Nehemiah mourns, fasts, and prays for the afflicted Jews in Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah’s request to temporarily return to Jerusalem to help his people rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem.
(See Nehemiah 1:1–11; 2:1–8.)
Elder Modesto M. Amistad Jr. wrote:
“Nehemiah was a Jew exiled with his people in Persia. Though he was born far away from his homeland, his heart yearned for Jerusalem. During the reign of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah knew that some of the Jews were already gathering back to the land of Judah [see Bible Dictionary, “Cyrus”], yet his position as cupbearer to the king required that he remain in Babylon.
“Nehemiah inquired about the welfare of the Jews in Jerusalem and was told that they were ‘in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire’ (Nehemiah 1:3). When Nehemiah heard this, he ‘sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven’ (Nehemiah 1:4). He so loved and wanted to help his people! What Nehemiah chose to do at that crucial time in his life provides us with an example of what we can do when our hearts are drawn out in prayer for the welfare of others.
“To help his people, Nehemiah knew he would have to make some drastic changes in his life and that he would need the permission and support of the king. One day as he appeared before the king with his food, he went with a sad countenance. The king noticed and asked why he was so unhappy. Nehemiah was fearful at first, but taking courage from a prayer of the heart, he asked the king for permission to temporarily journey to Jerusalem. He also asked for letters and soldiers to ensure his safe passage to Judah and for the materials he would need to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem. All this the king gladly granted, so Nehemiah gave up his comfortable position as the king’s cupbearer and set out to fulfill the true desires of his heart (see Nehemiah 2:1–8).”
(“Wanted: Modern Nehemiahs,” Ensign, Dec. 2002, 44.)