Turning From Sin

or prayer?

Daniel 9:13–15

“As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!”

There’s an interesting difficulty in translating this passage. Many translations differ with the NKJV on the cause-and-effect relationship in the first verse. For example, the NIV translates verse 13 as, “Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.” 

So, have they not sought God’s favor by turning from sin, or have they not prayed for His favor so that they might turn from sin? Which is it?

It’s both. Both translations are valid. Remember, a passage has to be clear to the people in whose mother tongue it was written. It can’t be ambiguous in the original text, even if it’s hard to say it in English.

So, when you encounter a passage with multiple possible translations, the trick to understanding it is to try to merge the various alternatives. Find the common ground.

For this passage, the common ground is the idea that praying for God’s favor and turning from sin go hand-in-hand. Neither one comes first. It’s not that you pray first and turning from sin comes second, nor do you turn from sin first and that leads to prayer later.

This makes perfect sense because praying isn’t a one-time event, and neither is turning from sin. Both are baby steps taken over and over again.

Prayer and turning from sin grow together.

The takeaway here is that if you want to turn from sin, pray about it. If you want to improve your prayer life, turn from sin. Most importantly, if you’re thinking, “I don’t need to turn from sin,” pray about that. We know that we’re all sinners, but we can fall into the trap of thinking that our case isn’t so severe that we need a change that would qualify as “turning.” We just need to grow, not reverse course, right?

No, and this is where a serious accountability partner is indispensable. Ask that trusted person what needs more than a minor course correction in your life.

And don’t expect, nor demand, a quick answer. You might hear at first, “I can’t think of one.” Encourage him or her to come up with something.

Do not hope that they can’t.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

All the weekly study guides, which include all the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.