“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.”… O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”—Nehemiah 1:4-7;11
This is the prayer of Nehemiah before he left Babylon to return to Jerusalem to help rebuild the walls of the destroyed city. The remnant of the Jews who had survived the siege of the city were dispirited and living in great trouble and shame. They were constantly subject to attack from invaders who looted the city and kept the Jews in humiliation. As far as they were concerned, no one cared about them and they lost their testimony and impact.
All of this weighed on Nehemiah’s heart. He could have dismissed the plight of these Jews as their problem, not his. But he cared about the lives of his fellow Jews and the witness of God that was lost in the city. So he prayed for Jerusalem knowing that until the nation confessed their sins, they could not come to God for help. This prayer acknowledges not just the sins of the present nation but also the sins of their forefathers whose judgment led to the destruction of the city.
This week, let us adapt the prayer of Nehemiah to our own country, regardless of where we live. Let us repeatedly read this prayer before God as an indication of our own personal repentance and the need for our repentance as a nation. Yes, we should confess personal sin, but Nehemiah gives us an example of how we must also confess our national sins.
Let Us Pray
Father, today I pray for our nation. O God, we have sinned greatly; not just we, but our forefathers have turned from You. (At this point pray Nehemiah’s prayer adapting it to our country.)
In Jesus’ name, Amen.