Daniel knew the importance of prayer. He read Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 29:10) and realised that the 70 years of exile that God had spoken through Jeremiah were nearly up and so he cries out to God to see this prophecy fulfilled with his people being able to return to Jerusalem.
Before Daniel even starts praying, he humbles himself before God by fasting and wearing sackcloth and ashes. He did this as these things were a sign of mourning and he was expressing his sincere grief for the sins of his people. In these times, confession of sin was a lot less individualistic than it is now and so although Daniel wasn't personally guilty of all the sins he was about to confess, he was showing his deep grief over the state of his people and how far the nation had fallen from God's ways.
Daniel begins his prayer with worship ‘O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.' (v4 NLT)
What a great place to start when praying – with worship – reminding ourselves of who we are praying to and how great, awesome and mighty our God is! When we remind ourselves of who God is, it stirs our faith helping us to pray confidently and boldly knowing that we as we pray, there is such power!
Then Daniel moves onto repentance. He knew that Israel had fallen far short of how God wanted them to live. He also read in Jeremiah's prophecies that the 70 years of exile would end as the people turned back to God and living His way and not their own. So Daniel spends the next 10 verses confessing Israel's sins.
Repentance is powerful. On a personal level it is so important for us to confess our sins as it gets rid of things that hinder our relationship with God and gets us back on the right track with Him. But also as we pray for this nation and revival in particular, we can like Daniel confess the sins of our society and culture that have become ‘normal' but are not God's ways.
After confessing all the sins, Daniel makes his request – that God would turn His wrath away from the people. He asks for mercy recognising that they don't deserve it but asking that God would show His mercy and grace towards Israel. Daniel pleads with God to hear, see and act on what is going on.
After confessing sins (both ours and nations) we too can ask God for mercy and help to change. It can feel overwhelming as we pray for revival and for this nation to change – such big requests! But we can have confidence in praying these prayers knowing that we are praying to God who created the universe in the first place! God who as Jesus said “With man this is impossible but with god all things are possible.” Don't be intimidated – pray those big prayers! God is God of the impossible!
Daniel finishes his prayer by asking for God's forgiveness. He asks it for God's name sake. Daniel knows His people don't deserve mercy and forgiveness – none of us do! But then He asks it for God's names sake – it seems a bit odd. But the Quest study Bible explains it, ‘The oppressed condition of the Jewish people in exile caused the surrounding nations to believe that the God of Israel was not sovereign over the world. So Daniel asked God to deliver the Jewish people from captivity for the sake of God's own reputation, or name.'
What happens next is amazing! An Angel, Gabriel, comes and speaks to Daniel as he is praying. I love that before sharing the prophecy/vision he has been given Gabriel encourages Daniel and calls him ‘highly esteemed'(NIV) ‘greatly loved'(ESV) ‘you are very precious to God' (NLT) ‘highly regarded and greatly beloved' (AMP). Wow! What encouragement he is given in the midst of his heart ache over the state of his nation. God reminds Daniel of who he is and how God sees him.
In the midst of the struggles and difficulties you might be facing right now – remember who you are! You are God's child, loved unconditionally by Him. You are never alone God is always with you – guiding and helping you. Hold tight to your identity it's so important.
Gabriel then shares the prophecy/vision. It is quite challenging to understand and there are lots of theories about what all the numbers mean but what we can take away from it is this – God holds the future in His hands so we can take comfort in knowing that God hears our prayers and is working – whatever situation we may find ourselves in right now.
Why not take some ideas from Daniel's prayer for the next time you pray?