The Answer To A Servant” Nehemiah 2:1-10 9/23/01


SI: Are you ready for answered prayer? May not be exactly what you expect.


INTRO: You have all heard the fairy tale of the Genie in the magic lamp.

Person rubs the lamp, out comes the Genie—O master, three wishes

a castle—poof

wealth—poof

100 more wishes!

Some people imagine prayer like that—God should answer soon and painlessly

if He doesn’t, then must not be listening


But that is not the way God answers the prayers of His servants

Talking to someone recently who told me that several years ago,

became concerned about relationship with her father.

bitter toward him because things that had happened

Began to pray that the Lord would change this.


Some time later, parents called, coming for a visit, as often did.

Heart skipped a beat.

Could it be that God had arranged for this visit?

Knew she had to have a conversation with father and dreaded.

Lord, can’t talk about this with anyone else present, have to be alone.

but in the back of her mind, what are the chances, mother, other relatives


One day, during visit, hubbub of making lunch plans, who rides with who

suddenly realized she was in the car alone with her father

had God answered her prayers?

He had, but there was still something to be done—as hard as it was,

she had to open her mouth and say

Dad, I told God that if He let us have some time alone I would tell you something.

and the words of forgiveness and healing began to flow

Are you ready for answered prayer?


Book about God calling one man—Nehemiah—to be his servant

Nehemiah hears distressing news about Jerusalem from brother

trouble and disgrace, wall broken, gates burned

from this once conversation,

senses a conviction to do something bring rebuilding power of God to bear

in that broken place

all Christians, at different times, going to be burdened with some brokenness

may be close or far away, one person or many people


That burden, that calling always leads to prayer

earnest, confident prayer that God will do something

every time Christians are called, begin to pray, Lord, you have laid on my heart

Exactly what Nehemiah does, he begins to pray for people in Jerusalem

as prays, realizes that he is going to have to do something

is going to have to talk to his master—King Artaxerxes

remember, he was the king’s cupbearer

So he prays, “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the

presence of this man”


That’s Nehemiah’s prayer—now, in this passage you see God’s answer.

See five aspects of answered prayer that are always present.


MP#1 God answers prayer in His time.

Nehemiah is a memoir, prayer journal

1:1 month of Kislev (Nov/Dec) Nehemiah has conversation, burdened

begins to pray immediately

give your servant success today”

2:1 month of Nisan (March/April) four months have passed

still has not made request of the king

Why not? Why didn’t Nehemiah just raise the matter very next day when serving?

Nehemiah couldn’t until king Artaxerxes himself broached the subject

to raise it himself was certainly to ruin the whole thing, maybe even death

court etiquette around kings considered semi-divine was rigid

Remember Esther? Risked death coming into court uninvited

then, even after king had said, whatever you wish

she delayed asking him twice

Now understand request—“give success by granting favor in presence of king”

not—tomorrow I’m going to talk to the king about this,

Lord, tomorrow, please open a door so that king will be inclined to grant a favor

until then, I can’t do anything


Bigger question—why hadn’t God answered Nehemiah’s prayer right away?

Prayers are answered in God’s time, God’s time not your time, God’s time best

as look back at answered prayers, often see the hand of God

so that’s why He waited, it was the best time

Nehemiah—four long months, so distressed started to show on his face

king notices and asks the first question, why are you so sad

because that is the angle, Nehemiah’s answer takes on a very personal note,

king sees sadness of heart knows not some hidden political agenda

what if Nehemiah had blurted out the first day, all those raw feelings

what is this man doing questioning my decree, someone gotten to him?

Scholars—God sovereignly arranged so that king inclined to be generous

Nisan, first month of Persian year, kings expected to be generous

presence of the queen, a special occasion, birthday, desire to show generosity


To those of you now praying to God for burden—broken people, places

has not yet answered and it’s been month or years

remember—prayers are answered in God’s time, answers all servants that way

keep praying, keep eyes open for His sovereign hand to work when don’t expect

MP#2 God answers prayer through your words.

The Lord begins to answer Nehemiah’s prayer when king Artaxerxes asks,

why are you so sad, I know you aren’t sick. Must be sadness of the heart

heart starts to pound, mouth dry, “I was very much afraid.”

What was the cause of Nehemiah’s fear?

lots of commentaries say Nehemiah had broken etiquette and displayed emotion

fearful because in danger of being put to death

can’t be right—Nehemiah not afraid of death, will see that later in the book

obviously the king, by his very question is not threatening


Something much more significant here for the life of the Christian

Nehemiah afraid because he suddenly realizes, this is it, I’ve got to speak.

all my months of private prayer has come to this, I’ve got to speak

Filled with all those doubts and fears that come when know must speak

those deepest prayers and longings that you have shared with God alone

wonder, is this it? is this the right time? should I put it off?

am I really willing to put myself out there and risk this conversation

Person in introduction, lots of prayers for reconciliation with father

but when she suddenly realized, the opportunity I have prayed for is here

seized with fear and reluctance to speak

That ever happened to you—burdened for a person, path of self-destruction

pray for them, even talk about them to your wife,

but then the Lord orchestrates the time and the place—know it’s time to speak


How does Nehemiah respond? “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king . . .”

he opens his mouth, he begins to speak, and the Lord blesses his words

they are just the right words

Scholars have pointed out that Persians very much concerned with graves,

Jews were not nearly as concerned, more concern for the living

All of this talk about graves of my fathers being in ruin touches a Persian heart.

doesn’t mention Jerusalem by name, no political overtones to worry king


How does God answer your prayers—(in His time) and through your words.

He sovereignly provides the opportunity that you have been praying for

then, in spite of your fears you must speak

like Christ throwing you a touchdown pass, might afraid to catch it, tackled,

have to catch it anyway, in faith that Christ knows what He is doing

MP#3 God answers prayer through your plans.

So Nehemiah speaks—an act of faith, because not committing himself to action.

verse 4 King Artaxerxes asks another question—“What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king.”

If it pleases you, want to go back and rebuild the city in Judah

Then Artaxerxes asks another question—how long will you be gone?

so I set a time” the time not mentioned, learn in 5:14 and 13:6 (12 years)

Then Nehemiah raises other matters—

letters of safe conduct to governors, letter to keeper of forest for lumber,

scope of building, citadel by temple, city wall, governor’s residence

King grants all these, and gives officers and cavalry as well


What if Artaxerxes had asked—how long, I don’t know or 3 years not finished

what if Nehemiah had not thought through all the political ramifications

set out and come to first governor, who are you? sent back

unable to get timber for construction methods

intentions would have been good, but in long run, prayers not answered

This is the point—when the Lord burdens you with broken people and places,

you begin to pray, you also should begin to plan, He has given you a mind

uses those plans to bring to fullness the answer to your prayers

just has He uses your words, He uses your plans and actions


Only been in the ministry for 9 years, three or four most significant conversations

sat down with paper and a pencil, laid before Lord,

what direction will this conversation take, what questions, objections,

what traps of the enemy do I need to avoid, prayers answered through plans

Talking to someone in another church—tell me about pastor’s sermons

How long are his sermons? Depends—sing or 45 minutes, Spirit moves

Though—If I did that, we’d be doing lots of singing and praying

Story not about prayer, but think it illustrates the point.

What preacher does not pray all week, especially Sat night and Sun morning

O Lord, be glorified in the worship service, may your people be blessed

will that prayer be answered with no planning?

Nehemiah’s trust not in his plans (will see that very clearly in next point).

but prayer and faith and careful planning are not opposed to each other

all honor the Lord. How reach a broken person without plans?

He answers prayers in His time, through your words, and through your plans.

MP#4 God answers prayer for those who see.

Vs. 8 “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted

my requests.”

My point is simply this—Nehemiah had a spiritual vision of life,

he was able to see God’s gracious hand, see God’s answers to prayer.

does not mean that Nehemiah had head in the clouds, out of touch with reality

a very realistic person—building techniques and 12-year plans

But at no time does he attribute any of his success to his plans

or to his speaking ability, or to chance or luck

he sees, with spiritual eyes, the gracious hand of God


This verse 8 explains why Nehemiah kept this memoir—

wants to give testimony to the gracious hand of His God

over and over again, answered prayer after answered prayer

you are going to see Nehemiah repeating this theme

he sees God at work, he thanks his God and gives Him praise


So many people approach the brokenness of life in a sinful world

with a whole list of plans, going to do this and this and fix this thing

Even Christians fall into this trap

burdened for a broken person, place

certainly pray for them, but say if only . . .

if will read this book, go to this conference, listen to this sermon,

join this accountability group, go to this church make things right

All of these things are good things, Lord uses them for good,

as we have seen, must plan, must think through

but how easy then to look too hard at these plans, these tools

And not see the gracious hand of our God

don’t see the gracious hand of God, won’t see many answered prayers

even when God does work, will miss it

Will seem like a small, insignificant thing, or will attribute it to something else.


70 years before Nehemiah—first company of Jews returned, Zerubbabel

went to rebuild the temple—laid foundations, ceremony

old people cried, because remembered past greatness, young cheered

Zechariah “do not despise the day of small beginnings.” Do you see God’s hand?

Broken person—conversation (answered prayer)

MP#5 God answers prayer for your present need.

Passage seems to end on a negative note, verse 10

When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this,

they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of

the Israelites.”

This verse is a foreshadowing of things to come—

these men become a thorn in Nehemiah’s side

because have and economic stake in keeping Jerusalem broken and defenseless

even though he has the king’s letters and charge, 800 miles away

these men try every trick to derail his work


But hope you see that this is not really a negative note but a positive one

because once more, in a totally different way

Nehemiah must throw himself upon the Lord, seek His grace

Answered prayer like God’s grace—can’t store it up, live off past experiences

can talk about them, enjoy the continual benefits

but new challenges are going to arise, can’t ever think—just answer this prayer

and my life will be smooth—not going to be smooth, no rest until heaven

but the Lord will answer your prayers for your present needs


Especially important for all of you who are burdened by brokenness

praying for broken people, relationships, places

when you receive an answer to prayer, a significant breakthrought

recognize that it is an answer to prayer for today’s needs,

gracious hand of God for today

tomorrow there may be new hurdles, even ones you never imagined

Know a fellow minister, he and his wife were called to adopt children

from another country who were in very desperate circumstances

lots of prayers, lots of amazing answers, Lord finally brought children to America

Guess what? Still praying—for new needs, some didn’t even know would face

still just as dependent upon God as they ever were


Martyn Lloyd-Jones, verse quoted often, essence of the Christian life

Luke 18:1 KJV “men ought always to pray and not to faint”

Remember that as you enjoy the answers to your prayers.



CONC: