Daniel 9:17-19 (King James Version)
17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.
18 O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
19 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.
Nobody uses the word “hearken” anymore, and the only time anyone uses the shortened form “hark” is when we sing carols at Christmas time. The archaic English word “hearken” has fallen into disuse, and now most people simply say “listen.” But the word “hearken” is not just a request–as in “I would like for you to listen”–but an imperative, an order–“Listen up!” The irony, of course, is that Daniel is telling the Lord God–“Adonai”–to listen to his prayer and DO something.
We have all probably done that at one time or another, telling God–you know, the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE–to listen to us and do what we ask. Unfortunately, I don’t think most of us say such prayers as selflessly as Daniel did. But the wonderful thing about this passage in the book of Daniel is that the prophet IS asking for something for his people rather than for himself. Daniel is seeking nothing less and nothing more that the salvation of Judah, that God would redeem His people from their deserved judgment and gather His people back to Jerusalem. And Daniel asks this not because he thinks Judah has learned their lesson, nor because he thinks the children of Israel are now more righteous than before, but because salvation will bring glory to God and His holy name.
For me, the beauty is in verse 19, which reads not just as an order to the Lord God but also as a list of His epithets: The Lord Who Hears, The Lord Who Forgives, The Lord Who Hearkens and Does. This is not a senseless plea before a stone or bronze idol that neither lives nor breathes nor hears, but an appeal to the one true and living God. This is a prayer made to a God who Daniel already knows will hear and act. That is the beauty of God’s mercy: He DOES hearken to our prayers, and He does respond with mercy and with grace even when WE do not always hearken to His Word. Read this passage from earlier in Daniel’s prayer:
4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
6 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.
In short, “We didn’t listen to You, Lord! You kept the covenant and we didn’t. We did the exact opposite of what You had commanded.” God hearkens even when we do not. And yet Daniel would then boldly pray, “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain…” (Daniel 9:16) According to GOD’s righteousness, according to GOD’s mercy, and for GOD’s glory–that is why we can ask for salvation. Not because of anything we have done or will do, but because the Lord our God IS Just and Merciful and Loving and Forgiving.
Today and every day, let us remember that we serve a God who does hear our prayers, and who loves us so much He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. Reflect upon the names of God, meditate upon His attributes, and know that He is all those things and more. And as we pray lest us remember, as Daniel did, that we can ask for God’s mercy because He truly IS The Lord Who Hears, The Lord Who Forgives, and The Lord Who Hearkens and Does.
Holy Father God, hearken unto my prayer. Forgive me, O Lord, for not being the disciple I know You want me to be. Forgive my backsliding and my willful transgressions. Purify me, Lord God, and cleanse me from secret faults, so that I can walk in Your ways without faltering. Bring me back to Your city, to the place where we proclaim Your holy name. Hear, forgive, and redeem us, all for Your glory alone. Amen.