October 25th, 2005


The basis of prayer

“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. 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. 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.”

—Daniel 9:17-19

Though Christ had not yet come, Daniel prayed in the spirit of God's mercy that would be fully revealed and realized in Him. Why we pray affects how we pray. If I am simply reading God my wish list, it is—rightly—beyond my comprehension why He would listen at all, let alone come through for me. But if the basis of my prayers is God's mercy and the sake of His name, then how can He do any less than show His glory?

This is not to say I know what that should look like. But I can and should ask boldly, because He does and will do it. I can and should confess boldly—my confession of who I am, how I've sinned, and my need for His mercy is actually essential to why He would act. Daniel's confession was rooted in genuine sorrow rather than self-centered shame—he didn't try to hide who he was and how he'd failed. And he was prepared to receive from God with gratitude rather than pride—God would respond for the sake of His name, not because of Daniel's performance.

God's answer (Daniel 9:20-27) may not have been what Daniel expected, but the basis of His answer, delivered by Gabriel, made it completely trustworthy: "...for you are greatly loved" (Daniel 9:23). This is the glory of God revealed.


As Plato puts it, we are like leaky vessels. It is as though we were containers into which we keep pouring things, but we never get filled up because there is a hole in each container and something is always leaking out. So we spend our lives trying to attain fullness, satisfaction, and completeness, and yet we never do. We go on thinking that if only we had just a bit more, then we would be satisfied; if we had something else, then our potential would be realized, our happiness assured, and our fulfillment achieved.

— Diogenes Allen