Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer. And since he was always busy serving the king, he had little contact with or news of his people in Israel. But one day he saw one of his brethren who had come with men from Judah, and he told him the bad news—that his people who were in Jerusalem were in great distress and that the walls of the city were broken down. Nehemiah was greatly disturbed over the news, and he sat down and wept and mourned for many days, fasting and praying before God.
And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6 please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ 10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Notice that in his prayer he asked God to be attentive to hear him pray day and night, and to notice that he was confessing all the sins of Israel (and he included himself among the sinners). He asked God to remember His covenant with Israel—that if they return to Him and keep His commandments He would gather them together and bring them home (to the land of Israel). Last, He prayed that God would make him prosper and grant him mercy. For his heart was to go and help the people rebuild the city walls and that the king would give him permission.
Well, as we will see in Nehemiah’s next prayer, the king did indeed grant him permission.