Shortly after Babylon fell to the Persians, Daniel remembered the words of Jeremiah saying that the exile of the Israelites would last 70 years. With the 70 years up, it caused Daniel to hit his knees. The interesting thing to me in this passage is that of all the Israelites, Daniel had the least to repent of. And yet he prayed for his people and did not in any way separate himself from them as he did so. Instead he counted himself among the sinners that needed God’s grace.
But in praying this prayer, I think Daniel gives us a model of how we should pray when our lives have been shattered by sin.
First, without excuse or any mincing of words, he plainly and openly confessed the sins of the people, saying,
We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (5-6)
Second, he places the reasons for their exile solely on themselves, not on God, saying,
All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. (11-12)
Third, he confesses that God is the one who is righteous, not the Israelites. He confessed,
For the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. (14)
He then asked for forgiveness, not based on their righteous acts, but upon God’s mercy.
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! (18-19)
So often, when our lives are shattered by sin, we try to put the blame on anyone but ourselves. Sometimes, we even try to blame God for our problems. We try to make God out to be unfair for letting our lives fall apart. And even when we’re forced to admit we were wrong, we try to justify ourselves.
But as long as we hold those attitudes, we will never know God’s forgiveness, and our lives will remain shattered. All we will be left with is the bitterness of a broken life.
If we truly desire forgiveness and healing in our lives, we need to pray as Daniel did. No excuses. No mincing of words. Just simply saying to God, “I’ve sinned. I was wrong.”
We need to admit that the reason that our lives are a mess is not because God is being unfair to us, but is rather a result of our own sin.
We need to confess that God is righteous in all his judgments, and that we were the ones who were wrong.
And then, based on God’s mercy and his mercy alone, we should ask for forgiveness. None of us deserve God’s forgiveness. None of us can earn his mercy. All we can do is humbly ask.
When we do so, God will reach down, as he did with the Israelites, forgive our sins, and make us whole.
How about you? Is your life shattered by sin? Have you been putting the blame on God? Have you been putting the blame on others? It’s time to own up. It’s time to truly confess. For only in doing so can we find true forgiveness and healing.