“For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.”
(Dan 9:18 ESV)
Prayer is something in which we regularly engage. As we go through our day to day life, and as we encounter various trials and struggles, we end up with a laundry list of requests for the Lord. We then go to the Lord, asking him to help us with these trials and to remove from us our struggles.
We’re also confronted with our sin on a daily basis. And, as we recognize our wrongdoing, we again go to the Lord in prayer. We go to him asking that he might forgive us.
Typically, when we bring our requests to the Lord, we approach him arguing that we are deserving of the blessing we seek. We make our request, reminding him of our faithfulness. We make our request, reminding him of our love for him. We make our request, reminding him of our goodness and of our obedience to him.
We’ll also, at times, make our request promising something in return. We tell God that, if he grants to us the blessing we seek, we’ll do something for him. We’ll perform some duty that, up to this point, we’ve been hesitant to perform. We’ll surrender an area of our life that, up to this point, we’ve held back.
We fail to realize, as we pray in this way, that we are not depending on the grace of God for his blessing. We are, instead, engaging in works righteousness. We’re trying to earn God’s blessings by our efforts. We are seeking his blessing because of our imagined sense of inherent righteousness.
We fail to realize that we’re a sinful people and that, because of our sin, we deserve nothing from God. In fact, the only thing we deserve from him is judgment. We cannot rightly approach him for any blessing based upon our own merit.
We must, instead, follow the example of Daniel, in the above passage. As he asked for God’s mercy for himself and his people, and as he requested God’s blessing, he didn’t base it upon their goodness. He did not approach God believing that they were deserving of this blessing. He approached God, asking for his grace.
He tells God that he approaches him, not because of the righteousness of his people. He approaches God because of his mercy. He approaches God not because of their character, but because of his.
As we approach God, we must do the same. We must do so recognizing our unworthiness. We must do so recognizing that only by of his grace can we receive his blessing. We must approach him based not upon who we are, but upon who he is.