…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 ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
Daniel’s prayer begins with the confession of sin. But the remarkable thing is that this man, according to the record, has no sin charged against him. Never once in Scripture are we told that Daniel did anything wrong. Now, I am sure he did wrong things. Certainly, sin must have appeared in his life, because Scripture tells us that no man is without sin, but the record does not give us any account of it. But in specific ways Daniel confesses his own sin and the sin of his people: He says, We have sinned; we have been wicked; we have turned away; we have not listened.
This is pointing to something that is often missing from our own prayers. How many times do we include in them a heartfelt, honest confession of sin? There is nothing harder for us to do than to admit we were wrong, yet to do so is an honest and realistic thing. God does not ask us to confess our sins because he is trying to humiliate us or punish us. Rather, he asks us to do so because we kid ourselves, we are dishonest about ourselves, we are unrealistic about our own lives, and he is an ultimate realist. God always deals with things exactly the way they really are, and he says there is no way we can be helped unless we begin to do the same thing. He asks us, therefore, to start by acknowledging the areas where we have done wrong.
That is why we have the Scriptures. God’s Word is like a mirror. Many of us, however, tend to ignore the Scriptures because we know this is true. If you look into the Word of God, into the mirror of the Word, soon you see exactly what you look like, and it is not always pleasant. Other people too are given to us for that reason. Since we cannot see ourselves the way we are, God graciously puts somebody into our life to help us see ourselves. This is why it is so foolish to resist what others are saying to you. If one person says something unpleasant to you, you may be able to dismiss that as coming from a twisted point of view, and you may be right. But, when a half dozen people tell you the same thing, you had better start listening, because they are telling you something that is true that you cannot see. Until you begin to see yourself realistically, you are living in a fantasy world, messing up everything you touch, because you do not see reality, you do not see what is really there. The most helpful thing we can do in our prayer life, therefore, is to take a moment at the beginning of our prayer to face what the Word of God tells us is wrong in our lives — our lovelessness, our sharpness, our caustic attitudes, our tendency to defend ourselves and put down others. This is where Daniel begins. All this is summed up in one great word found many times in Scripture, the word, repent. When we repent we begin to set things right in our life; we begin to deal honestly with ourselves and with others.
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Father, I confess my sin to you. Thank you for the Word of God and the people you have placed in my life to me a mirror. Help me to listen and come to you in genuine repentance and faith.
What is an essential dimension in our prayers we may be avoiding? How do we respond when we are accurately confronted by others and by the Word with un-confessed sin? How does this prideful avoidance affect both our prayers and communication with others?