Read: Nehemiah 1
We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. (v. 7)
There are at least six prayers of Nehemiah in the book that carries his name. Nehemiah knew how to pray, and he prayed fervently and often. When some of the Jews were allowed to escape captivity and return home following Persia’s conquest of Babylon, Nehemiah remained in service to the Persian emperor. He anxiously asked a friend who had visited Jerusalem about the fate of the community there. The news was bad, and so Nehemiah turned to God in a heartfelt prayer of confession. He was sure that his people were still suffering because of their collective unfaithfulness. “Both I and my family have sinned,” he confessed.
When bad things happen to us, it is not necessarily a direct consequence of our own sin. We learn that decisively from the book of Job. But it is wise for us to reflect on our own lives, behavior, and attitudes. When Nehemiah did this, he discovered much that was wrong about himself as well as his people. The problems in his nation weren’t just “out there,” the problems came from inside. Nehemiah’s prayer of confession is an honest acknowledgment of this, and a plea that God will not forget faithful promises. —Leanne VanDyk
Prayer: When we suffer, help us to turn to you, O God. Hear and restore us when we confess our sins to you. Amen.
About the Author
Leanne Van Dyk is a Reformed theologian and theological educator. She has focused much of her work on atonement theology and the development of theological education. She is the tenth president of Columbia Theological Seminary.