It takes a great love to identify with someone else, to be in touch with who they are and how they feel. But even greater is the one who identifies with the sins and weakness of someone and is willing to cry out to God on their behalf.
Jesus is the ultimate example of this as He became one with us, identifying with us in our weakness and even taking on our sin so that He could redeem us. While we don’t take on the sin of others (only Jesus could), He does call us at times to express His love by identifying with them and repenting corporately. Two Biblical examples of this are Nehemiah and Daniel.
The first chapter of Nehemiah records Nehemiah’s response when he hears that Jerusalem is in ruins and the survivors are distressed. Nehemiah wept many days and fasted and prayed. In his prayer, he cries out to God to hear him and confesses: “…we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You….” (Neh 1:6,7). To the best of our knowledge, Nehemiah was a great man of God! But he chose to humbly identify with the Jewish people, confessing their sins as his own and calling out for God’s mercy. Because of his prayer, God was able to do mighty things in building the walls around Jerusalem and bringing righteousness and courage to the Jews.
Daniel prayed a similar prayer when he realized it was time for Jeremiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled and for the Jews to return to Jerusalem. He also fasted and prayed saying, “We have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts…” And further on “…We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercy.” Daniel understood rightly that we all have sinned and whether they are great deeds of rebellion or one minor infraction – we are all guilty. Although he is an amazing example of faith in God through all seasons and could claim his own rights, he chose to go low, humbly identifying with all the people and repenting before the Lord. Again, God was able to move mightily because of Daniel’s prayers.
Is God calling you to repent on behalf of your city, state or nation? Can you identify with the prostitute, the drug addict or the murderer? All sin counts and, before God, we are no better than they. We all need mercy. It is a great act of love and humility to cry out to God for our generation, to identify with those who don’t even know their need, so that God can move on their behalf because of our prayers.
As in the days of Nehemiah and Daniel, God has great plans for our city and region. He is looking for those who will humble themselves in identificational repentance. Who is He calling you to identify with in this season?