“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 sin 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 os this your servant and to the prayer of our servants who delight in revering your name.” – Nehemiah 1:5-11a
A Thought for the Day
Apologising can be very difficult. The heart of an apology is taking responsibility for our mistakes and the impact that they have had on others. We may want to lessen the humiliation by justifying our choice through explaining why we did what we did, or by avoiding actually owning our mistake by speaking in vague terms clouded by “if”s. Either of these choices, often done in self-preservation, reduce the likelihood of the apology leading to a restoration of relationships. A true and meaningful apology names the mistake and acknowledges its wrongness without mitigation. It also starts, rather than finishes, at “sorry”; seeking to correct the mistake that has been made, if at all possible, beginning with listening to the person that has been wronged and how they want to proceed.
Apologies are hard, even when we know we were in the wrong. Which is why Nehemiah’s apology to God is incredible. In all likelihood, Nehemiah hasn’t participated in the sinful choices he says sorry to God for. Yet he still chooses to identify with those that did and say sorry specifically and without mitigation. There is something deeply holy, deeply set-apart, about those actions and words.
The actions of Christians, or even just those that carry the name of Christianity, have a huge impact on the validity of its message to those that see themselves as outside of Christianity and its faith. As a Christian, what have your people done that has diminished the authority and power of their witness? Take a moment to listen to God’s heart and repent, on behalf of all Christians, as if you yourself have done these things. Ask God what you can do to make things right. Be a part of things changing.
Here is a list of things you may want to prayerfully consider apologising to God for on behalf of the church, including yourself and your family (feel free to make your own list):
- Racism. Systemic and institutionalised, inherited and chosen, individual and cultural, and any other form that it takes.
- Misogyny. As above in all its forms, including (but not limited to) toxic masculinity and patriarchy whitewashed as Biblical doctrines and values.
- Abuse. By nations and ministers and Sunday school teachers and husbands claiming to be the will of God in their household; and anyone else who uses their power to hurt others. In all its forms; verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, neglect, gaslighting, coercion, manipulation, etc.
- Exclusivity. The belief that all of us are in and all of them are out. That we are completely right and they are completely wrong. The diminishment of the character of God through the propagation of beliefs that anyone is ever excluded or separated from God and his presence, love, and mercy.
- Selfishness. In how we spend our money, use our influence, model our churches, fill our diaries, etc.
- Poor theology. For placing tradition above Scripture, carrying our beliefs with arrogance instead of humility, refusing to take the place of a student and the posture of listening to those around us.
- Idolatry. Worshipping politicians and pastors and authors over Jesus. Worshipping traditions and beliefs over Jesus. Worshipping our need to be right over Jesus. Worshipping the opinion of others over Jesus.
You may well sense the Holy Spirit lay other things on your heart as you listen. If you do, feel free to go with those.
Praying for your Five:
“Heavenly Father, I am so sorry for [say the things strongest on your heart]. In the name of Jesus Christ, please forgive me. Forgive us. Allow your forgiveness to transform me and our church so thoroughly that its witness would powerfully transform the perspective and reality of [say the names of your five]. As they join our church, may they each be people who help us to be a community that more accurately reflects you and who you are, a temple worthy of the name of Jesus Christ. Amen”
Praying Something Old
Since the destruction of the Temple, Jews have prayed the “Ashamnu” at Yom Kippur as a way of collectively confessing. You could make it your prayer of confession today, because of Jesus:
we are cruel,
we are unkind,
we are violent,
we are wicked,
we are extremists,
we yearn to do evil,
we are zealous for bad causes.”
Praying Something New In English, the word “confess” is translated from the Greek word “homologeo”. This word literally means for a group of people to declare something together. In other words, confession is about gathering with others and agreeing about the things that are destroying us. Today, gather a few friends on Zoom or in a park and confess. Share together what is destroying you in this moment, what is destroying the church, what is destroying our communities. Share, and trust that God will be faithful and just to forgive, to release us from its grasp.