Sunday: Time-tested Compassion

Frequently, prayer assumes a self-centered posture. Believers present their wish lists before God, hoping to get that which they ask for. Though, of course, we are told to set our petitions before God, sometimes our motives are not pure. After all, are not our hearts corrupt, wicked, and deceitful? Might not our prayers, at times, simply reflect the sinfulness that lies within?

Image © Lars Justinen from

Image © Lars Justinen from

Intercessory prayer, however, focuses on another person’s needs, thus removing the likelihood of selfish motivation. Throughout history, intercessory prayers have represented the highest expressions of spiritual discourse. Untainted by the desire for personal gratification, these conversations demonstrate selflessness, compassion, and earnest longing for the salvation of others.

Read Daniel 9:2-19. What burdens Daniel throughout this prayer? What role does confession play within the prayer? Because of advanced age, Daniel would not likely personally benefit from Jerusalem’s restoration. Therefore, what motivated this prayer?

Seventy years have passed since Jeremiah uttered the prophecy that Daniel now considers. After so many years, Daniel’s Jerusalem friends have likely already perished. Jerusalem’s restoration would not restore Daniel’s personal fortunes, either. Nothing in Daniel’s prayer suggests selfish concerns. The ancient prophet expressly implores God regarding the future of the exiled Jewish nation and the reputation of Jehovah Himself. Extended confession precedes his requests. In confession Daniel includes himself among the disobedient. The prophet is unwilling to presume his own innocence. Daniel himself takes responsibility while primarily pursuing restoration in order to benefit others.

Think about your prayer life: what you pray for, why, and for whom. How much death to self is involved in it? How can you learn to be less self-centered in your prayer life? That is, how can your prayers, even the ones for yourself, be less selfish?




Sunday: Time-tested Compassion — 20 Comments

  1. Thinking about others in our prayers and focussing on our sinfulness with a view to confess and repent can eliminate our bias and selfishness.

  2. There is considerable merit in confessing our sins. It clears the air and provides the basis for a new beginning. However I sometimes see a fixation on finding new sins to confess that threatens the joyfulness of life. Our focus should be on Jesus - that will give us the joy of living and sharing with others. And I am sure that as our relationship with him develops we will see our faults and confess them. There is a lot of joy in Christian living - that is how we share with others.

  3. This lesson is a call for me to continually ask The Holy Spirit for guidance when I pray because when I pray for others I end up praying more for myself and my needs.

    • Your open and transparent acknowledgement: "praying more for myself" is impressive! It shows that the Holy Spirit is using this SS lesson to open our hearts and eyes. As we open His word may our hearts be melted. Let us pray earnestly that we can respond with David's plea in Psalm 51:10-12. Praise God that He is working in our hearts!

  4. Self denial is very hard. To reach that place in our life where we place others first. To be able to pray for others well being, to give unconditionally, to share with out thought of self. To love others passionately without seeking a return. Self denial is hard. However, by the power of persistant pray and surrender to Jesus Christ, it is possible. By the grace of God.

    • Wilcy, it is true that self-denial is "very hard" when we focus on being self-denying. That focus is still a focus on self - on what we do or do not do.

      I would like to suggest that the answer lies in focusing on Jesus and His work on this planet. He gave us the commission to share the Good News with all the world. When we focus on that mission, we cannot, at the same time be self-indulgent.

      Daniel was so thoroughly focused on the salvation of His people that He forgot about self. What impresses me is that he identified himself with the sins of his people - even though, as far as the Bible record indicates, he did not participate in these sins. That is true self-forgetfulness. In that way he reminds me of Moses.

      Whole-hearted service results in self-forgetfulness. And that is probably the most effective form of "self-denial."

  5. the word of God say all our righteousness is like filthy rags. above all else the heart is desperately wicked.

  6. I am impressed by how Daniel first acknowledges the son of Israel. He confesses that Israel has sinned and that their plight is a direct consequence of the soon that they have done. They have not needed the property's and notwithstanding God's punishment, Israel has not deepened in their sin. I really learned something from that.

  7. What is focusing on Jesus? Is it not to realise that He is the Lamb slain for the forgiveness of our sins? If we do not become fixed on the aspect of being forgiven how would we enjoy life in Christ? If we get fixed on confessing our sins we are in right direction of putting Jesus in His rightfull position_ the Lamb slain for our forgiveness? The joy in Jesus is that in Him we are forgiven. Can we possibly enjoy life in Jesus or yet still follow Him happily with a secret?

  8. There is much in ancient culture that we don't understand. Our way of thinking is in many ways radically different than it was in the Middle East 2500 years ago. Because of that we cannot hope to properly understand Daniel's prayer within the confines of our own culture today. We need to project ourselves back to that time and try to see things the way they saw them.

    To us God is everywhere and is diffused among His people no matter where they are so orientation in prayer to the Christian is of little concern, not so with Daniel and His people! When trouble came we find Daniel going, "home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days" (Dan. 6:10 NKJV). Why did Daniel feel it necessary to pray toward Jerusalem? The Islamic faith does much the same today but why? Because there is something special about a certain place, it is holy, the source of omnipotence.

    To Daniel Jerusalem was everything, it was the place of God's residence and the economy of Israel. To him God really wasn't in Persia He was in Jerusalem where His house was. Not only was he and his people separated from their God but the glory of God in His house was in ruins all because of their sins and to him that situation might just persist beyond Jeremiah's prophesy because of the current spiritual condition of Israel that he was all too aware of.

    His prayer was not an intercessory prayer on behalf of Israel as we understand intercessory prayer today. It was not like the prayer Moses had concerning his people (Ex 32). It was a pleading prayer for the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem and for the restoration of the glory of God. Look at how Daniel relates to Jerusalem and the sanctuary especially in Dan 9:16-19 and consider what was of paramount importance to Daniel.

  9. Because most of the time we go to God in prayer, we already have load of troubles on our heart it is becomes extremely difficult to remember others before ourself . We need to put it in practice to always be selfless in our prayers and most importantly ask for the guidance of holy sprit.

  10. [Moderator's note: Please remember to use your full name.]

    This is a great feature. I think my prayers are the same. I open by praising God but not enough. I ask for forgiven of any new sins committed. I then ask for a strengthen family. My wife, my children, my family and neighbors SDA and non SDA. I have not always been an SDA christian so I ask forgiveness of God for those that I did not reach. I became an SDA through my wife. She was strong and her now deceased mom. To God be the glory.

  11. so profound lesson with a great renowned example of my favorite character Daniel. some real soul searching on the motives of our prayers may give one really scary answers..

  12. The apostle Paul encourages the believers to pray without ceasing. We express our deepest desires, wants, needs, motives and thoughts and intents in prayer as prayer has been explained as the opening of the soul to God. A soul that is self-absorbed approaches God in its self-absorption. Concurrently, a soul that is dedicated to the healing and restoration of humanity (family, friends, co workers, neighbors, acquaintances)can do nothing more than reflect this attitude in prayer. Daniel's life by all account was completely surrendered to the will of the Father, hence a prayer surrendered to the pleasure of His God. It is no secret that a life that is LIVED for OTHERS as Jesus did; will PRAY FOR OTHERS above self since the joy of living is only complete in the blessings of OTHERS.

  13. It is the Lords will that man will 'look at' issues from His point of view. So that we would remember ourselves in our daily prayers just as Jesus did in the New Testament. If we are able to do this, then we have the thought of God in us.

  14. Daniel in his prayers show to christians that we have to be self-forgetting and concern ourself with other's needs. Thank God for the ongoing 10 days of prayer it directed to intercede for others and ask for forgiveness for ourselve so that our intercession will be acceptable before God.

  15. I am a little uncomfortable with the characterization "self centered prayer". Maybe I misunderstood what that means, but was the publican's prayer self centered? I understand we are to pray for others too, but characterizing requests as self centered seems in my opinion to be a recipe for editing prayer requests. I am thankful that I have a God that I can approach with ALL requests, for myself and for others. I would hate to go to the Lord dying to asking him something for myself, but feeling like I have to go through the ritual of asking for others first to make my prayer acceptable.

    Just want to make clear that I am not characterizing praying for others as a ritual. Just saying there are times when I have urgent, valid requests for myself and would not want to rely on others to make those requests for me. Afterall, like one of my pastors once said, half the time when you ask people to pray for you, they don't.

    • I believe that the author did actually mention that we do approach the Father with our personal requests but if the major portion of my prayers day in and day out are for me and about me, then truly our prayers are self centered, and self motivated. The Publican's prayer was for a personal request to be sure but it was what God wanted. The fact that he told the truth about his condition shows that his motive actually was humbled and not really self actuated. While he prayed for himself, he was not being selfish. There is a difference.

      We should ask for our requests but we are to be equally burdened by other's needs and we are to ask for these as if they were our own request. This is what intercessory prayer is all about

  16. Lydia, I can see your confusion. Of course there are times when it is most appropriate to pray for one's self. We need to pray to understand ourselves. I think that most of us know the difference between praying for one's self and praying a self-centered prayer. Sometimes even our prayers for others can be self-centred. When we can add to our prayers meaningfully, the words, "Not my will but yours." and accept his will, then we are praying appropriately.


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