Then I 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 towards 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.” 10 ‘They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 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 favour in the presence of this man.’I was cupbearer to the king.NIV

Nehemiah recognised that the people of Israel were suffering the negative consequences of their sins. But he stands in the tradition of the great Biblical intercessors by confessing not only his own sins, and those of his family, but also the guilt of the entire nation. Was Nehemiah personally responsible for all these many other offences against God? Certainly not. But he had a sense of solidarity, of identification with his people. He confessed their sins as if his own.

The sins of our nation against God (and one another) are many and grievous. I regularly pray that God will ‘’heal’’ our land, and the many lands afflicted by the coronavirus (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). But I absolutely believe that I have a responsibility to sit with Nehemiah and confess not only my own sins, but the sins of my land.

PRAYER: ‘Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.’