A Prayer for Mercy

In Daniel 9, the prophet prays a prayer of confession. He acknowledges that the people of Judah have sinned against the Lord, ignoring the words of the prophets and violating the law of God. Daniel knows that the people are suffering the just judgment of God for their actions. But, Daniel, like any of us would do I would hope, is beseeching God for mercy.

Take a look at the section of the prayer that asks for God’s mercy, as there is something significant we need to see in it.

Daniel 9:16-19 – 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 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. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Take note in this section of how God-focused the prayer is. In verse 17, Daniel prays that God will make his face shine again upon his sanctuary for his own sake. In verse 18, the prophet points out that the city is called by God’s name and that God is merciful. In verse 19, Daniel asks God not to delay for God’s own sake and reminds him that the people he would be rescuing are called by his name.

Daniel asks God to have mercy for the protection of and the glory of God’s own name. This prayer is not about Israel’s comfort. Nor is this prayer about some sort of political advantage. The simple fact is that Daniel, after confession of a great many sins of the nation, asks for the Lord to have mercy based on God’s exaltation of God’s own name. The name of God is most important. The reputation of God as faithful to his word and merciful to his people is most important. And Daniel understands this as he prays.

We will face our own circumstances where we need to ask God for mercy. It might be in our churches. It might be in our families. But there will be times when we cry out to God for forgiveness, for healing, for mercies of all sorts. It would be wise for us to learn from Daniel’s prayer. God is good, even when we do not understand his ways. God is perfect while we are not. But God has put his Spirit in his people. God’s church is the people of God built together into a holy temple for his dwelling. God’s name is on his people of all nations who are united in Christ. Thus, when we pray, we need to be seeking that God’s name be honored by his actions. We need to focus our prayers on the defense of and glorification of the name of the Lord.

Consider, as you prepare to pray, how you can shape your heart so that you focus more on the name of God than on your own comfort? How can you ask god better for that which will honor him and display his faithfulness? How can you ask God for blessing based on his honor more than simply on your ease?

Friends, do not be confused here. I am not suggesting that if you somehow figure out a new way to word your prayers that you will be able to manipulate and control the Lord. Such a notion is pagan and evil. What I am saying is that, as we pray, our prayer should be more focused on the glory of the Lord. God’s name is and will be hallowed. His kingdom has come and will come. His will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As you consider that for which you pray, remember that God’s name is of the utmost importance, it always has been. Then pray a sincere prayer that asks the Lord to do that which will, in eternity, most magnify his name through you, your family, your church, your nation. Ask God to act for his own sake and allow you to be a part of experiencing that glory.