Confession in Prayer

Confession in Prayer

(I skipped all the material in red to cut down on the length.)

> Our senior minister Greg Nance is away this weekend.  A large number of our families are at family camp.  My name is Brent Clark.  I am one of the deacons here at Sig Mtn and ‘ll be filling in today.

Happy Father’s Day to all of our dads out there.  I know we live in a fallen world and many things are not as they should be, but …

> If you have had a father who provided & protected & instructed you, who loved your mother; can we really grasp how we have been helped by that?  You continue to learn the rest of your life what a blessing it was.

> If you have been blessed to be a father you know what a responsibility and joy that is.

> Fatherhood is of God.  God made us male and female.  He ordained marriage and formed the family.  The role of father is one that should teach us something about how our Heavenly Father relates to us.  And that makes it a sacred role.

> We have been studying prayer, looking at the different elements of prayer – praise and thanksgiving so far, intercession and  supplication to come, today we will be considering confession in prayer.

> Have you ever had someone who only talked to you when they wanted something?  You know when they approach you they want something.  I have been on both sides of that experience.  I have felt that way and I have been guilty of doing that to others, unfortunately.

> How do you feel about the one who only uses you for help?  You may not dislike the person, but you probably don’t feel close to them if your interactions aren’t any richer or more personal.  You may be frustrated if you would like for there to be more of a relationship between you.

> When our communication becomes predictable or one-dimensional, the relationship suffers.

> With our children, we can get to where we only tell them what to do and correct them when they mess up.  Direction and correction are necessary, but if our communication doesn’t include more than that, we will discourage and provoke them.  They need more than that from us.

> In our relationship with God, if we are not careful we can get to where we only ask for things.  Asking things of God in prayer is not wrong at all.  But we are missing out and our relationship could be much richer if our communication was more well-rounded.

> If you return tonight at 5 pm we are having a focused prayer session as part of our summer series – a chance to strengthen church family relationships by praying with and for each other.

> Acts 2:42 says the early church was devoted to prayer.  Will our congregation be one that just talks about prayer from time to time or one that people can see is devoted to prayer?

** Prayer is communion with and enjoyment of God as our Heavenly Father – speaking of Father’s Day. 

** If we seldom pray, that is a red flag.  There is a problem most likely in our relationship with God if we seldom see the need or feel the desire to pray.

> Our main text this morning will be Nehemiah 9.  So many other great passages on confession in prayer we could have chosen. (Psa 32, 51, Ezra 9, and Dan 9)

What is confession?

> Probably the first thing we think of is admitting we have done wrong.  But we use the term more broadly than that.  We speak of confessing our faith.  Jesus said Whosoever will confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father in heaven, Matt 10:32.

** To confess is to say or acknowledge what we know to be true about something – ourselves, God, etc.

> The Hebrew word “yadah” that is translated “confess” is often translated “praise” or “give thanks”, so there is some overlap in these ideas as we will see in a moment.

> The Greek word for confess means literally “to speak the same thing”, to agree with.  When we agree with what God says, God Who cannot lie and Whose word is truth, we are saying the truth as well.

Why do we need to confess?   

> Confession plays a vital role in our walk with God.  This could be a lesson of its own.

1 Jn 1:5-9

1Jn 1:5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 

1Jn 1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 

1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

1Jn 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

> Confession is part of walking in the light that allows us to have fellowship with God.  Openness before God enables our forgiveness and also enables our fellowship

> You don’t need any additional verses to prove the vital role of confession, but …

Psa 32:2-6

Psa 32:2  Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 

Psa 32:3  For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 

Psa 32:4  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 

Psa 32:5  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah 

Psa 32:6  Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him. 

> Unrepented, unconfessed sin is a burden on a child of God that makes us miserable.  Confession brings relief and begins the healing process.

Read Neh 9:1-5a

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God.And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”

> In chapter 8 the feast of booths had finished on the 22nd day of the 7th month. (Lev 23:34; Deut 16:13, 16) This is 2 days later, it seems those who stayed are doing so voluntarily.

> In Neh 8 the people wept at the reading of the law, but were forbidden by their leaders to give full expression to their grief on a festive day that was designed to express gladness.

** But we can see by their gathering here and what follows in chapter 10 that they intended to act on the convictions that the reading of God’s law had stirred in their hearts.


** This prayer of confession flowed out of the extended reading of God’s Word (9:3; 8:1-10).  We will be more likely to confess when we are in God’s word more.

** Let’s listen to the words of this prayer that has been preserved for our learning and let these words inform our own prayers.  Much of this lesson will be just listening to God’s word.

Read Neh 9:5b-6 

 “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

** This is a wise and appropriate focus with which to begin any prayer.

** It is good for us to remind ourselves of the power and supremacy or our God, especially if we are struggling with doubt as we pray.

> Remember Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of the Lord?

Isa 6:1  In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  2  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  4  And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 

5  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 

> The more clearly we see Who God is, the more clearly we see ourselves.  We never truly understand who we are without some knowledge of God.  Our sin and pride will blind us to our true condition.

Read Neh 9:7-8 

“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

> God and His goodness is the focal point of this chapter.  The word “you” is used some 57 times in the ESV.  Those praying will go into great detail listing what God has done for His people.

> God’s goodness is confessed in His forming of the nation.  He sovereignly chose Abram, as the heart Searcher, and made promises to him, which the Lord kept.

** This is something we should do – review God’s blessings and deliverances in our own history. Can we not look back at our own lives and see many instances where things could have gone very differently for us were it not for the grace of God?  Should we not be sharing our own experiences with God and the lessons He has taught us with others?

Read Neh 9:9-12  

“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

> See the aspects of God’s greatness and goodness that are confessed here:

> His compassion – He sees their affliction and hears their cries.

> His deliverance or redemption – this is their national redemption story – delivered from bondage. 

> His judgment on those who acted arrogantly against them. 

> His continual guidance/presence by day and night.

> This is not a god who is detached and unaware.

** Still no confession of sin up to this point, yet all these statements are confessions of God’s goodness which will put their sins of rebellion and idolatry in the proper light.

Read Neh 9:13-15 

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

> God has been the Founder of their nation, the Deliverer of their nation, and the Guide of their nation.

> God’s revelation, His law is another token of His goodness, it is described as just, right, good, holy.

** This kind of acquaintance with the only true and living God is an indescribable blessing given to their nation alone.  No other nation or people group has this incredible privilege.  Who should be entrusted with the very oracle of God?  The mightiest nation?  Most numerous?  Most renowned for wisdom and learning?  Israel was none of those. 

Read Neh 9:16-21 

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

> The language of vs 16-17 is very strong.  It does not diminish or sugar-coat Israel’s sin.  It was deliberate, willful rebellion.

> Such rebellion is ridiculous given all goodness shown to them.  And we can only marvel at God for the way He treats people who show nothing but contempt for Him.  He did not abandon them.  They received the same grace and guidance and provision as before.

> The second half of 9:17 sounds an awful lot like Ex 34:6!

> Those who are praying use the language and imagery from scripture in their prayer.  That’s a great example for us to follow as well.

** God’s goodness and His love are tenacious!  They cling to us.  We tend to think of God too much like us.  We don’t think God could love someone who has done the things we have done, but that just shows we don’t know who God is.

Read Neh 9:22-25 

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihonking of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their parents to enter and possess. 24 Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

> All this provision in the face of their disobedience reminds us: God’s gifts are no sign of our righteousness.  These people lacked nothing though they appreciated nothing.

> They “revelled” in God’s great goodness 9:25. This Hebrew word is used only here and according to Strong’s it means to live voluptuously – luxuriously.

** Surely people who are so blessed are the most thankful you will ever find, right?  Their attachment to God should be so strong you couldn’t pry them away from God with a crowbar since they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, right?

Neh 9:26-31  (I am not trying to drum up eye glass business with these slides 😊

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

> Vs 26 they killed your prophets.  They do not even want to hear a warning or a dissenting viewpoint.

> They turned their backs on God’s law.  None of His previous blessings move them.  When oppressed they would cry out to God, but when they had rest they resumed their evil ways. 

> This cycle of infidelity was repeated over and over without them ever seeming to learn from them.

> The previous section said you rebelled but God still provided.  This section says you continued to rebel, but God allows you to exist. God gave them up, but He did not finish them off.

** What a record of Israel’s sins…but what a greater record of God’s tenacious love allowing new beginnings. Aren’t we glad God delivers us time after time and is patient with us for many years!

> God is good even when He chastens and corrects.  It is not pleasant at the time to be sure, but   

Heb 12:6 says The Lord disciplines the one he loves.  God loves even when His love is not returned.

Neh 9:32-38

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.

38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”

> They confess God’s righteous dealing with them.  No excuses are offered.  They are reaping what they have sown.

> 9:33 is a great summary of the entire prayer.

** There is not an obvious request, other than in 9:32, but there is an implied request perhaps.    

** It is as if they are asking, Have your great mercies and compassion ceased?  Will you now forsake those you have refused to forsake for so long?  (They already know the answer.)

** This is a moving scene.  They are few in number.  Jerusalem is barely habitable still, a shell of the city it once was.  They are surrounded by enemies, enslaved, feeble.

** And yet there is hope.  God’s mercy and faithfulness has not ended.  They know the only way forward is to go back in humble submission to God’s law.  A humble and contrite heart He will not despise.

Conclusion:

** We might be tempted to think, how could the Jews be so ungrateful and hardhearted?

** But can we not look at Israel’s history with God and see something very much like our own personal history with God?  Have we not had many cycles of sin and repentance?  Have we not been abundantly blessed in spite of our spiritual apathy and even rebellion at times?

** This is more than a confession of Israel’s history.  It is the history of all sinful men with a Holy God. 

** Nehemiah 9 is an excellent pattern: combining confession of sin with confession of God’s goodness.

** Since God’s goodness only magnifies our wickedness, you would think it would discourage open admission of our sin, but the truth is the exact opposite.

** God’s mercy and tenacious goodness invite us to confess our sin to Him.  We will certainly find forgiveness with Him.  Rom 2:4 says the goodness of God leads us to repentance.

** Why would we not confess our sins, our fears, our weaknesses, our failures to our Heaven Father?  All things are naked and open before His eyes.  Why would we think we could hide from Him, or that it would be desirable to do so? 

** He is the great physician, let us not hide our disease from the only One who can heal us.

> Is anyone here this morning in distress and desiring the prayers of the church?  Maybe there is someone here who is ready to obey the gospel?  If you have a need we can help with, please come forward as we stand and sing.