In the previous post, we saw that Daniel began his prayer in Daniel 9 with self-denial. But his humility is not purely individualistic. Let’s look again at the opening verses of Daniel’s prayer:
Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances.
Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame. (Daniel 9:4-7)
The pronoun of Daniel’s prayer is not “I” or “they,” but “we.” And this is because in true intercessory prayer, we identify with the people we are praying for. In Daniel’s case, he sees himself as part of the total entity of God’s people. He is not merely concerned with his own private sins, but with the sins of Israel as a whole.
This communal aspect is also true of the body of Christ, isn’t it? The New Testament is very clear, especially in passages like 1 Corinthians 12, that we are all one body. When one member hurts, the whole body suffers. When one rejoices, the whole body rejoices. Because of this, we as individuals are identified with the sins of the church. We can’t stand aloof from sin committed by other believers, because they are part of the same body we are.
This communal aspect of our lives as believers has a remarkable implication for prayer: The focal point of our prayer lives should not be ourselves. Look at the repeated testimony of Scripture about praying for others:
Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. (1 Samuel 12:23)
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all. (Philippians 1:3-4)
We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you. (Colossians 1:3)
I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers. (Philemon 4)
You also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:11)
The body functions properly when I’m focused on praying for you and you’re focused on praying for me. Pray for your leaders. Pray for those in need. This protects us from becoming selfish with our prayers.
Around this country and around the world, there are Christians who are missing out on what prayer is supposed to be, because all they are focused on when they pray is “I,” “me,” and “mine.” They are not embracing the needs of God’s people. They are not following the pattern that Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts. Lead us not into temptation.
Prayer is not merely a private exercise for us to get goodies from God for ourselves. It is so much more than that.
Daniel understood this. He saw his people’s sins and sufferings, and he identified himself with them. He included himself in their foibles and their failures and their follies. He didn’t stand apart as if he were self-righteous. Daniel could have stood up and said, “Boy, am I ever glad I am not part of that bunch. I’ve been faithful for over 80 years. I’m the one who has had visions from God, and who shut the mouths of the lions.”
He could have distanced himself from his people’s sins, but he didn’t. He embraced them because he knew that he was a sinner and a failure, too, and he wasn’t ashamed to identify with their needs. And from this vantage point of being bound up in his people’s sins and hurts, Daniel passionately intercedes for them.
If we began to replace the word “I” with the word “we” in our prayers, our prayer lives would never be the same. Our prayers will be less selfish. Our heart will be more passionate toward the whole body of Christ.
True intercessory prayer is bigger than any individual, and joy is found through losing ourselves in the needs of others. True intercessory prayer not only seeks to know God’s plan, not only seeks to see it fulfilled, not only seeks to see it fulfilled at once, not only seeks to see it fulfilled at once no matter what it costs, but it also seeks to see it fulfilled for the sake of others. It isn’t, “Lord, please do this because I’d like to have it so.” It’s, “Please do this because Your people would be blessed.”
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