We live in a society where taking responsibility for wrong actions is a thing of the past. It’s so much easier to blame others for the problems of life. Pointing the finger when things go wrong is so easy to do and keeps us from feeling the shame of wrong actions, inappropriate words, and negative attitudes.
The third aspect of praying involves a humbling of who we are, and a recognizing our inadequacies. Part III in how to pray is bolded below. “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:5-11 NIV
I always wondered about praying for the sins of the nation as Nehemiah does when he says, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed.” He includes himself as well as his father’s house. There is no finger pointing. There is no blame game taking place. No passing the buck. No hiding behind others who take the rap. Nehemiah took full responsibility for not obeying the commands of the God of the universe.
I point the finger at myself when I think of blaming our government for the problems they have caused in recent days and months. But when I look at Nehemiah’s prayer as he talked about Israel not obeying God’s commands, he included himself and his father and family in that action. Rather than blaming others or the government for not turning to God and his commands, I need to point the finger at myself for doing the same thing. I have disobeyed God’s commands so many times in my life, so I can truly see that Nehemiah needed to confess the same sins that his country had done.
On this journey, the humbling of ourselves as we confess our sins and the sins of our nation is essential in order for God to hear our prayers and to act. Without confession there can be no direction.