At times, after observing ungodliness in the world and my own tendency to drift away from full obedience, I do not know how to pray. I am dismayed at the power of sin to keep even the people of God from listening to Him. We know He loves us. We know that He wants the best for us, yet too often we do our own thing, then lament because going our own way always gets us into trouble. If catastrophe has not yet come, it is only because the Lord is showing great patience.
While I don’t sit waiting for the ax to fall and am thankful for the mercy and grace of God, at the same time, I have to agree with Ruth Graham. She said that if God does not do something soon about the sin in America, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Perhaps the reason the Lord has not poured out judgment is that a remnant of His people are fervently praying that He will show mercy. The Bible records some of these amazing intercessory prayers. One example is Daniel’s cry to God confessing his own sin and that of His people.
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to 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. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets…. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly….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 9:3–19)
Daniel’s plea is based on the mercy and righteousness of God. No one deserves His blessing. No one can earn it. Everyone of us has turned aside and done our own thing, ignoring or resisting God and His grace. It is because of His grace and because of Jesus Christ that I can even pray, or even realize that prayer is necessary and even possible. For this reason, Jesus is our redemption and our hope. Today Daniel’s prayer will be included in my prayers for our world and for myself.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13–14)