“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” Ezra 9.6
This is not just a ‘normal’ prayer of confession. Something about the way the people were living had just been brought to Ezra’a attention and although it wasn’t anything that he had been involved in himself, he was so moved that he lifted up his voice to God and examined his own heart too. Ezra didn’t see sin and accuse others of being sinners – he included himself in the sin.
When people fall, or when situations go wrong, it is very easy for us to apportion blame on others; saying, “They shouldn’t have done that” or “If only ‘they’ had listened . . .” A very honest way of praying for others who may have got themselves into difficulty is to acknowledge that within ourselves are the same things that have caused problems for them. This may involve admitting before God that we too have moments of greed, a tendency to lash out in anger, or whatever it is that has caused the problem.
Someone once said that Christianity was about one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread, and there is something wonderfully true in this. As you come across people today who may be in difficult situations because of their own actions, take a moment to pause and search your own heart. Do you detect these same tendencies within you? God certainly won’t punish you for your honesty, but he will respond to the open door of your vulnerability.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission