Yesterday evening while driving and talking with God, I sensed Him asking me to take humble yet powerful action…similar to that of an Old Testament hero. In Daniel 9, we see Daniel – a man of consistent and fervent prayer – humble himself before the Lord and offer up a prayer of confession and repentance on behalf of himself and his people…
“I, Daniel…turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting…I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed…”
In recent weeks and months, my soul has been deeply grieved at much of what I have witnessed going on in Western churches. I’ve experienced the extremes of movements – from traditional legalism, to charismatic hype…and everything in between. Please understand that I am not at all writing this from a viewpoint of believing I have a full and complete understanding of how God desires His church to function. But I do write from a place of desiring the body of Christ to walk in Truth, first and foremost…never compromising the unchanging standards of the Word, or watering down clear parameters set in place by God Himself. Truth mixed with deception = Deception. We as Believers can no longer toe the line between worldliness/fleshliness and holiness. There must be a definitive difference, characterized by our pursuit of righteousness and our devotion to the highest standards of integrity.
A study of the Gospels, as well as the Book of Acts, gives a pretty clear indicator of the model we should follow as we walk out the Christian life. The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John all portray the life of Jesus…the simple yet powerful way in which He lived and loved. Thousands of lives were eternally transformed after being touched by Jesus during His earthly ministry.
In Acts, we see a model of how the church should function – truly as one unified body, with none of its members lacking anything because those who had excess would share with those who were in need. This model of sacrificial and generous living proved to be quite the witness to the watching world. Many were saved, healed, and delivered because of the simple ways in which the early church lived out the command of Jesus to love one another. I encourage you to go through the first five books of the New Testament. See what you think…is the modern-day Church doing a good job following Christ’s example? Is the watching world being positively impacted by us?
In similar fashion as Daniel, I humbly pray the following, offering this plea for forgiveness on behalf of myself and all who claim the name of Jesus. If you are in agreement, feel free to pray along with me:
You are the Most High God. There is no other name worthy of praise, no other being worthy of our devotion. I speak with a heart of gratitude, as You have done so much for me. Just like the leper in Luke 17, I was one who lived with much shame. But when I encountered the life-giving and freeing love of Jesus, I experienced healing and wholeness on a level I’d previously not dreamed imaginable. With each moment You give me on this earth, I choose to live, and move, and breathe as an expression of my thanks to You.
“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands” (Daniel 9:4)
I wonder what You must think as You watch us day in and day out. Are You proud, or are You grieved at what You see taking place in Your name? Do You feel respected by our actions, or do we dishonor Your name more often than we are aware of? Do we include You in the moment-by-moment events of our lives, or are You keenly aware that we only approach You when we have need of Your help?
“But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations” (Daniel 9:5)
Jesus told us to “Go into all the world” – sharing the Good News with all we come in contact with. Forgive us for replacing Jesus’ mandate with our own agendas – our building funds, programs, performances, and so many other man-made ideas that all-too-often take precedence over the simple yet eternally life-changing instructions to offer a cup of cold water in Your name…to love our neighbor…to give our lives away. Forgive us for getting so comfortable in our cushioned seats that we forget the widow, the orphan, the homeless…or our co-worker, who just needs to know someone cares.
Forgive us for worshiping men who were made in Your image more than we worship You. Forgive us for elevating and exalting those who have been gifted by You. Forgive us for setting them up to fail, as we promote their gifts and charisma more than we value the character necessary to maintain the responsibility of the gifting they carry.
For those of us who have been placed in positions of leadership, forgive us for not carefully shepherding the hearts of those You have entrusted to our care. Forgive us for allowing wolves to devour our sheep. Forgive us for not using our discernment to detect false prophets and deceptive teachings. Forgive us for trying to be so ‘user-friendly’ that we’ve turned worship services into venues for entertainment. Forgive us for not boldly walking in the authority You have given us…as Your sons and daughters, and positionally, as You are the One Who sets up those who lead.
“You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster… We have refused to seek mercy from the Lord our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. Therefore, the Lord has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The Lord our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him” (Daniel 9:12-14)
Forgive us for not revering Your Spirit. On the one hand, we dismiss Him completely…minimizing His role in our lives, and believing the gifts He equips us with have long since ceased to be in operation. Thus we often silence His still small voice with our religious reasons as to why He can’t possibly be moving in power today. On the other hand, we shift to the extreme of worshiping the Spirit’s manifestations – exalting His presence and power above the person of You. Forgive us for desiring the Spirit’s gifts more than we desire His conviction, His counsel, and His discernment that will guide us into all Truth. Forgive us for trying to manipulate the Spirit, and for attributing such foolish and outright mocking manifestations to the Spirit Who is by name and character “Holy.” We ask that You bring us back into proper balance, as our desire is to be those who worship You in Spirit and in Truth.
“Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us…because of our disloyalty to you. O Lord, we…are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. We have not obeyed the Lord our God…” (Daniel 9:7-10)
Forgive us for putting a price tag on the gifts Your Spirit has freely bestowed upon us. Forgive us for not following the model of Jesus, Who sent His disciples out with the instructions to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead…and to give as freely as they had received (Matthew 10:7-8, NLT). Forgive us for charging the spiritually hungry and needy, and requiring payment for gifts of healing, prophetic words, and counsel that would not otherwise be possible without the flow of Your Spirit. Forgive us for using Your Spirit for our own financial gain. Forgive us for not recognizing we are simply conduits for Your Spirit to flow through. Apart from Him, we have no wisdom or power.
Forgive us for turning Your house into a place where we peddle our talents on center stage. Forgive us for using Your house as a means for self-promotion and exaltation. Forgive us for modeling greed to a world that desperately needs to see sacrificial living and loving. Forgive us for lifting our hands and voices as we sing songs of devotion and commitment and dependence on You, when our lifestyles speak the opposite.
Forgive us for begrudging the times we face rejection on account of our association with You, or when we attempt to proclaim the Truth. Forgive us for seeking to defend our own names when falsely accused. May we be like Jesus, Who spoke not a word in response to His accusers, but was secure in knowing You saw His innocence. May we embrace the reality that You consider us worthy to take part in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings.
Father, have mercy on Your children. We recognize that the One Who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. We desperately need You to help us navigate the challenges we face as we attempt to walk out this journey as Your children…Your ambassadors to a lost and dying world.
“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair… We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people. I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord…” (Daniel 9:17-20)