It’s hard to admit when we’ve done something wrong. It’s so easy to make excuses, to blame other people, or to imagine that our actions have been misinterpreted. It’s so hard to say, “I messed up. I shouldn’t have done that, and I won’t do it again.”
That’s why I was impressed when I read Daniel’s prayer of confession and supplication this week. He doesn’t prevaricate. He holds himself and his people accountable for their actions which resulted in the Babylonian Captivity. But he also acknowledges God’s mercy and trusts that God will hear and answer his heartfelt plea.
Here is the first part of Daniel’s confession:
We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.Daniel 9:5-6
The confession is direct, thorough, and unqualified. He doesn’t say, “We have sinned because it was way too hard to keep the commandments,” or “We have sinned, but our neighbors were definitely worse,” or even, “We have sinned, but we also did a lot of really good things.” He simply acknowledges what they have done, with no excuses or attempt to justify their actions
I love the way he asks for blessings, with total acknowledgment that he and his people don’t deserve what he is requesting:
We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.Daniel 9:18
In other words, I’m not asking you to bless us because I think we deserve it. I’m asking because I know you love us.
And then comes the heartfelt plea:
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.Daniel 9:19
I admire Daniel’s frank confession, and I also admire his confidence in God. This coupling of guilt and faith reminds me of the following passage from Nephi’s psalm:
When I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.2 Nephi 4:19
Today, I will confess my sins to God. I will not try to sugar-coat the things I have done wrong or to make excuses. I will fully acknowledge my shortcomings with full confidence that God, who loves me, is willing to extend mercy if I am prepared to receive it.