In the first year of Darius’ rule—Darius, who was Ahasuerus’ son, a Median by birth and who ruled the Chaldean kingdom— I, Daniel, pondered the scrolls, specifically the number of years that it would take to complete Jerusalem’s desolation according to the Lord’s word to the prophet Jeremiah. It was seventy years. I then turned my face to my Lord God, asking for an answer with prayer and pleading, and with fasting, mourning clothes, and ashes. As I prayed to the Lord my God, I made this confession:
Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps the covenant, and truly faithful to all who love him and keep his commands: We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and your laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our leaders, our parents, and to all the land’s people. Righteousness belongs to you, my Lord! But we are ashamed this day—we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all Israel whether near or far, in whatever country where you have driven them because of their unfaithfulness when they broke faith with you. Lord, we are ashamed—we, our kings, our leaders, and our parents who sinned against you. Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God, because we rebelled against him. We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God by following the teachings he gave us through his servants, the prophets. All Israel broke your Instruction and turned away, ignoring your voice. Then the curse that was sworn long ago—the one written in the Instruction from Moses, God’s servant—swept over us because we sinned against God. God confirmed the words he spoke against us and against our rulers, bringing great trouble on us. What happened in Jerusalem has not happened anywhere else in the entire world! All this trouble came upon us, exactly as it was written in the Instruction of Moses, but we did not try to reconcile with the Lord our God by turning from our wrongdoing or by finding wisdom in your faithfulness. So, the Lord oversaw the great trouble and brought it on us, because the Lord our God has been right in every move he has made, but we have not listened to his voice. (CEB)
The world’s sins are legion. Our own sins are too many to count. They are a crushing load. Put all together, the heap of sin is piled all the way up to heaven. We all have sinned against God and one another in the things we have done, and those things we have left undone.
Devout believers are to remember they belong to God and enter this season of Lent with focused prayer, repentance, and fasting. I have always encouraged folks to adopt the prayers of the Bible and use them as their own. I also often personalize the prayers for contemporary use. This is what I am doing today with Daniel’s prayer of confession.
Denial is not an option. Simply wishing things were different does not make it so. For the Christian, change begins with looking evil square in the face, calling it what it is, and confessing it. Daniel did just that because of his people’s indifference. I have taken the liberty to form Daniel’s prayer as the basis for my own. It is not the entire prayer of Daniel. The rest of the prayer comes with tomorrow’s reading. But for today, it is confession…
Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps your promises and is truly faithful to all who love you and keep your commands.
There is no good way to say this: We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and your laws to love you, and love our neighbors.
We have forsaken self-care and rest, tossing the notion of Sabbath aside as an antiquated observance.
We have dishonored our parents by turning aside from their instruction. They taught us better than we are living. And we have ignored our ancestors in the faith who kept your commands and followed your ways.
We kill one another with guns we have stockpiled like cans in a pantry, not to mention the murderous words we continually breathe on those we hate.
We have failed to keep fidelity with our spouses and treat them like second-hand items.
We steal land and resources, lie through our teeth, and cheat others with an envious eye which is neither satisfied nor content with the blessings right in front of our faces.
We have not listened to your Son, the Lord Jesus, or to your Holy Spirit speaking to us in your Holy Word. The people of this land have given you the stiff-arm through the allowance of systemic evil, structural racism, inattention to the poor and needy, and calling injustice justice.
Righteousness belongs to you, Lord! But we lack seeing our own guilt. We, the people of this created world, have broken faith with you by insisting on our own way of doing things.
Our uncivil words and unloving behavior have drowned your voice to us. Our ears have become deaf to the teachings you gave us through your messengers.
We all have broken faith with you by not heeding your warnings to forsake hate and embrace love.
A curse has swept over us because we sinned against you, God, with impunity. Our children are at risk, even dead, yet we continue to bicker and fight amongst ourselves while destruction continues to abound through the hands of unstable people.
God, you have brought great trouble on us. This dangerous morass of immorality and injustice is our own doing, and yet we stubbornly remain independent and do not seek divine reconciliation by turning from our wrongdoing or by finding wisdom in the faithfulness of your loving character and compassion.
Lord, you have been right in every move you have made in giving us a clear moral code with the Holy Spirit to help us, but we have neither heard nor heeded your voice of truth….