He had arrived in country 69 years ago — and not willingly.
He was now an old man, an octogenarian at the very least. Where had the years gone? How did his eyesight grow so weak, and his steps so slow?
Old, yes, he was old. But his advancing years had not even begun to diminish the fire in his heart. He was just as in love with God, just as faithful, just as spiritually sensitive as he had been as a young man.
Daniel was no average believer; he had braved the den of lions, foretold dreams, and risked everything to do right in a land where wrong was the norm.
How does an old man like that pray? What does he say, what does he ask for? Probably not what you think.
His prayer can be found in Daniel 9:1-19. It is, of all things, the prayer of a citizen rather than the prayer of a legendary hero of the faith. In those verses, we find Daniel saying, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments. … O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel … because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. … As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. … O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”
It amazes me how many times Daniel used the words “we” and “us” in reference to the sins of the people. A man of whom not one negative word in Scripture is ever said was nonetheless humble enough to view himself as part of the problem. Does a prayer like that work?
One year later they were allowed to go home.
Shortly after that the temple was rebuilt.
And then the wall around Jerusalem.
America is in a disastrous state now, much like Israel was then. We are balkanized, drowning in debt, violence fills our land, and people cannot even agree on the problems, much less the solution. But as we approach Independence Day, the good news is that the fate of America still rests as much on the citizen as on the legislator.
And when citizens pray — truly pray — when we speak to God as Daniel did, things can change. We know of Daniel’s citizen prayer, may I humbly offer my citizen prayer, and urge everyone who cares to sincerely pray it.
“Dear God of heaven, you have birthed and blessed this land, yet I and my people have done great wickedness in it, and the turmoil we see around us is nothing but the law of sowing and reaping taking effect. God, forgive us, forgive me. We have shed the blood of countless babies, and not only have we legalized it, we have justified and celebrated it. We have laughed at sin, turning it into sitcoms, memes, and even children’s entertainment. We have forsaken your house, relegated you to nothing more than an insurance policy, and left off true worship in favor of worshiptainment.
“Lord, we selectively speak out against sin, carefully avoiding our own. We sit back passively while the truth of Scripture is forced into ever smaller and smaller “approved areas,” rather than evangelizing the workplace, the neighborhood, and even the halls of power.
“Lord, we deserve judgment, but we ask for mercy. Forgive us our sins, turn our hearts and the hearts of our children back in full to you. We so often glibly say, “God bless America.” Lord, help us not just to ask it; help us to live our lives in such a way that we do not look foolish to you when we do so. In Jesus name, amen.”
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. Dr. Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.