I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:4-6)
It can be hard to accept responsibility for your failure. I've made some pretty big mistakes, and it's a lot easier to blame someone else than to accept that I am responsible for many of the difficulties I have experienced. Part of the reason that we project our mistakes on other people is because we have enough pain already, just dealing with consequences. Another reason is that we feel there is no hope for us, if we really are the cause of our own problems.
Well, there is no hope, if we insist on making the same mistakes over and over. Refusing to take responsibility can lead to life-long patterns of sin and disaster.
In Daniel 9, we find a prayer that has all the components of a life that trusts God. As a critical part of that, Daniel has a heart of accepting responsibility for his people's failure, and that's because he has a heart of accepting responsibility for his own failure (see v. 20). Daniel is asking God to lift his judgment on Israel and rescue them from 70 years of captivity to Babylon, but he is clear to acknowledge that their bondage is a result of their sin. It wasn't God's fault. Taking responsibility is a fundamental posture of Daniel's life. Until you know that you are a failure, you cannot truly acknowledge and worship God for who he is. He is powerful and holy and faithful, and — we are not. And when I don't follow him, I suffer consequences in my life. That's not God's fault. That's my fault. I can't blame him.
My life hasn't entirely worked out the way I'd hoped. And I've gone through times where I was bitter and blamed God for not helping me. Times when I couldn't have prayed a prayer like Daniel's, because I blamed God. We've all had disappointments in our lives. But here's an important thing I've learned. God is loving and holy, and to the degree I've missed out on his blessings, it is simply because I didn't obey him. Still he was there, waiting for me, loving me, with a plan to redeem me despite my failure and stubbornness. Just like he waited for Israel for 70 years. This is our God.
God isn't looking for perfect people. Being perfect isn't the secret of Daniel's success. God is looking for people who will bring their failures to him, turn from them, and find themselves washed clean. If we are not real before God, we can't be close to him. We can't know him, truly. Prayer is the place where you get real before him. Where you stop blaming him and other people for the problems in your life, and you take responsibility for your failure and the problems you've created for yourself. Daniel was a good man, but even faithful people sin and create distance from God. Prayer is where you become real, take responsibility, and find yourself forgiven and close to him again.