Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.Hopefully, a theme is catching on in the mind of my readers who may have been skeptical that perhaps the previous examples were isolated cases.
As for the prayer that was used, we do not know exactly what was prayed in the prayer mentioned in Nehemiah 9. Nevertheless, we can see an example of the sort of prayer that may have been used in Nehemiah's own prayer.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.In this example, it is not explicit that Nehemiah is confessing his fathers' sins, since he could simply mean those of his siblings with the expression "Father's house." Nevertheless, given the other example above, it seems reasonable to suppose that Nehemiah is also including his ancestors.
And they said unto me, "The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire."
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
And said,I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.For I was the king's cupbearer.
Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, "If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there." Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.
Perhaps it is useful at this point to observe that Nehemiah is praying about his ancestor's sins, but for himself - not for them. It is too late for them. They have already passed on - either unto glory or dishonor. These prayers are prayers for the living, even if they are sometimes about the dead.
(to be continued)