I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.”
The prayer of corporate confession is an often overlooked prayer but it is nonetheless powerful. As Daniel studies the scriptures, he realizes that Israel’s captivity is almost up according to prophecy. He turns to God in prayer because of this.
Daniel prays on behalf of the nation of Israel and confesses their sins. He not only acknowledges the sins of the nation but he includes himself as a part of the group. Daniel was not guilty of the sins that caused the people to go into captivity but he confesses the sins as if they were his own.
Behind the idea of corporate confession is corporate responsibility. Individually a person may not be guilty of a particular sin but as a group a set of people may be sinful and an individual is a part of that group. This works in both directions. God blessed Israel as a nation even though there were individuals that didn’t deserve it. When God punished the nation, not every person was guilty of every sin that the group was punished for (but still no one is sinless.)
The sin of a nation is not the same as the sin of an individual. This does not affect anyone’s salvation. Likewise, one person can’t ask for forgiveness for another person with regard to salvation. Corporate confession is pleading for a group of people who are sinful and all may not be repentant.
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Many people are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, having heard the story from the time they were a child in Sunday school. This is the lead up to the lion’s den and the cause for Daniel’s trouble.
Because some bad men were jealous of Daniel, they sought to get him into trouble by tricking the king into issuing a decree that people could only pray to him. This did not frighten or deter Daniel from praying to God however and he continued to do so just as before, knowing the consequences of his actions.
There are many places in the world that even if it is not illegal to be a Christian, it is dangerous. Christians face threats from other religions and many have been beaten and even killed. Odds are good if you are reading this that you don’t face similar danger however.
We must never take our faith or our ability to pray for granted. Lord willing, we will never face a time when it is illegal or dangerous to pray to God. If the time does come, hopefully we will stand firm like Daniel and continue to remain strong in our faith. While we pray that this freedom will never be taken from us, we should remember the many Christians who pray in fear that someone will arrest them or do something even worse.
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood.
Previously we saw that God is more likely to answer the prayers of the righteous than those of the wicked. We would be wise to not assume that a person is wicked just because God does not answer their prayers in the way that they would like.
This being said, there is often need for self examination during times of prayer. Our sin hinders our relationship with God and therefore it should be no surprise that it affects our prayer life.
In one of the most well known Psalms, David asks God to search him in Psalm 139:23. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” There are times that not only do we need to examine ourselves but we need to ask God to examine us and tell us if there is something that is hindering our relationship with Him.
There are times that we sin and we don’t realize it because we lack the knowledge of the Bible that we should have. Other times we sin and we should realize it but we’ve convinced ourselves that it is ok or we’ve witnessed the sin so many times that our conscience is numb to it.
We don’t always recognize the sin in our life. Even David asked God to search and test him so we’re not alone in this. If we encounter a time that it feels as if God is ignoring our prayers, we may be asking for the wrong thing or at the wrong time. Or it may be time to look inward and ask God to point out sin in our life that needs to be forgiven.
The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Many people believe that God answers all prayers alike which is why so many turn to Him in a last ditch plea of desperation. When all other human means have been exhausted, people believe that God will bail them out even though they have done nothing to even acknowledge Him before their time of need.
The truth is that God answers the prayers of the righteous before those of the wicked. We should be careful and not take this concept too far however. Righteous people do not always have their prayers answered the way they like and God sometimes responds to wicked people for reasons that are entirely His own.
For this reason, we shouldn’t falsely assume that a person lacks faith or is guilty of some great sin if God does not answer their prayers the way they would like. The book of Job is full of accusations of wrongdoing on Job’s part when he was in fact a righteous man.
The principle that we should take away from this verse is that it is better to be righteous rather than wicked. God is much more likely to answer the prayers of a righteous person than a wicked one. More than simply a matter of righteousness however, a righteous person is more likely to pray for something that is God’s will rather than a selfish prayer.
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Jesus told His disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest and to pray for workers. As was discussed in “Prayer and Work”, God expects us to do what we can. Prayer doesn’t excuse us from doing or trying.
But we aren’t expected to do everything in our own strength. As a matter of fact, God doesn’t want us to do everything on our own; He wants us to ask Him for help. When we work in our strength, we can quickly become boastful of what we have accomplished and forget that God is with us at all.
When we work we should ask God to give us the strength to do His will. As Nehemiah faced mockers who looked for an excuse to blaspheme God, he prayed for strength to continue the work that God had given him.
There are people in the world who would like nothing more than to watch the work of God and the people of God to fail. Satan takes delight every time we try to work within our own strength and is even more joyful every time that we take the credit for work that God strengthened us to do.
When we ask God for strength, we must remember to thank Him and give Him credit when we are finished. Without God’s help, we can do very little on our own.