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. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Nehemiah 1:6-7 (NKJV)
In my mind this is one of the most interesting parts of Nehemiah’s prayer. Notice that Nehemiah begins to confess the sins of the people that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice what he does as he confesses. He not only confesses that the people had sinned and brought this about. He also goes on to say that both he and his father’s house had sinned.
From what I’ve read Jerusalem was destroyed over 140 years before Nehemiah was praying this prayer. Nehemiah’s grandfather probably wasn’t alive when the city was destroyed. Nehemiah had no more to do with the destruction of Jerusalem than you or I had with the assassination of President Lincoln. Yet he confesses not only for the people but also for himself. Why did he do this?
Nehemiah gives us the answer to this. He confesses that both he and his father’s house had acted corruptly and hadn’t kept the commandments that God had given to Moses. Nehemiah wasn’t confessing to things he hadn’t done. Nehemiah was confessing to the fact that in his life he hadn’t fully kept the commandments of God. Even though he wasn’t one of the ones who brought about the destruction of Jerusalem he had done the same things that they did and was a part of the continued problem.
This, I believe, will be the hardest point for us to accept. Here’s why. We have to confess that we are part of the problem. There may be all kinds of external issues that are causing some of the problems we are experiencing but if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, there is some part where we are also responsible for what is going on. This is why I say this will be the hardest point to accept. This hits us in a very personal way and we don’t like it.
Before change will happen there must be confession. This can’t be a generic confession of, “God we haven’t really done what we should.” This can’t even be a generic confession like, “God I haven’t really done what I should.” Nehemiah was specific about the ways he had contributed to the problems and we must be as well.
One of the most famous verses on prayer in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14
“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV)
God calls on us to humble ourselves when we are seeking Him for revival and/or change. It will require humility to admit and confess our part in the problem. It’s easy for me to confess your part. I’m sure you know that it’s easy for you to confess my part. It gets much harder when we are told to confess our parts. This will require the humility to accept full responsibility for our part in the problem. If we truly want to see change we must be humble enough to confess our part in the problem. Until we do we are simply contributing to the problem.