Daniel, the man greatly beloved by heaven, teaches us to pray!
This prayer is a lesson for individuals, for churches, for nations.
In its early days, America’s pastors and even political leaders prayed prayers similar to this, and it is one of the reasons why God so greatly blessed the nation. At least 16 times, the Continental Congress proclaimed days of fasting, repentance, and prayer, “and the entire American community repaired to their various churches on such days” (Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, Vol. 1).
This is the type of prayer that precedes revival from spiritual decline.
This prayer teaches the individual Christian how to confess his sins according to 1 Jo. 1:9.
He prayed by setting his face to the Lord (Da. 9:3).
He put his full attention on the Lord. This was no casual prayer that was prayed while Daniel was occupied with other things. It was purposeful. It was focused. We are instructed to “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17), but there is also a time to pray without distraction. In this situation, Daniel put aside other things to devote himself exclusively to the business of prayer.
He prayed with fasting (Da. 9:3).
Fasting is mentioned at least 31 times in Scripture. Daniel neglected ordinary food. Fasting is an act of humbling oneself and giving one’s full attention to spiritual things and showing God that I am earnest about this particular matter.
In this fast, Daniel was seeking wisdom and showing repentance. See also Ne. 9:1-2; Joe. 2:12-14. Fasting is also mentioned in the context of seeking help and protection (2 Ch. 20:3-4; Ezr. 8:21-23; Es. 4:10-17; 9:31), of mourning (2 Sa. 1:12), of facing temptation (Mt. 4:2), of ordination (Ac. 13:1-4; 14:23), and of overcoming demonic strongholds (Mt. 17:21).
He prayed with sackcloth and ashes (Da. 9:3).
Sackcloth was a course, rough, dark cloth made of goats' hair. It was worn to show mourning and repentance and humility; it signifies a contrite spirit (2 Ki. 19:1; Es. 4:1; Jer. 6:26; Jon. 3:6; Mt. 11:21; Re. 11:3). Ashes were put on the head and clothing for the same purpose (2 Sa. 13:19; Es. 4:1; Jer. 25:34). By wearing sackcloth and ashes, the individual put aside his own beauty and glory and pleasure.
He prayed to God by name (Da. 9:3-4).
He prayed to God as Adonai. The primary meaning is Master, Lord. It is to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and kingship and creatorship. It corresponds to the New Testament Greek word for Lord, kurios. The fact that kurios is also used 663 times for Jesus identifies Him as Jehovah God of the Old Testament (e.g., Mt. 12:8; Lk. 24:3, 34; Joh. 9:38). In Joh. 20:28, Thomas called Jesus “My Lord (kurios) and my God (theos).”
He prayed to God as Jehovah. Jehovah is the personal name by which God is revealed in the Old Testament. In the King James Bible, Jehovah is usually translated LORD in all caps and it appears more than 6,500 times. Jehovah is the self-existent, eternal, self-revealing, promise-keeping God.
He prayed to God as “the great and dreadful” (Da. 9:4). Daniel acknowledges God as the all-powerful sovereign over the universe. He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible” (De. 10:17). Elsewhere Daniel described God’s greatness as follows: “his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him” (Da. 7:9-10). It is no light matter to come before this God, and Daniel teaches us the way.
He prayed to the God who keeps covenant and mercy (Da. 9:4). The true God is the God of covenant salvation. “Covenant” is mentioned 299 times in Scripture. He is the God who made a covenant of grace with Adam and Eve and Abel and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of the New Covenant through Jesus Christ to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Heb. 13:20). God keeps covenant and mercy “to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments” (Da. 9:4). This is not the way of salvation; it is the evidence of salvation. Those who know God in redemption, keep His commandments. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jo. 2:3-4).
He prayed to the God who desires man’s love (Da. 9:4). God made man to love Him. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mr. 12:30). God created Israel to love Him (De. 6:5), and the fact that Israel did not love Him was painful to God. He likened Israel’s love for idols to adultery and whoredom. “The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hos. 1:2). The words “adultery” and “whoredom” appear 19 times in that one prophet. Israel’s rejection of Jehovah God is called treachery (Ho. 5:7). God says, “They have fled from me … they have forgotten me” (Ho. 7:13; 13:6). For man to love the creation instead of the Creator, to love anything above the Creator, to worship anything other than one true and living God, is spiritual adultery, and it hurts the heart of God as a wife’s adultery hurts a husband or a husband’s adultery hurts a wife.
He prayed to “my God” (Da. 9:4, 18, 19, 20).
The sinner who comes to God for answered prayer must know God personally in redemption. He must be able to say with Paul, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Ti. 1:12). Daniel could say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1).
He prayed with fervor.
This is an example of the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (Jas. 5:16). Everything about this prayer is fervent and passionate. The address of God is fervent. Eleven times he says, “O Lord” and “O God” (Da. 9:4, 7, 8, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). The confession of sin is fervent. The petition for restoration is fervent. What passion and pathos is exhibited in the conclusion of the prayer. “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.”
He prayed with confession (Da. 9:4-15).
The bulk of Daniel’s prayer is devoted to confessing sin. This is a fundamental aspect of biblical praying. Confession of sin is essential to obtaining forgiveness (1 Jo. 1:9), both for salvation and for fellowship. Confession of sin is no light matter and Daniel teaches us about true confession. We see that there is no excuse-making, no self-justification, no hedging. Daniel fully and unhesitatingly acknowledges Israel’s sin and guilt, and he includes himself in the confession. He agrees with God about man’s sin. This is the type of confession that brings forgiveness. This is true repentance. It is to acknowledge that I am the wicked sinner that God’s Word says I am and that I have absolutely no excuse for it. See Ps. 51:5; Isa. 64:6; Ro. 3:10.
This is the type of prayer that Israel will pray in the Tribulation that will bring God’s forgiveness and restoration. See Zec. 12:10 - 13:1.
Daniel emphasizes his confession by the multiplication and repetition of terms pertaining to sin (Da. 9:5). “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.” Sinned is the Hebrew chata (khaw-taw’), meaning to miss the mark, to go astray. Iniquity is the Hebrew avah (aw-vaw’), meaning to be crooked, to pervert God’s ways. Wickedly is the Hebrew rasha (raw-shah’), meaning “to be wrong, to violate.” Rebel is the Hebrew marad (maw-rad’), which is always translated rebel or rebellion. Sin is all of this. It is to miss the mark of and to go astray from God’s holy laws. It is to walk in a crooked path instead of the path of righteousness. It is to violate God’s law and rebel against God’s authority.
Daniel acknowledges that Israel has not obeyed the prophets (Da. 9:6). From the time that God brought Israel out of Egypt, He sent the prophets, “daily rising up early and sending them” (Jer. 7:25), rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice” (Jer. 11:7). See also Jer. 26:5, 19; 32:33; 35:15. But Israel had turned the ear away from hearing. “But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Ch. 36:16).
Daniel acknowledges that God is righteous in His judgments (Da. 9:7-8). Daniel justifies God. This is a major purpose of confession. Compare Ps. 51:4 and Lu. 7:35.
Daniel acknowledges that Israel deserves God’s judgment (Da. 9:7). The term “confusion of faces” refers to “shame which reflects itself in the countenance, not because of disgraceful circumstances, but in the consciousness of well-deserved suffering” (Keil & Delitzsch).
Daniel acknowledges that both Judah and Israel have sinned (Da. 9:7). The entire nation has sinned. In the terrible prophecy of Ezekiel 23, God likens Israel and Judah to sisters who are incorrigible whores. Israel is Aholah and Judah Aholibah. Aholah means “her own tabernacle” and refers to the fact that the northern kingdom invented her own religion (1 Ki. 12:25-33). Aholibah means “my tabernacle is in her,” referring to the temple in Jerusalem.
Daniel acknowledges that their kings and princes have sinned (Da. 9:8). This is an acknowledgement of God’s indictment in prophecies such as Jer. 22; Eze. 22:27; Mic. 3:1-3; Zep. 3:1-3; Hos. 7:3-7, 16.
Daniel acknowledges that both the fathers and the sons have sinned (Da. 9:8). Israel wanted to blame their sin on the fathers (Jer. 31:29-30; Eze. 18:2-4), but Daniel admits that both the fathers and the sons had sinned.
Daniel acknowledges that God is merciful (Da. 9:9). Though He had terribly judged Israel, His mercies were evident in that He had not destroyed Israel. In his Lamentations over Jerusalem’s destruction, Jeremiah acknowledged the mercy of God. “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (La. 3:22-23).
He acknowledges that the judgment was the fulfillment of God’s law and the confirmation of God’s words (Da. 9:11-13). See De. 28:15-68. Daniel glorifies and justifies God’s Word. He acknowledges that the Scripture is divinely inspired and established forever. God’s words cannot be ignored. Every word of God is true and will be fulfilled, whether in salvation or in judgment. Men think that they can ignore God’s Word and live as they please without consequences, but it is impossible. Every knee will bow to God’s authority and will acknowledge the truth of His Word and will confess Jesus as Lord, either in this life in repentance and faith or in the next life in preparation for eternal judgment (Isa. 45:23; Ro. 14:11; Php. 2:10-11).
He acknowledges that Israel had not turned from their iniquities (Da. 9:13). The judgments of God were intended to bring Israel to repentance, but she had not repented.
He acknowledges that God “watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us” (Da. 9:14). To “watch upon the evil” means God is intent upon judging; He is focused on it and brings it to pass. It is the potter watching the pottery wheel and the finer watching the refining fire. The God who wants above all things to be man’s Saviour will be man’s Judge if His law is scorned and His salvation rejected. The Lamb who came to take away the sin of the world (Joh. 1:29) is the same Lamb who will pour out wrath and eternal hell fire upon the impenitent (Re. 6:16; 14:10).
He prayed with intercession (Da. 9:16-19).
He didn’t stop with the confession of sin. He interceded with God on behalf of Israel. He sought mercy and help from God.
He beseeched God. He didn’t demand; He asked.
He interceded on the basis of God’s righteousness (Da. 9:16). God’s righteousness means that He is good; He is compassionate; He is faithful to keep His promises. He had promised that Israel would be restored after 70 years, and Daniel was asking God to keep His Word because He is righteous.
He interceded on the basis of the fact that Jerusalem is God’s city (Da. 9:16). It is God’s holy mountain, meaning that He chose it and set it apart from all cities on earth to be His special place of business.
He interceded on the basis that Jerusalem and Israel had become a reproach of the pagan nations (Da. 9:16).
He interceded “for the Lord’s sake” (Da. 9:17). He didn’t intercede on the basis of Israel’s goodness or just desserts. He interceded solely on the basis of God’s pleasure and glory.
He interceded on the basis of God’s mercy (Da. 9:18). He mentions God’s great mercies. Daniel knew God. He was immersed in the Scriptures. He knew that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger for ever” (Ps. 103:8-9).
He asked God to look upon their desolations (Da. 9:18). Daniel knew that God has fatherly pity, that “he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:15-16).
He prayed with boldness (Da. 9:19).
He concludes his prayer with in a nearly audacious manner, nearly demanding (Da. 9:19). “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer nor, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” But Daniel was not demanding something of God; he was vigorously, passionately interceding. He was being bold, because he was praying on the basis of God’s own promises. This is what Hebrews 4:16 means, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace…” When the child of God prays on the basis of Christ’s atonement and in the will of God, he can be perfectly bold.
He prayed to God and for God (Da. 9:20).
Israel as a nation did not love God, but Daniel loved God. He was praying before God and for God. Daniel’s chief concern was for God Himself, for His glory, for His honor, for His business, for His pleasure. He prayed for Jerusalem because it is “the holy mountain of God.”
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