Okay, so this is a bit long of a post but I think worth your time. Tonight I had the privilege of gathering with a few hundred people from several churches in our county, gathering to pray… yes, pray. It wasn’t flashy, no rock band (just a simple band), no light show, no cool videos, just a bunch of people gathered to pray. Oh, and pray out loud. And sing some worship songs. Not your grandma’s Wednesday night prayer meeting where you take prayer requests for 45 minutes and then rush to actually get through the prayer. Really it’s my favorite service of the month and probably the greatest thing I’ve learned since I came on staff about two years ago… how important and how neglected in the church is prayer.
Anyway, we used one of my favorite sections of the Bible as a guide for our prayer… Daniel Chapter 9. This is the passage where Daniel is praying as he’s realizing that the 70 years in captivity is nearly over. He’s much older in this scene, and it’s just such a powerful set of verses. At the end of his prayer (actually the verse says “while he was still praying”) an angel shows up! He tells him that “as soon as he began to pray, an answer was given” (v.23). Now that’s a pretty quick response!!
Here’s what caught me. In the first section of verses we were reading as a guide for prayer, it’s filled with adoration for God and who He is. We’re pretty good about that as a church community, yours probably is as well. Think of the songs we sing week in and week out, all proclaiming God’s goodness or love for us or something along those lines. Listen to the words of Daniel:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands…” (v.4)
This is similar to our songs of praise, our prayers, etc. We proclaim His goodness. And that’s fine. But the next few verses give us some great insight into something that I think is missing in much of our prayer time (other than the fact that we don’t even have much prayer time): Confession. Consider the words of Daniel here:
“We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.” (v.5)
The next several verses go on to say many of the things that Israel had committed against God. Confession. Acknowlegement of failure, guilt, and shame. He admitted on behalf of his nation that they had turned away from God’s law and disobeyed Him. How we could stand to confess our sins “one to another”, and before God. To confess and admit we’re wrong. I beg you, Church, let’s remember the lost practice of confession and make it a practice for today.
Here are a couple of practical ways:
- Find an accountability partner and confess to them when you stumble (make sure it’s the right person!)
- If you’re married, make it a practice to admit when you’re wrong to your spouse, and confess when you’ve failed them.
- Tonight we did a corporate confession reading, where someone reads the first line and then the congregation responds. This can be very powerful.
I’m pleased to see that just a few verses later, Daniel implores God, practically begs Him to do something. And note this is after several verses of confession. He didn’t go for the gold right away, he put his heart on the line before God, gut-wrenchingly honest about his nation and himself. Then he goes for the ask, begging God to move. Check this out:
“O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (v. 19)
Now that’s some serious putting God on the spot and expecting Him to move! Enough for now… my top spiritual gift is teaching and I’d love to pound out the next few verses (which are truly magnificent) and explain it all, maybe in another post… but for now, just consider the following brief thoughts and questions:
What do you need to confess? Where are you continuously falling short? Who do you need to confess to? I think as a corporate body, we need to confess as a body more often. It needs to be a part of the worship time at service. It needs to be a part of the lifestyle of the staff, elders, deacons, leadership team, whoever. I think pastors need to be more real with their church and be honest that they struggle with things, fall down over and over again. I struggle with things, don’t you?