Confession and Worship in Public Prayer

Chapter 16

Theme: Confession and Worship in Public Prayer
Focus on: The Levites
Reading Portion(s): Nehemiah 9
– Important Background Information
– Helps you find strength in God
What this article teaches you
Confession of sin is vitally important in prayer. It is more so when a group or a Church has long neglected God. Individual confession alone will not help restore them back to God’s favor. The group together should acknowledge their shortcomings and a public confession made.

This can happen only when the group earnestly seeks God to worship Him. It is here that confession of sin becomes most important. For there can be no true worship unless sin is confessed and done away with. Confession should also involve recalling God’s goodness and faithfulness towards you. It is in the light of this that our failures have to be compared with. Then only will we enjoy true freedom to worship God.

The Israelites were gathered together in unison to seek God with all their hearts. They were fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. This particular group of Israelites were people who had returned from exile and captivity by the orders of the Persian king. Nehemiah was their leader at this point of time. God had given him the unique task of rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. This particular gathering that we read of occurred after the completion of the wall.

We find here a nation that was totally ruined by the invading kings. All this had happened because of the disobedience of the people to God’s commands. Now they were having a restoration under the leadership of Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the priest. We see them gathered together in public. They are earnestly seeking God.

The people who had gathered had separated themselves from all foreigners. This tells us that as a group of people worshipping the Lord we have to lay aside any foreign thing that God does not want us to associate with. Only after this is done can we unite together as a group to seek God.

The people also read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day. This is crucial in public worship. Public reading and listening to the word of God is a must in the process of seeking God together as a group. It will help us to realize our shortcomings and confess them in prayer. The public reading of God’s word and listening to it with diligent hearts is a must preparation for the worship that follows.

In the actual worship in this gathering we find a group of Levites leading the worship. They stand on the stairs and with loud voices called to God. They showed by example how to pray. Then they called upon the people to stand up and praise the Lord their God.

In the short session of praise at the beginning of this great prayer we find the people blessing the glorious name of the Lord which is exalted above all blessing and praise. God is praised as the great Creator of all living and non-living things in the heavens, earth and the seas. He is praised as the originator of life and as the One whom the multitudes of heaven worship.

This teaches us that God is to be worshipped because He is worthy of our worship. He is the Creator. He is the One who gives life. He is the one who is worshipped by heavenly beings. His name is above all blessing and praise. Therefore let us with reverent hearts approach God in humble worship.

The rest of this big prayer recorded is devoted to confession of sin. It begins by recalling God’s promise to Abraham. They praise God for keeping His promise because of His righteousness. They then thank God for the miraculous deliverance given to the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians and leading them out of that land. They confess the fact that God had given them good and right laws through Moses. They also say that God satisfied their hunger and thirst and provided for their every need.

They confess that in spite of all this they disobeyed God; rebelled against Him and even committed idolatry. Yet because God is a forgiving and compassionate God, they confess that He did not forsake them but continued to guide them by giving them His Spirit to instruct them. And by giving them manna God sustained them forty years in the desert.

God gave them kingdoms as their possession. Yet they rebelled again and were disobedient. So God handed them over to their enemies. Yet He heard their cry and delivered them. But as soon as they got rest they rebelled again. This cycle was repeated time and again. God gave them prophets through whom the Spirit of God admonished them. Yet no one paid attention. Still in His great mercy God did not fully disown them or abandon them. This was their great public confession of sin.


This is a pattern of confession that we can learn. First of all let us recall how we came to know God. Let us confess the fact that God had delivered us from our sins. Let us say how God has given us His word. Let us say how He has satisfied our every need. Let us confess the fact that we have disobeyed. Let us confess that we placed other gods in our hearts and worshipped them. Let us confess that in spite of all this God gave His Spirit to guide us. Let us confess that He sustained us even in our wilderness wandering of unbelief and rebellion against Him.


Let us confess that God gave us great victories. Let us confess that we disregarded His righteous commands when we were made comfortable by the victories He had given us. Let us confess that we used the rest He gave us for unholy purposes and sinful deeds. Let us confess that we returned to God in our misery only to return again to sin when He delivered us. Finally, let us confess the fact that God has not yet abandoned us in spite of all this.

In the concluding moments of their confession they tell God that He had acted faithfully in all that had happened to them. They acknowledge that they had done wrong. But they still ask God to look upon their hardship and not neglect them in this hour of their need. They ask this because He is a God who keeps His covenant of love.

They confess that their kings, leaders, priests and their fathers did not follow God’s law. Here we find that all groups of people of the Israelites were corrupted. The political leadership, the social leadership, the religious leadership and the family leadership had all been entirely corrupted by disobedience and rebellion. Their greatest sin was that they did not turn to God even when they were enjoying His great goodness in the spacious and fertile land given to them.

The people finally confess the great tragedy that they were encountering then: They were slaves in their own land! Shall we ask ourselves this question. Are we truly free? Or do we choose to be slaves to sin by desiring to return to the slavery of sin like the Israelites who appointed a leader to return to slavery? Therefore to be truly free, seek God with much repentance, humbling, fasting, reading of God’s word and prayer. Make an agreement with God, as the Israelites did after the prayer, to practically do everything possible to turn to Him with all your heart.