In Daniel’s prayer of chapter 9, the prophet uses the phrase “O my God” twice, but not in the way we so often hear it today. It’s a solemn, fervent plea for help.
Daniel has an exalted view of God. Throughout the book he refers to Him to as “the God of heaven,” “He who reveals mysteries,” “the God who can deliver,” and “Most High God.” He’s the “King of heaven,” the “King of kings,” “Ancient of Days,” “Son of Man.” It is heaven that rules over the realm of men, God who controls all of life and a king’s ways, and Yahweh the One who should be glorified. He is the living and eternal God.
That “O” seems to intensify Daniel’s prayer. It’s like a breath, a groan. He uses it 11 times, and they pile up toward the end. It’s as though the urgency of Daniel’s request builds to a crescendo. Daniel feels helpless and small in relation to God’s greatness. He laments over the downfall of Jerusalem due to the sins of his people. He is desperate for God to act. Do any of us pray this way?
There are 23 other uses of “O my God” in scripture, including: “O my God, I am ashamed” (Ezra 9:6), “O my God, in You I trust” (Psalm 25:2), “O my God, my soul is in despair” (Ps. 42:6), and “O my God, hasten to my help” (Ps. 71:12).
When we compare these uses to the way the phrase is employed in common parlance—often by people who don’t even believe in God—the disparity is obvious. It’s an interjection of surprise, amazement or pleasure, interchangeable with “Wow!” or “Awesome!” It’s sometimes used to exclaim over things that God has made (mountains, sunsets), but just as often over something man-made (a remodeled house, a colossal mess). It’s almost never used to refer to God Himself or to bring Him glory.
Daniel 9 reminds us there is a proper use for OMG. If He is indeed “my” God, if I am at the end of my own resources, then my expressions will not trivialize His holy name. I should not feel hindered from saying, “O my God” in prayer.