What do you do when you have to have a difficult conversation with someone? I have a pretty consistent process that I follow. It includes seeking advice and wisdom from others and even sometimes rehearsing the conversation with them as I try to find the right words. In addition to all of that, there’s a lot of time spent in prayer about the situation and the conversation.
Nehemiah had to have one of these conversations with King Artaxerxes, whom he served as cupbearer. Nehemiah heard distressing news from his homeland. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed and the people who had survived the exile were in great trouble and shame. (Nehemiah 1:3) Nehemiah responds to this urgent news with prayer and fasting:
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. Nehemiah 1:4
Nehemiah was cut to the heart by this news of Jerusalem and God’s People being in ruins. During his time in prayer, he realized that God alone could fix this situation. But he also realized that the people’s sin had led to this point. His prayer of confession is interesting:
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. Nehemiah 1:6-7
Nehemiah acknowledges not only his own sinfulness, but the sins of the nation that led to this point. As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, we also realize that sin has taken deep root in our country. With Nehemiah, we pray that God would draw not only us, but our entire nation, back to Him!