Daniel’s Prayer for Forgiveness

Read: Daniel 9:1-19

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. (vv. 4-5)

This beautiful and heartbreaking prayer is one of stark contrasts. Daniel has just learned that the exile of his people will continue yet for some time in the future. This is so overwhelmingly sad that he turns to God for sustaining mercy. The prayer acknowledges that all the things that have happened to him and his fellow exiles are appropriate because of their sin. It also declares the greatness and goodness of God. Daniel uses one of the most famous words in the Hebrew Bible in this prayer: the word for “righteousness.” Daniel says, “Righteousness is on your side, O Lord.” The word righteousness includes not only the idea of divine justice, but also God’s mercy and compassion, longsuffering and holiness; in fact, it includes all the characteristics of God that call out of us our best worship.

“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God,” Daniel begins. He goes on to list all the faults of the people and all the greatness of God. But in the middle of these stark contrasts, Daniel finds the perspective to sink his own roots in God. His own identity, and his people’s identity, is forever linked with Israel’s Lord. And all his hope is found in God. —Leanne VanDyk

Prayer: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act and do not delay!” Amen. (v. 19)

About the Author

Leanne Van Dyk is a Reformed theologian and theological educator. She has focused much of her work on atonement theology and the development of theological education. She is the tenth president of Columbia Theological Seminary.