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Daniel's Prayer

Date: Oct. 22, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Daniel 9:1-27

Key Verse: Daniel 9:19

“Lord, listen!  Lord, forgive!  Lord, hear and act!  For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name.”

Who here knows what happens every year on the first Thursday in May?  This is a tradition in this country that I can remember from high school.  The first Thursday in May is designated as the National Day of Prayer, and you may not believe it, but this observance was actually signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.  In 1998 President Bill Clinton signed a bill stating that every year the President will issue a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer where the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.  The stated mission of the National Day of Prayer is to “mobilize prayer in America and encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.”  So the President himself issues a national call to prayer every year.  Very interesting, I myself hope to take more advantage of these calls to pray nationally.  I admit I don’t pray for our nation as much as I should, but as we will see in today’s passage, Daniel prays for his nation of the Jews.  The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer was “For Your Great Name’s Sake!”, and it was taken from Daniel 9:19, so I thought it fitting to take this as our key verse for today.  May we learn from his prayer and be encouraged to personal repentance and righteousness.

As we have studied the book of Daniel, we noticed how powerful his prayers were.  In Ch. 2 we saw how Daniel urged his friends to join with him to plead for God’s mercy to reveal Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  In Ch. 6 Daniel continued to pray three times a day, giving thanks and asking God for help even though it was against the law.  Because of his prayers, God delivered him from the mouths of lions.  We recognize Daniel as a great man of prayer, and wondered what he prayed.  Now here in Ch. 9, we can see the contents of one of his prayers, and get insight into the power of his prayers. 

This passage takes place during the first year of Darius the Mede, immediately after the fall of the Babylonian Empire.  Look at v.1-3, “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom – in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.  So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”  What prompted Daniel to pray?  It was the Scriptures, the word of God.  It is the word of God that teaches us about God, and the word of God enriches our prayers.  Ps 119:99-100 says “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.”  From the word of God we learn about what God requires from us, and we learn how to pray.  Daniel saw from Scriptures that the Jews would be in exile for 70 years, and that 70 years was about to come to an end.  But he also saw that his people, who are God’s people, were still wicked and rebellious.  They had not repented.  But Daniel knew God was compassionate.  He knew God was gracious.  So he came before God in sackcloth and ashes and prayed on behalf of his people.  See what a great heart Daniel had!  He would not forget his brothers and sisters.  I have heard it said before: “If we cannot plead with men for God, let us plead with God for men.”  Daniel was praying to God for his people.

Let’s now look at the content of Daniel’s prayer, and notice a pattern that emerges.  Daniel first makes a confession of God’s true character, and then he confesses their sins.  In v.4, Daniel opens his prayer by saying, “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments.”  Daniel praises God and acknowledges his love and faithfulness.  He then says “we have sinned and done wrong.”  He confesses “We have turned away from your commands and laws.”  Daniel doesn’t say “they,” but “we.”  He includes himself with the sinners.  This is one area where we can confess our sin to the Lord.  We turned away from his commands and laws: the command to love the Lord with all our heart, do we do it?  The command to love our neighbors as ourselves, do we do it?  The command to pray, do we do it?  How black our sins are against a faithful and loving God! 

Next Daniel confesses in v.7 that the Lord is righteous, but we are covered in shame because of our unfaithfulness.  Then in v.9 Daniel speaks about the mercy and forgiveness of God, but how we have not obeyed the Lord or kept his laws.  When we confess the truth about God with our lips, and examine our thoughts and actions, we can see that we are sinners before a holy and just God.  The good news is that when we confess them, we can be forgiven of them.  In v.11-12, Daniel acknowledges God’s righteousness, and his justice, and our guilt.  God was not unfair in bringing judgment upon the Jews, because he warned them – yet still they turned to their idols and sinned against one another.  So God just did what he told them he would do.  God keeps his word.  Daniel confesses in v.14 that the Lord is righteous in everything he does, yet we have not obeyed him.

The pattern of confessions that emerge that we have just seen is one of confessing who God is: great, awesome, loving, faithful, merciful and righteous, and then confessing who we are: rebellious, wicked, sinful, unfaithful.  Verse 13 shows us something interesting: “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.”  To seek the favor of God, we should turn from our sins and give attention to the truth of God; the word of God.

From verse 15-19, Daniel now makes 2 petitions. In the first petition, Daniel asks God to turn away his anger and his wrath, as part of God’s righteous acts.  The second petition Daniel makes is for God to hear.  In all three verses from v.17-19 Daniel says, “hear the prayers, give ear, and hear, Lord, listen!”  See how much he pleads for God to hear! Verse 18 is also interesting: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”  Because we are not righteous, how can we come to the perfect and holy God and ask for anything?  But the only reason we can is because we know that he is merciful.

Now can we all please read v.19, “Lord, listen!  Lord, forgive!  Lord, hear and act!  For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”  This is the heart and summary and power of Daniel’s prayer: he prayed for the sake of God.  The purpose of the prayer was for the glory of God’s name.  Daniel says, “For your sake, my God, do not delay.”  He wants God to act not for his benefit, but for God’s.  The city and the people bear God’s Name.  While they lie in ruins, God looks really bad.  So he asks God to heal, to forgive and to act quickly so that God would receive all the glory in doing this.  This year’s theme for the National Day of Prayer was “For Your Great Name’s Sake.”  The purpose of prayer is to give glory to God.  We do this when we confess his qualities.  We do this when we confess our sins.  We do this when we give thanks, or ask help, or pray for others.  Daniel was a man, like King David, after God’s own heart.

Now let’s look at how God’s response to Daniel’s prayer, starting from v.20-21.  “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill – while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.”  Daniel was in the midst of praying.  He was in sackcloth and ashes, perhaps in the upper room where he had a habit of praying.  This was a special day of prayer.  He fasted, and may have started in the morning.  Now it was the time of the evening sacrifice – the ninth hour, or 3pm, and while he was praying, and angel flew into his room.  This angel is none other than Gabriel.  Look at what Gabriel told Daniel in v.23, “As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you.”  See how quickly God was listening to Daniel’s prayer!  Daniel didn’t even finish, and God sent a response.  In fact, right when Daniel began, the Lord already sent his messenger.  The Lord knows what you need before you ask him (Matt 6:8).

Gabriel came to give Daniel insight and understanding because Daniel was “highly esteemed” by God.  In the original, the word for highly esteemed means to be pleasing to, or highly desired by.  It has the same sense of being “beloved.”  Daniel, one after God’s own heart, and seeking glory, is one that God desires, on that is beloved by God.

God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer is one of the most difficult, intriguing but important prophecies in the Bible.  There are literally dozens of interpretations, and all of the greatest scholars and theologians disagree on some points, but this prophecy is significant because it predicts when the Messiah would come.  It doesn’t just predict who He is or what He would do, but also the exact (or very close approximate) time in which he would arrive.  Look at v.24, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”  Daniel’s prayer just concerned the immediate time – the return of the exiles, but God gave him an even greater answer: the coming of the Eternal King.  While Daniel waited 70 years to end Jerusalem’ God would not only turn away wrath and anger, but in 7 times 70 years he would finish transgression; that is, he would do away with the punishment for violating his commands.  He would put an end to sin.  Sin would be no more, and all wickedness would be atoned for.  More than this, he would bring in everlasting righteousness, an amazing concept.  Vision and prophecy would be sealed up; that is, they would be fulfilled, because the Messiah is the fulfillment of them, and he would anoint the Most Holy Place, which is a reference to anointing the Messiah, the Most Holy One, and establish him as the great priest forever.

The prophecy is divided into 3 periods that add up to the 70 sevens.  Each “7” is a 7-year period.  The prophecy begins, according to v.25, “from the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”  This is most likely the decree of Artaxerxes, found in Nehemiah 2:8, which is around 445 BC, just a little under 100 years from this current time in Daniel.  The first period is seven “sevens”, or 49 years.  This is the time it would take to rebuild the whole city, including streets and a trench.  Then there will be a period of 62 “sevens,” or 434 years.  Verse 26 says that after the 62 “sevens,” the Anointed One will be put to death.  This is astonishing!  The Anointed One, the ruler, that eternal king, put to death?  How, and why?  This might have been a mystery, even to Daniel, but we know why the Anointed One was put to death: it was to put an end to sin, and atone for wickedness.

So far we have 7 sevens, then 62 sevens, that makes 69.  There is one seven-year period left remaining, and there is a huge debate over the interpretation of this final period.  Look at v.27, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”  There are at least 3 possible interpretations, and we cannot say for sure that any of these are right or wrong because strong cases have been made for each.  Also, these do not take away from the main focus: the coming of the Messiah, but here are 3 of many interpretations of the final week:  1.  It refers to Jesus’ crucifixion, because in the middle of the 7 he ended sacrifices.  Jesus’ ministry was 3.5 years, and when he died the veil was torn, and his disciples continued the ministry.  2.  It refers to the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Roman general Titus does come to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, and sets up the abomination in it.  3.  It refers to a future time.  Some believe the last week of Daniel has not happened yet, and these 7 years are yet to come.

Regardless of the difficulties of the final 7 years, this much is clear: this prophecy is about the Anointed One, the ruler, the Messiah, and accurately predicts his arrival some 490 years after the 4th century BC.  The prophecy accurately portrays his death, and also the end of blood sacrifices and offerings, and the end of the temple, which may have surprised Daniel.  But this was all an answer to Daniel’s prayer: Lord turn away your anger and wrath, Lord forgive, Lord hear and act!  God was listening, and he acted.  When these years had passed, at just the right time, God sent his Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  By his death, he put an end to sin, and he atoned for all of our wickedness.  By his resurrection, he brought in everlasting righteousness.  Because of all this, we give God glory and his name has been made great in all the earth.

The Lord is compassionate, gracious and kind.  When we look around us, we see a world broken by sin and covered in darkness.  But the Lord is faithful and he is patient.  He has allowed evil to continue because he is still searching and seeking out his beloved ones.  The ones that are highly esteemed, the ones that are desired by God.  These are those who have turned from their sins and believed in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  But there will soon come a day when the Lord will take us out of this wilderness, and bring us all into his glorious kingdom.  In the meantime let us pray.  As we see the day coming, let us pray for ourselves, and on behalf of others – Lord, forgive, Lord, have mercy, Lord, be glorified in the salvation of lost sinners.  This is what it means to pray for the sake of God’s great name.  As we confess our sins to the Lord, this also keeps us pure until the day he comes again.  2 Ch 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

I would like to close now with another verse from Jer 29:10-14a.  Today we got an inside look into the prayer of Daniel.  The word of God from Jeremiah had prompted him to pray, and here is another word from Jeremiah that I hope would also encourage us to pray.  “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”  God says if we call on him and come to him and pray to him, he will listen to us.  We will seek him and find him when we seek him with all our heart.  May the Lord grant you grace and peace regarding your eternal future and give you and me a heart of prayer for his glory, so that his name may be glorified by all his people in all nations.

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