Continued from Chapter 11a

The efficacy of contrite prayer

Many passages in Scripture declare that sincere repentant prayer, without an accompanying blood sacrifice, can and does provide a means for full atonement and forgiveness of sin. For example, Solomon’s prayer at the very dedication of the First Temple (1 Kings 8:22-53) does not mention sacrifice, but prayer is emphasized as a means for obtaining remission of sin:

If Your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way You shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city which you have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name; then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against You — for there is no man that does not sin — and You are angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; yet if they take thought in the land to which they are carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of their captors, saying: “We have sinned, and have done iniquitously, we have dealt wickedly”; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to You toward their land, which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and give them compassion before those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them; for they are Your people, and Your inheritance, which You did bring out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron. Let Your eyes be opened to the supplication of Your servant, and to the supplication of Your people Israel, to hear them whenever they cry to You. (1 Kings 8:44-52)1

Indeed, Daniel, living in exile centuries later, did exactly as Solomon proposed:

He went into his house ̶ ̶ now his windows were open in his upper chamber toward Jerusalem ̶ ̶ and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came joined together, and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. (Daniel 6:11-12). In a contrite supplication before God, Daniel confesses his sins and the sins of the people of Israel:

And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and I said: “I beg of You my Lord, the great and awesome God, who safeguards the covenant and the loving-kindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments. We have sinned, and have dealt wickedly, and have done evil, and have rebelled, and have deviated from Your commandments and from Your ordinances. Nor have we 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. To You, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us shamefacedness, as of this day: to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries where You have driven them, because of the betrayal with which they betrayed You. O Lord, to us belongs shamefacedness, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To my Lord our God is the compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; neither have we listened to the voice of the Lord our God, to follow in His teachings, which He placed before us by His servants the prophets. All Israel have transgressed Your law, and have deviated, so as not to listen to Your voice, and so there has been poured out upon us the curse and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God; for we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His word, which He spoke about us, and about our judges who judged us, to bring upon us a great calamity; so that under the entire heaven has not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet have we not entreated the countenance of the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and comprehend Your truth.

And so the Lord has hastened the calamity, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all His works which He has done, and we have not listened to His voice. And now, my Lord our God, that has brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and You have made for Yourself a name as of this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. My Lord, according to all Your righteousness, let Your anger and Your fury, I pray, be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all that are round about us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant, and to his supplications, and cause Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary that is desolate, for my Lord’s sake. O my God, incline Your ear, and hear; open Your eyes, and see our desolations and of the city upon which Your name is proclaimed; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great compassions. O my Lord, hear, O my Lord, forgive, O my Lord, be attentive and do, do not delay, for Your own sake, O my God, because Your name is proclaimed upon Your city and Your people.”

© Gerald Sigal