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 ESV)
We often want to see God move, but seldom ever are we willing to address the offenses that have caused our situation to begin with. We don’t mind confessing the sins of others to God. It is rare to see someone own their sin and even rarer for them to own the sin of someone else.
Here in his prayer Nehemiah not only addresses the reason for Jerusalem’s wall-less situation (Israel’s sin). He confesses that it is his sin too. He wasn’t alive when all of this took place so he actually owns the sin of his ancestors. They are most likely dead and gone so he brings a petition before God confessing their sin and his sin. The wall is in ruins because that was a prophesied outcome for a nation who rejected their God by rejecting His commands.
This is where revival begins! When religious people care more about the character and nature of God than they do about what others think. They confess their sins and they confess the sins of their ancestors. The illusion of control is totally removed from Nehemiah’s hands. He confesses that he is not in a position to make bargains with God, manipulate God or even compel God to act. He throws himself on a part of God’s character he knows to be true from the scriptures (as we will find out). He throws himself on mercy. It is only by God’s mercy that these sins would be forgiven and the wall restored.
We are good at pointing to the poorer communities and slums or those riddled with crime saying, “They need revival!” It is easy to look off and say, “They need revival!” Nehemiah didn’t do that here. He offers his prayer from perhaps the nicest section of Susa, a city with walls. Before revival would come and a wall would be rebuilt in Jerusalem, revival had to come in Nehemiah’s heart in Susa. Perhaps our desire to see others repent and turn to God is often a deflection from the issues that need to be addressed in our heart rather than a reflection of our heart. We should be primarily concerned that God should be honored and obeyed in our house! When real revival comes to our house, perhaps it will also come to the city.
Take a moment to confess your sins and the sins of the people around you. Be specific, don’t hold back or be general. What is it that is happening in our city right now that you know displeases God?
As I have studied more modern movements of Revival there seems to be a reoccurring theme of genuine repentance and confession of sin. I confess that too often pride has held me back from following the Spirit’s guidance in confessing my sin before God and others. Too often I have cared too much about what other people would think of me. But if we would really see God move, we must acknowledge and address the issues that are in the way, including our pride. We must own our part and perhaps even the sins of those before us in order to see real restoration and revival.
 I think at this point that it is fair to note that confessing the sins of your ancestors is necessary before holy God. Even if you are not guilty of such sins, you have an opportunity to distance yourself from sinful behavior and acknowledge before God that though you come from such stock, you desire something greater for you and your generation.