Lord, you are great and deserve respect as the only God. You keep your promise and show mercy to those who love you and obey your commandments. We have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, and turned away from your commandments and laws. We haven’t listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, leaders, ancestors, and all the common people. You, Lord, are righteous. But we—the men of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, and all the Israelites whom you scattered in countries near and far—are still ashamed because we have been unfaithful to you. [Daniel 9:4-7 (GW)]

National Day of Prayer - American flagThe book of Daniel was written during the Babylonian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar had assaulted Judah, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon. Jeremiah had prophesized that Jerusalem’s desolation would last seventy years and Daniel realized that their time of exile was nearly complete. After fasting, donning sackcloth, and covering himself with ashes, Daniel passionately prayed and pled with God to return His people to their land.

Found in Daniel 9, his prayer starts with worship and praise but quickly moves into confession—admitting that the people were rebellious and disobedient and had ignored God’s prophets, abandoned his word, and disregarded his commandments. Admitting that they’d been warned time and time again, He acknowledges the justice of Jerusalem’s desolation and the righteousness of God’s severe judgment. He concludes with a plea to God to forgive them and restore Judah and Jerusalem.

Today, the first Thursday in May, is the National Day of Prayer, and many of us will meet in front of courthouses or in houses of worship and pray for our nation. If there ever was a time our nation needs prayer, it is now! This year’s theme is “Hear us…Forgive us…Heal us! For the Glory of Your Great Name” and is taken from Daniel 9:19. Today’s prayer was written by Anne Graham Lotz and, like Daniel’s prayer, clearly acknowledges the sins of our nation’s people. I have included just a few of the highlights (actually our low points) of her prayer, but I urge you to read and pray the entire prayer for yourselves.

We confess our foolishness of denying You as the one, true, living God, our Creator to whom we are accountable, living as though our lives are a cosmic accident with no eternal significance, purpose or meaning. … We confess we no longer fear You, and thus we have not even the beginning of wisdom with which to handle the vast knowledge we possess. … We confess our arrogance and pride that has led us to think we are sufficient in ourselves. … We confess to believing that the prosperity of our nation has been great because we are great while refusing to acknowledge that all blessings come from Your hand. … We confess that we have allowed the material blessings You have given us to deceive us into thinking we don’t need You. … We confess that we live as though material wealth and prosperity will bring happiness. [Anne Graham Lotz]

Unlike Judah, our nation is not yet in ruins and we haven’t been taken captive by a pagan army, but not much else is very different. Have we learned nothing in over 2,500 years? What will it take for God to get our attention? We still put ourselves before God, commit crimes against both God and people, defy and disobey our Lord, and have turned away from His word. We should be ashamed. The sole hope for us and our nation is found in God. Today’s prayer ends with these words:

Therefore, we turn to You with tears of shame and a heart of fear for the judgment we are provoking. We repent of our sin. Please, God of Our Fathers, do not back away from us. Do not remove Your hand of blessing on us. As we return to You with humility…With sincerity…Out of necessity…With a desperate sense of urgency.  Please! Return to us! Hear our prayer. Forgive our sin. Heal our land. … For the Glory of Your Great Name…JESUS. [Anne Graham Lotz]

Lord have mercy upon us!

We are not requesting this from you because we are righteous, but because you are very compassionate. Listen to us, Lord. Forgive us, Lord. Pay attention, and act. Don’t delay! Do this for your sake, my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. [Daniel 9:18b-19 (GW)]

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