In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not 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. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “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.”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
The prophets are usually read for the content of their prophecies. While that is important, we need to look at the life of the prophets and their relationship to the Lord as well. We need to learn and apply the lessons of their example. It has been greatly impressed upon me recently that our study of God’s word should be primarily so we can “obey all that Jesus commands us,” rather than to obtain more sound doctrine. I am by no means belittling sound doctrine, I love sound doctrine, but sound doctrine that is not obeyed is destructive. James makes it clear that one who is a hearer only and not a doer of the word is self-deluded, so obedience to sound doctrine is required for us to gain the benefit of it. So, with that in mind, lets look at this experience of Daniel.
Daniel was following his regular devotional routine maintaining his Bible reading and prayers and meditation in God’s word. During this time on this day, the Holy Spirit illumined the word to him regarding the time of captivity. It was to be seventy years.
When Daniel received this insight, what did he do to respond to God’s word? I must say this, he didn’t hold a prophecy seminar with charts and graphs and timelines, even though he did have a specific timeline God had given him. He didn’t write a book like Late Great Planet Earth or begin a Left Behind series.
Daniel prayed! He apparently didn’t tell anyone about what the Lord had shown him. But he did more than just pray, he prayed with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Daniel was serious in this prayer time. This is how he prayed, but what did he pray?
Daniel began with pleas (plural) for mercy. He apparently repeated himself with multiple pleas for mercy as the Holy Spirit laid on him this burden for prayer.
Then began his confession. His first confession was of who God is, the great and awesome God, the one who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
Then he confesses the state of the people of God, “we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.”
Daniel recounts God’s faithfulness to his covenant word in bringing judgment. God’s word is believable and is proven by experience to be true.
He returns to his pleas for mercy, “for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” Our pleas are not due to our own righteousness but because of your great mercy.
Daniel prays for results!
“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 is looking for action from God. His prayers were not non-specific generalizations of “Bless us O Lord.” He was looking for God to act and not delay.
What was God’s response to this prayer meeting?
“While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.”
While he was still praying, the angel Gabriel flies in the window (a little literary license here please) and says, “What’s the rush?” At the beginning of your pleas for mercy, a word went out.
Lessons for us.
- Keep regular fellowship with God reading, studying and meditating on his word.
- Expect God to speak to you through his word.
- When God speaks, obey. If there are questions created by what you have been told, get serious in prayer about what God is telling you. Depending on the seriousness of what you hear from God, fasting may be appropriate and probably is.
- Never think answers to prayer are due to how holy you are in prayer, but only because he is a great and awesome God full of mercy.
- Be expectant in your prayers. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not for your own sake.
- The uppermost objective is God’s glory, the fame of his good name, and then our good.
If we understand the American church to be the visible church which is a mixed multitude, then we see that the American church is in the same condition as the people of God who went into captivity. Daniel 9 type prayer is entirely appropriate for the American church.