritance, dazzling titles and extensive patronage." What said Nehemiah? He paused and reflected, and then he prayed. He would not choose for himself. Man is a choosing creature; his daily life is made up of a series of choices; he has to reject and accept in order to live.

I. GOD ALONE KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR US. "Who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life?" Man is constantly making mistakes in this matter. What he wants and struggles for as a prize sometimes turns out to be one of his sorest calamities. Because Moses looked to heaven in such a case, he chose a life which to unregenerate man would be revolting.

II. GOD ALWAYS DESIRES WHAT IS BEST FOR US. He made us to be happy. That He desires our happiness is clear —

1. From the capacity of enjoyment with which He has endowed us.

2. From the elements of happiness with which the world abounds.

3. From the mission of His only-begotten Son.

III. GOD, IN ANSWER TO PRAYER, IS EVER READY TO BESTOW what is best for us. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." Conclusion: Let us act ever upon the principle that prayer should precede choice.

(Homilist.)

I. How great is the PRIVILEGE of prayer. Great indeed is the privilege of all this access to the mercy-seat, but how unspeakable is the joy and the consolation of habitual communion with God, and of taking occasion from duties, trials, or mercies, as they follow one another, to lift up the heart in pious ejaculation. The word ejaculation is derived from the Latin "jaculum," an arrow, and suggests the rapidity and earnestness with which such a prayer can be winged up to the God of heaven. We have seen how Nehemiah interposed a prayer of this kind as a devout parenthesis between the king's request and his own reply. And there is no book of Scripture so remarkable for ejaculatory prayer as the Book of Nehemiah. Such an acknowledgment of God in our ways is no hindrance, but rather a mighty help in business. That which calms the mind, fixes the purpose, and strengthens moral principle, must be a great assistance, whether in duty or trial. As Fuller remarks, "Ejaculations take not up any room in the soul. They give liberty of callings, so that at the same instant one may follow his proper vocation. The husbandman may dart forth an ejaculation, and not make a halt the more. The seaman nevertheless steers his ship right in the darkest night. The field wherein the bees feed is no whir the barer for their biting: when they have taken their full repast on flowers or grass, the ox may feed, the sheep fatten on their reversions. The reason is because those little chemists distil only the refined part of the flower, leaving the greaser substance thereof. So ejaculations bind not men to any bodily observance, only busy the spiritual half, which maketh them consistent with the prosecution of any other employment." The rapidity and brevity of ejaculatory prayer has frequently been illustrated by a reference to the electric telegraph, the greatest achievement of modern science. Christ has opened a pathway down which redeeming mercy may flow into the heart of the sinner, and by which the aspirations and longings of that penitent sinner may climb up to his reconciled God and Father. Christians, however, can tell of something quicker far than electricity. Thought, winging its way by prayer, travels instantaneously from the depths of a penitent's need to the height of God's throne in heaven. Who can estimate the distance thus travelled, or the relief thus experienced? The child cries, and the Father answers. The sinner weeps, and the Saviour draws near to wipe away his tears, and to fill him with an overflowing gladness.

II. But if the privilege of prayer be great, How INTENSELY JOYOUS IS THE ANSWER. Recurring to the narrative, let us observe in the gracious answer to Nehemiah's prayer that delay is not denial. Four weary months passed before Nehemiah had the opportunity of bringing under the king's notice the desolation of Zion. The answer to prayer is as sure as Divine power, faithfulness, and love can make it. The providence of God concurs sweetly with His grace in this answer. The answer, moreover, to Nehemiah's request, through the good hand of his God upon him, was overflowing and abundant. The utmost, probably, that he had anticipated would be a full permission to resign his duties at court, and to go to Jerusalem. But he received much more than this. He had the large-hearted sanction of his master for all his undertakings. He was provided with a cavalry escort, with letters for safe conduct beyond the river, and ample material for his work. Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

(J. M. Randall.)

This kind is a short petition, hurled like a dart at its mark.

I. WHEN? In critical junctures.

1. Before choice.

2. Before sudden action.

3. In danger. (The sinking Peter.)

II. WHY?

1. Because critical junctures admit of no other kind.

2. Because it leads to wisdom (Proverbs 3:6).

3. Because it tranquilises the mind.

4. Because it would prevent sudden action.

III. HOW?

1. Do we pray at all?

2. Do we cultivate the spirit of prayer? (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

3. Do occasions arise for ejaculatory prayer?

4. Would it help us when buying or selling, when making calls and tempted to gossip or tell "white lies"?

(L. O. Thompson.)

The true secret of his success was Divine interposition in his behalf.

1. Nehemiah, under God, made the most of this opportunity. He had waited patiently for it; and now, when it came, he did not fail to turn it to the best account. It is not always that this is done. Many, we fear, if they had the chance, would be more ready to injure the servants of Christ than to do them good, and to cripple and damage His cause rather than extend it. And where another spirit prevails, have we not often to mourn over lost opportunities of doing good? or over opportunities of doing good that have been very imperfectly improved?

2. We are reminded that prayer does not supersede efforts in other directions. Nehemiah did not content himself with the thought that he had prayed for Jerusalem, and for its poor inhabitants. He supple mented his praying by using his best endeavours to secure such help as man could render. And did he under-estimate the power of prayer by this procedure? We think not. His conduct showed that he was neither irreligious, on the one hand, nor fanatical on the other. Some objects are best accomplished by prayer alone. Some persons are so placed now that all we can do in their behalf is to pray for them; and some objects are of such a nature that we cannot advance them other wise than by giving them an interest in our prayers. But, as a rule, we may, and ought, to do something more than this for a good cause.

3. Answers to prayer should be gratefully acknowledged.

(T. Rowson.)

In hard havens, so choked up with the envious sands that great ships, drawing many feet of water, cannot come near, lighter and lesser pinnaces may freely and safely arrive. When we are time-bound, place-bound, so that we cannot compose our selves to make a large, solemn prayer, this is the right instant for ejaculations, whether orally uttered or only poured forth inwardly in the heart.

(A. Fuller.)

The sacrifices of prayer and praise cannot be always ascending; but the flame of devotion to kindle them, as opportunity may serve, ought never to wax dim.

(Hugh Stowell, M. A.)

Of all the habits of the new man, there is none more distinctive, none more conducive to his soul's health and happiness, none more essential to his consistency of conduct and beauty of holiness, than the devotional spirit.

(Hugh Stowell, M. A.)

We make a great many mistakes about prayer; and one of them is that we don't think we have prayed properly unless we have prayed a certain time. But a few moments of real prayer are better than many minutes of only formal prayer. "For my own part," says a friend, "if one may talk of a 'best' in the matter of one's prayers, I find that the best prayers I can make are very short ones indeed. Sometimes they have only one sentence, and they are by no means always said upon my knees. They are offered up while I am walking about, or lying awake at night, or riding in the train." When Bengel, the great commentator, was too weary to pray, all he said was, "Lord, Thou knowest that it is between us to-day as it was yesterday"; and so he went to sleep. A young man, who was worn by sick ness and suffering, had only strength to pray in short and broken sentences His heart was filled with foreboding as Satan whispered that the great God could never listen to such a prayer. Suddenly he came upon these words: "God is in heaven, and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few." "Ah!" he said, "I have found a verse written expressly for me. God will accept the few words I can utter; now I will trust and not be afraid." If no man is heard for his much speaking, no man is rejected for his little speaking — if compressed into that little be the earnestness of his heart.

(Signal.)

A little child, playing with a handful of cords, when they begin to get into a tangle, goes at once to her mother, that her patient fingers may unravel the snarl. How much better this than to pull and tug at the cords till the tangle becomes inextricable I May not many of us learn a lesson from the little child? Would it not be better for us, whenever we find the slightest entanglement in any of our affairs, or the arising of any perplexity, to take it at once to God, that His skilful hands may set it right?

Ejaculatory prayer is like the rope of a belfry; the bell is in one room, and the end of the rope which sets it a-ringing in another. Perhaps the bell may not be heard in the apartment where the rope is, but it is heard in its own apartment. Moses laid hold of the rope and pulled it hard on the shore of the Red Sea; and though no one heard or knew anything about it in the lower chamber, the bell rang loudly in the upper one.

(Williams of Wern.)

We may, if we please, have a mail to heaven, conveying in a moment intelligence of our condition and concerns, our wants and our desires, to our God and Father, and bringing back to us a gracious answer, with advice and comfort, protection and help. Prayer is the swift courier, and sighs are the winged messengers. Doves have been trained to fly from place to place, carrying letters in a little casket fastened to their neck or foot. They are swift of flight; but our prayers and sighs are swifter, for they take but a moment to pass from earth to heaven, and bear the troubles of our heart to the heart of God.

(R. Scriver.)

The following extract is from a letter addressed by a poor woman to the editor of the Banner of Faith: "Poor women with large families often think they have little time for prayer or praise. As I am a poor woman with a large family, and know the value of prayer and praise, I will tell them how I find time for it. Whilst I am cleaning the house I lift my heart to God and say, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me, for Christ's sake. Amen.' When I am washing the clothes I say, 'Wash me in Thy blood, O Jesus; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.' Then as I get to each of my children's clothes I pray for them separately, not aloud, but in my heart. Again, if I pick up the shirt of one who drinks, I ask God to change his heart, to show him his state in God's sight, and to help him to give up drink and become a sober, godly youth. If I am washing the shirt of another who has a horrid temper, that is a terror to us all, I pray to God to break his stubborn temper, to soften his heart of stone, and give him a heart of flesh. If I am washing anything belonging to a girl who is idle, then I pray God to show her her sin, and change her whole nature, by the Holy Spirit. Yes, I pray for each as I know their need. Then when I am sewing I find lots of time both for prayer and praise. When I light or mend the fire, I say in my heart, 'Kindle, O Lord, a sacred fire in this cold heart of mine.'"

(E. J. Hardy, M. A.)

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