“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” – Daniel 9:16-19
Keith and Krystyn Getty’s beautiful hymn, In Christ Alone, expresses important spiritual truth in a compelling lyric and tune. But the grace and truth the hymn conveys has not been without conflict and challenge. One particular phrase has been a source of controversy: ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied…
There have been those who would wish to change those words to say, ‘Til on that cross as Jesus died, The love of God was glorified…We don’t like wrath. We would wish not to speak of it. We would rather speak of God’s love, kindness, and grace. We would prefer to ignore God’s judgment against sin, and our need to appease God’s wrath.
We best pray when we do so from an attitude of humility and acknowledgement that we have no standing before God on our own basis. We are like a debtor who owes a debt he can never repay, and for which our banker is requiring immediate payment. We’re broke. We cannot offer anything. Humility is all we have. In fact, in human terms we have been completely humiliated, for we must beg for mercy, and the one to whom we are begging seems to love to see us grovel.
That, however, is not how God is. We are deeply in debt to him; beyond that which we could ever pay for all eternity. But he is no harsh loan officer. He is not set against us. He is merciful, kind and good – even though he is also just, holy and righteous.
We do, nevertheless have a strong position before God: we are called by his name. To put us to shame would sully his glory. We are his. We belong to him. He cares all about us. People know that.
We have two reasons by which we can be confident in our prayers: God is merciful, loving, gracious, good, and kind. And we are called by his name. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we invoke both God’s grace and the name he puts on those who believe in him. That is a powerful name. Our prayers in his name reach the highest realm of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ name bolsters his grace, and gives us hope.