Have you ever been forced into the position of having to say your are sorry, but not being REALLY sorry? I know children can be like this – they can grudgingly say “Sorry” but not mean it.
I suspect that we can be a little like that when it comes to dealing with our sins. We might mutter our “sorry” to God, but then hurry off and get on with our lives.
As we read Daniel 9 we get the idea that Daniel was very different. He comes before God humbly, with a broken heart.
Daniel had been reading Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Exile of Judah would last 70 years, and he realised that the time was up. If Darius was a viceroy of Cyrus, it is possible that that very year Cyrus had issued his decree permitting Jews to return and rebuild their temple.
Why then did Daniel seem so broken as he prayed? His first words tell us: Daniel was suddenly awed at the thought of God’s covenant love (v.1). Against the background of God’s love, Daniel sensed the utter depravity of his people. Israel and Judah were beneficiaries of God’s grace, and recipients of His righteous laws. Yet they ignore His words and turned their backs on the prophets He had sent them.
Deeply disturbed, Daniel identified with his people and their failings, and as a humbled sinner cried out to God. He recalled God’s gracious acts (v.15), and understood how terrible it was that despite the Lord’s goodness “we have sinned and done wrong.”
Daniel’s prayer though was more than a litany of failure. It was an appeal for even more grace! Daniel begged God to listen to the prayers of His people, and in grace to restore the land, the Holy City, and the temple.
What Daniel teaches us is that in our own prayers, of confession or of petition, is that we must not half heartedly say “sorry”, like we were not fully convinced that we did anything too bad.
Instead, we must measure our response to God against His grace, deeply moved by how short we fall, and come to Him humble repentance.
Only then can we come before God and appeal to Him for even greater grace – not because we are righteous, but because of His great mercy.
It is worth being reminded what Augustine of Hippo said relating to this….”It was pride that caused the fall of Lucifer and Adam. If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is still humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give but humility, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are fruitless.”