Tuesday, September 15, 2015

for God's sake

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.
Daniel 9:17

Rather than focus on the intense prophetic answer given to Daniel in this chapter, I'd like to instead take encouragement from the way that the old prophet prays as we observe it here. It is convicting to me. Daniel is involved in a national intercession in this passage. He is praying for God's holy reputation to be restored in Jerusalem, even as the exiles are still held in Babylon. He lives in Babylon but the prophet's heart is obsessed with Zion. And so he intercedes, confessing the sins of a generation and begging God to restore the people and the glory of worship at the temple once again.

How Daniel makes this request is humbling. He pleas for God to be merciful to him and to the Jews in exile. He personally takes responsibility for the sin of the nation through intercessory confession, knowing that only God's mercy can cover their transgressions. But his prayer is not at all self-focused. He also appeals to God's own name, to God's glory and power, asking God to act solely for the benefit of His divine choice to bring glory to Himself. He wants God to act in the way that brings praise to God. Daniel is concerned most with God's reputation as he intercedes for Israel.

I'm afraid I've got a lot to learn in praying effectively in this way. I mostly ask and intercede for my own reputation. I make requests of God because I want something for me. Like James pointedly accuses, I "ask amiss" to spend the answer "on my own pleasures". But when my heart is consumed with desiring God's reputation above my own, only then could I begin to intercede and pray a holy prayer like Daniel does. I hope I can learn to pray not for selfish ends, but for God's sake.

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