Listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! - Nehemiah 1:6
Men do not find it easy to say, “I was wrong,” and, “I’m sorry.” But we need to learn. Unless we admit culpability and offer apologies, our relationships will suffer.
Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer. Much more than a glorified wine steward, he was a member of the king’s inner circle, a trusted aide, a key man in the affairs of state. He was also a deeply spiritual man who knew how to pray to the God of heaven. When he heard about the sad state of affairs in far-off Jerusalem, Nehemiah made use of both channels (1:4; 2:1-8). The cultured man who knew how to present wine to an earthly king also knew how to to present prayers to the heavenly Lord, with dramatic effect.
Nehemiah’s prayer was deeply emotional, springing from a recognition that the situation in which God’s people found themselves was directly attributable to their own actions. No whining came from his lips, no questions sprang from his heart, no recriminations found their way into his thinking. God had said clearly and unmistakably that if his people obeyed they would be blessed, and if they disobeyed they would suffer the consequences. The mess they were in was simply the accumulation of consequences for which they were responsible. Nehemiah’s prayer reflected this insight.
Nehemiah confessed sin on behalf of the people as a whole. In itself, this could have been too vague, too fuzzy, too out-of-focus. True, the people had sinned collectively; but, as Nehemiah recognized, collective guilt is the sum total of individual guilt. Israel’s guilt included Nehemiah’s own guilt. Collective confession has its place—right alongside individual, personal confession. It is the logical response to individual guilt, not a convenient substitute for admission of personal culpability.
The same Lord who has promised that actions have consequences has also guaranteed that confession leads to forgiveness and that forgiveness is the pathway to restoration. Nehemiah knew this well. So his prayer, which was deeply confessional, was also quietly confident.
We men should be as eager to approach the Lord as we are to make business contacts, and as well-versed at presenting our heart concerns to God as we are at offering our products to potential customers. And like Nehemiah, we, too, should be ready to confess our sins, confident that God will hear and forgive. Then, when we present our requests, we can have confidence that God will hear us and answer.
For Further Study: Nehemiah 1:1-11
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