When I heard this news, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said: “Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you are the one who keeps covenant and is truly faithful to those who love you and keep your commandments. Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant, which I now pray before you night and day for your servants, the people of Israel. “I confess the sins of the people of Israel, which we have committed against you. Both I and my family have sinned. We have wronged you greatly. We haven’t kept the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.
When Nehemiah hears the news that the walls of Jerusalem have fallen, he is overcome with emotion. We see in this passage that he goes before God in a way that is raw and uninhibited. He is devastated about the destruction, but it’s also important to note that he is taking responsibility. This is because the Jewish people saw the city’s destruction as a result of their collective sin. It was common at this time for all ancient Middle East religions, including the Jewish authors of Nehemiah, to attribute national events to deities. Although we know, from who God reveals himself to be in Jesus, that God most likely did not punish the Jews by destroying Jerusalem, this is how they perceived it at the time. So, in the face of crisis, Nehemiah turns to God and repents, which literally means to turn around or start again, on behalf of his people.
Think of a difficult situation in your life. What would it look like to be raw and uninhibited as you pray about it? Are you holding onto emotions that God wants you to release to Him? What would repentance or surrender sound like for you?