In this article we continue the theme of Prayer and look specifically at the principles involved in the second of the
three sections into which the “Lord’s Prayer” can be divided, viz our requests to God for forgiveness and deliverance
from evil that we might honour Him in all our ways.

One of the greatest personal blessings that comes from prayer is the forgiveness of our sins. We know that this has only been made possible through the atoning work of our intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ and is only available to those who are “in Christ”; therefore our prayers come from hearts and minds that are impelled by these thoughts.

Our understanding of Divine principles embodied in the Atonement has taught us that an acknowledgment of the righteousness of God is the focus of all acceptable worship and in this regard our prayers are no exception. When we understand that God Manifestation must be the motivating principle in our lives and that personal salvation is the gracious gift from God to those who are so motivated, our prayers for forgiveness of sins will be presented with God uppermost in our thoughts—not self! Confession of sin (rather than merely asking for forgiveness) is tantamount to declaring the righteousness of God and to such people God will in turn impute righteousness (Rom 4:6).

David said, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Yahweh; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Paul quotes this same psalm in Romans 4:6–8, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin”. In confessing his grievous sin David declared, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified” (declared to be right—Psalm 51:3,4).

The Apostle John likewise expressed the same thought when he wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just (righteous) to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

A God-centred prayer is not just one of praise and thanksgiving to God for His goodness but is also one where sin is confessed and acknowledged with the principal thought being to declare God’s righteousness. To “declare God’s righteousness” simply means that we intelligently and sincerely acknowledge that in all things God is right and just, that He alone is the source of wisdom, truth and justice, that He is not obligated in any way whatsoever to His creation but out of His infinite wisdom and mercy He has condescended to the man that is of a humble and contrite spirit and who trembles at His Word. When David pleads, “Have mercy upon me, O God”, the word mercy means ‘to bow down, to show condescending kindness’ (Psalm 51:1).

The Apostle Paul confessed that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). When a man believes God and acknowledges his sin in this manner, God is faithful and will impute to that believer a righteousness which is because of his faith (or belief). Such a man was Abraham—“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom 4:1–5). This is also in harmony with John’s declaration that God will forgive and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

 A self-centred prayer will rise no higher than the rafters! The Lord described the Pharisee who “prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men” (Luke 18:11). The Publican, on the other hand, “smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner”. This man, we are told, “went down to his house justified (accounted righteous) rather than the other” (Luke 18:13,14). The Publican was of a like spirit with David the Psalmist, the man after God’s own heart. To such a man Yahweh will not only extend the forgiveness which he seeks, but will also be pleased to impute a righteousness which he has not earned. Glory be to our God “that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph 3:20,21).

When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray he gave them what might be described as a ‘model prayer’: we know it as ‘the Lord’s prayer’. The pattern of prayer set out in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 is found in other model prayers in Scripture. For example it is interesting to note the same Godcentred approach in Daniel’s beautiful prayer of mediatorship in Daniel 9. “I set my face unto Yahweh Elohim, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto Yahweh my Elohim, and made my confession…” In the case of this righteous man his confessions really were on behalf of his people who had sinned, rebelled by departing from Divine precepts and shut their ears against the prophets speaking in the name of Yahweh. This was not Daniel himself for we know that he had set his heart to understand and had studied the prophets and therefore “understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem”. Yet he prepared himself to approach into the Divine presence on behalf of his brethren and to seek Yahweh’s forgiveness in an acceptable manner in the spirit of 1 Kings 8:46–50, “If they sin against thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people that have sinned against thee…”.

 Daniel’s prayer of intercession commenced with praise to Yahweh “the great and dreadful El, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him”. After confessing their many shortcomings the prophet acknowledges that “righteousness belongeth unto thee” and, in effect, all have come short of Yahweh’s glory. Yet to Yahweh also belong “mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him”. Daniel again acknowledges the justice of all Yahweh’s judgments upon His people: “Therefore hath Yahweh watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for Yahweh our Elohim is righteous in all his works which He doeth; for we obeyed not His voice”. But on the basis of that righteousness and because of His covenant with His people Daniel pleads, “O Yahweh, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us”. Here was a plea, not for self, but that the righteousness and honour of Yahweh might be upheld—“for Yahweh’s sake” (verse 17).

With a final impassioned appeal, Daniel calls upon Yahweh to hear and act—not that His people might be saved or merely forgiven, but that His purpose might be fulfilled in them—“for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy Name”!

What a wonderful spirit is to be found in such a man whom Yahweh Himself acknowledged as a true intercessor (Ezekiel 14:14,20). Not only so, but the Divine response came swiftly—“And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before Yahweh my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning… touched me about the time of the evening oblation…”. His message was one of love and reassurance: “O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding… for thou art greatly beloved…”.

When our own prayers are presented to the Throne of Grace in the same God-centred way as Daniel’s; when our own acknowledgement of sin and transgression is in the same spirit as Daniel’s; when our prayers are for the glory of Yahweh’s Name, People and City; then we are likewise assured that our Father will speedily answer our prayers in accordance with His infinite wisdom and good pleasure and for our ultimate eternal well being.