Reading the newspaper headlines over the course of one week leads one to pray two distinct prayers—“Lord, send justice!” and “Lord, have mercy!” Both are desperately needed in today’s world. These twin requests are contained in Daniel’s prayer for Jerusalem in Daniel 9:1-19.
If the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13 is the New Testament model for prayer, then Daniel 9:1-19 is the Old Testament model for prayer, so writes one author. I tend to agree with that assessment. I also believe that these verses in Daniel 9 provide a model for how to pray for a city, a state, and a nation. In my case, it gives me ideas how to pray for where I live in the USA, the state of Massachusetts, and Chicopee in the Pioneer Valley.
Verses 1-3 explain what prompted Daniel prayer. He understood the Scriptures and the time in which he lived. Together, they moved him to pray for his hometown, Jerusalem.
As Daniel read the scrolls of Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-14; 29:10-14), he discovered that the exile was to last 70 years. Comparing today’s date (Daniel 9:1; 538 B. C.) with the date he came to Babylon (Daniel 1:1; 606 B. C.), he realizes he has been in exile for 68 years.
The exile is almost over! But it won’t end until God’s people repent and turn back to God. That realization prompts him to seek God through fasting and prayer.
Daniel’s prayer (Daniel (9:4-19) consisted of three elements—Adoration (4), Confession (5-15), and Petition (16-19).
In his adoration, he praised God for being great and awesome, for being trustworthy, and for demonstrating unconditional love. The more he focused on God’s majesty, the more he was aware of his own shortcomings. This led him to confess his sins.
In his confession, Daniel identified with his people, Israel. Four times (9:5, 8, 11, 15), he said, “we have sinned.” This is significant because Daniel is one of the few people in Scripture of whom no sin is recorded. Yet he says, “WE have sinned.”
He is specific in his confession and names their transgressions. We have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside, not listened, not obeyed, transgressed, refused to obey, and not entreated you. He feels so terrible that he is ashamed to admit it (9:7-8). As a result, Jerusalem is a byword, a laughingstock, the punch line for the jokes of all the surrounding nations (9:16).
After confessing the sins of his people, Daniel asks God for mercy. He asks God to turn away his anger (9:16) and to demonstrate grace and mercy (9:17). Rather than convincing God that Israel deserves forgiveness, his argument is based solely on God’s character and Daniel’s concern for Gods’ reputation (9:19).
These principles prompted me to ask, How can I pray for where I live in the USA, in the state of Massachusetts, and in Chicopee in the Pioneer Valley?
1. Acknowledge God’s authority and majesty
2. Confess our sins—the sins of the city/state/nation and the sins of the church. As I thought about this, I put together a chart of sins and how they are seen in our region. (I made the list with a certain of trepidation, knowing that I would offend some/many people. Some will consider me legalistic and judgmental, others will think I’m tolerant and don’t go far enough, and still others will criticize me for sticking my nose in private matters.)
|Pride & Arrogance||We take pride in our technology, our education, and our financial resources. We are self-sufficient and think we can solve any problem.||As a church and Christian community, we take pride in our Bible knowledge and our financial resources, as well as the size of our churches. We too consider ourselves to be self-sufficient and able to solve our problems.|
|Tolerance||We have made tolerance the ultimate virtue. We pride ourselves on accepting any and every lifestyle. We are open minded and do not pass judgment.||In an effort to avoid offending anyone or being perceived as judgmental, the church has stopped talking about sin.|
|Disrespect||We distrust authority. We believe we have the right to criticize elected officials. We demand a “voice” in every choice.||This distrust of leadership has crept into the church. We won’t follow leaders. We also demand a “voice” in every choice.|
|Pervert & flaunt sexuality||Marriage is not permanent. Divorce rates are climbing. Rape is prevalent. The LBGTQ agenda runs rampant. We promote and accept alternative lifestyles. Our entertainment objectifies women and makes us laugh at what used to be considered private matters.||The divorce rate is climbing in the Christian community and is not much better than the secular community. Not wanting to appear judgmental, we accept alternative lifestyles, or at least don’t speak out about them. We take pride in our “open and affirming” atmosphere in church. We laugh just as hard at movies, TV, and theater. We are no longer ashamed of sin.|
|Ignore the needy||When it comes to the homeless, AIDS, education, or other social issues, we would rather throw $$ at issues than get involved.||The church takes the attitude of, “Let the government do it.” We are too busy with “church” to get involved.|
|Self-centered||We pursue personal affluence and comfort. My private life is no one else’s business.||The church has bought into consumerism. I go where they will meet my needs. Churches divide over personal preferences.|
|Reject God||Massachusetts is high/low on the list of “least churched states” in the nation.||Churches have become Bible-based, not Bible teaching. Christians easily become hearers of the Scriptures but not doers. We no longer practice what we preach. Many Christians live as functional atheists.|
|Laughingstock||Over the past decade, our politicians, sexual practices, and political campaigns have become the punch line for late-night comedians.||Evangelicals have been labeled as “haters” and “right wing” fanatics. Christians are known more for what they are against rather than what they are for. Truth be told, we are no longer evangelical because we have made sharing the good news of salvation an optional exercise.|
This exercise revealed to me that the church is guilty of the same sins as the city/state/nation. Rather than acting smug and “holier than thou,” we need to confess, “WE HAVE SINNED!”
3. Seek forgiveness and revival
Since we live in difficult times, we need to confess our sins and seek God’s mercy.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 9, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.