Slow your breathing and become aware of the taking in and letting out of your breath. Focus on putting things aside so you will be open to what God is saying to you today.
Daniel 9:1-9 (NRSV)
In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede, who became king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah, must be fulfilled for the devastation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying,
“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. Open shame, O LORD, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him…
There are at least two very different but equally impactful prayers of confession in scripture. The brevity and sincerity of one is matched by the eloquence and pathos of the other. One is an acknowledgement of national wrongdoing and the other rues personal sinfulness. One is on the lips of a man held in contempt by his peers. The other is voiced by a biblical hero. The despised tax man in Christ’s parable prayed: “God be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14) Daniel, beloved of God, confessed the sins of his nation that had resulted in Babylonian exile. Is there a more beautiful or tragic prayer in the Bible than Daniel’s, or one more stark and honest than the publican’s?
Worship services often feature a prayer of confession, either offered by the worship leader or shared in unison by the congregation. In times of private prayer, too, we find ourselves saying, “Forgive me, Lord, for my sins.” Our prayers of confession, in corporate worship or in individual meditation, usually fall somewhere in between the breast-beating cry of the tax collector and the sorrowful sense of disgrace expressed by Daniel.
God, grant that in my consciousness of personal shortcomings and the waywardness of society I may rely completely on your grace through Christ. Amen.
Go with God.