Daniel 9:19 “O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name.”
Listening is an important part of our relationship with God, and there is nothing more important for us than to listen to him speak to us in his word. One thing he promises us there is that he will always listen to us. The Lord is the best listener there is! And when Daniel speaks to him, Daniel shows that he has learned to speak the Lord’s language: to pray about the things that especially concern the Lord.
“O Lord, forgive!” Daniel pleads. Does anything strike you as strange about that request? Other than Jesus, Daniel is one of the few characters in the Bible about whom we never hear anything negative. He was about as upright and godly a man as this earth has known. And yet, when you read this prayer in its entirety, and here as he concludes it, Daniel begs for God’s forgiveness again and again. In fact, the majority of his prayer is made of confession of sin and pleas for forgiveness.
Do you see why this is such a basic part of our life of prayer? It has been said that we live for the forgiveness of sins. As believers in Jesus, our relationship with God is not based upon our obedience to him. If it were, we would all be in trouble. Our whole relationship with God is based upon his forgiveness of our sins. If Jesus had not given his life on the cross in payment for our every sin, we would have no access to God. It is only that sacrifice that makes our relationship with God possible. Based on that forgiveness alone are any of our prayers are ever heard. God does forgive every sin for Jesus’ sake. He promises to do so. And thus forgiveness is the doorway through which we pass to bring every other request we make in prayer.
“O Lord, hear and act!” Daniel asks. Daniel understood what gives prayer its power. The words we speak do not have mystical, magical power of their own. We aren’t witches casting a spell. Rather, prayer invites God himself to take up our cause and to solve our problems or provide what we need. Sometimes, the Lord has been waiting for just such an invitation, even though he may have intended to help us all along. He is waiting for us to remember how much we need him before he himself gets involved.
And nothing in which he gets involved gives him greater pleasure than that which affects his own name and reputation. “For your sake, O Lord my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name.” Daniel was an old man now. When the rest of his people returned to Jerusalem, he would not be making the trip. But since God had promised to bring his people home, and since God’s promise of a Savior relied upon God’s people getting back to the promised land, God’s own reputation was at stake. Daniel’s prayer wasn’t selfish. It was a prayer for the glory of God.
What do we pray about? We can pray about all our needs, but learning God’s language in prayer also involves learning to pray for God’s glory like Daniel did. In teaching us to pray this way, our heavenly Father is teaching us to better understand what it means to be members of his family. Then we will have something truly worth saying.