Scripture Text: Daniel 9:1-19
A Servant’s Prayer (Sermon Text)
In chapters seven through twelve of Daniel, God revealed some things about the future that He wanted His people to know. God wanted to warn Daniel and future generations of some extremely dark days ahead where they would need encouragement. Chapter nine, however, is not a vision with strange images, like the four beasts and the ram and the goat from the previous visions. This chapter includes a prophetic revelation that was an answer to prayer. In fact, most of chapter nine is a prayer. Daniel prayed this prayer about eleven years after the vision he had in chapter eight and this prayer shows us some important things about prayer. This prayer should compel us to consider how we pray. Do we pray to check it off of our list of spiritual duties? Are our prayers sincere? Daniel’s prayer did not consist of insincere words uttered before falling asleep at night. He prayed fervently to God with a determined heart. Daniel had studied a prophecy of Jeremiah and realized that the period of captivity that Jeremiah prophesied many years earlier was drawing to a close. Daniel was compelled to pray by “the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet”, a strong statement affirming Jeremiah’s prophecy as the Word of God. The revelation God gives to Daniel later about the fulfillment of that prophecy comes as a result of Daniel’s fervent prayer in which he confessed the sin of God’s people, acknowledged the justice of God’s punishment on them, and sought God’s favor for the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple. The prayer is really an intercession for Daniel’s people and a model prayer for us. Therefore, let us look at how Daniel prayed.
Adoration of God
The first thing we see in this prayer is praise. Before Daniel got to anything else, before he asked God for anything, he praised God. Do we do that? Do we first praise God, or do we launch into a barrage of petitions expecting God to deliver answers like a vending machine? When we pray, do we pray with the intent of acknowledging the awesome God that He is and thanking Him for all that He has already done for us? Daniel’s prayer begins with adoration and an acknowledgment of God’s power and justice, before pleading with Him to show His grace to His people. Look at the following verse.
Daniel 9:4 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,”
Daniel acknowledged that God is great. God is awesome. God is faithful, meaning He does what He says He will do. He is also loving. These are all significant things to remember and to include in one’s prayer. Maybe the most interesting thing in this prayer is how Daniel addressed God. It is significant that Daniel addressed God by His name, the name which He gave to Moses at the burning bush – Yahweh, or I Am. The name of God (represented by LORD, in small capital letters), is not used anywhere else in the book of Daniel, but it is used eight times in this chapter alone. Daniel knew God and he called Him by name! Although this may emphasize the personal nature of the prayer, it seems to primarily indicate the covenantal relationship God had with with His people, such as blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. God’s name was used because this was a petition offered on behalf of the Jewish people. Daniel using God’s name in this prayer was a reminder to God of His relationship with His people. Daniel was reminding God of His love and faithfulness, and His promises to Israel, promises Daniel was about to ask God to keep. God keeps His covenant and steadfast love, faithfully fulfilling His promises to His people. In contrast to God’s righteousness and faithfulness, God’s people had been unfaithful, as Daniel confessed next.
Confession of Sin
The bulk of Daniel’s prayer is a confession of sin. Verses five through fourteen, roughly two-thirds of the prayer, are a confession of sin. If we use Daniel’s prayer as a model for our prayers, what does that tell us where most of our time ought to be spent? Should we spend more time asking God for things, or more time confessing our sin? Daniel was serious about his prayer. Along with praying, Daniel fasted and clothed himself in sackcloth and ashes, signs of intense mourning and repentance for sin (v. 3). Does our sin cause such a response? Does our sin cause true repentance? Or, do we casually acknowledge our sin, shrug our shoulders, and simply believe it ain’t so bad? After all, God is gracious, right? Daniel was serious about getting right with God, which included a correct view of himself and his people. Look at the next verse.
Daniel 9:5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
Daniel boldly confessed Israel’s sin. He pulled no punches. He did not sugarcoat this. Daniel knew why the exile came upon the Jewish people, and he confessed his and his people’s sins. They had done wrong. They had acted wickedly. They had rebelled against God. The way they rebelled against God was to turn away from His commands and His law. They had refused to follow God’s Word. We can say that we have sinned, but is that enough? Does God expect for us to be more specific? Look at the following.
Daniel 9:6-7 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.
God had not only given Israel the Law and other scripture, He had also graciously sent His prophets to exhort His people and their leaders to repent of their sin. He sent prophets to His people to call them back into fellowship with Him, but they refused to listen. Daniel contrasted the righteousness of the Lord with the unfaithfulness of Israel. God had done right, and Israel had done wrong. Not all of Israel turned from the Lord, such as Jeremiah, Daniel, and his friends, but the nation as a whole had turned away from God. Sin is rebellion to God, and for their rebellion, God punished them.
Daniel 9:8-11 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.
Daniel realized that Israel’s situation was a direct result of their own rebellion. Daniel confessed that it was Israel’s disobedience that resulted in their exile to Babylon. Under the terms of their covenant with God established through Moses, such unfaithfulness as Daniel confessed in this prayer would result in the destruction and exile of God’s people from the Promised Land (Leviticus 26:14–45; Deuteronomy 28:15–68). Yet God’s Word also speaks of the promise of a new and gracious beginning for Israel beyond sin and judgment. When God’s people repent of their sins, God would gather them again to the land (Deuteronomy 30:1–3), which was Daniel’s hope. Even though Israel had “rebelled” against God, there was yet hope because the Lord is merciful and forgiving. Here is the truth of the matter: everyone has rebelled against God, everyone has sinned and broken God’s commandments, and everyone needs His mercy and forgiveness to be made right with Him. The question is, do you confess your sin and your need for Him?
Acknowledgement of God’s Righteousness
Some people see three sections in Daniel’s prayer – adoration, confession, and petition. It may be helpful to consider verses twelve through fourteen as another type of praise to God, sandwiched between the confession and the petition. After Daniel confessed the nation’s sin, he acknowledged God’s righteousness and justice in punishing their sin. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 9:12-14 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.
The statement regarding the uniqueness of Jerusalem’s destruction may be surprising. Certainly other nations had faced similar tragedies. Other nations had experienced defeat and deportation, but their gods were idols made of lifeless wood, stone, and metal. Here, the people of the one, true God of the universe were in exile, and His city and His temple were in ruins. Nothing like this had ever happened! But, this punishment was deserved. Judgment fell because God is righteous in everything He does. Justice demanded that Israel be penalized for its crimes against God. Is that not an important concept of confession? Should we not acknowledge that God is righteous? God is just. God is good, even when we get what we deserve. Do we sometimes put blinders on and not realize that our situation may be a result of our own choices? This has been happening since the beginning of time when Adam and Eve blamed someone else for their sin. But, Daniel “agreed with God” about their sin. He confessed his and Israel’s part in their situation. And, Daniel acknowledged God’s righteousness through it all.
Petition for Restoration
Now, we get to the petition in the prayer. After praising God, confessing sin, and acknowledging God’s righteousness in punishing Israel, Daniel finally asked God for something. Daniel got to the point of the prayer to make his request of God. This is the proper order for prayer, for only after we praise the Lord, after we confess our sin, and after we agree with God that He is righteous in all that He does, are we then qualified to make any requests to the holy God of the universe. Daniel was now ready to appeal to God for forgiveness and restoration. Look at the next verses.
Daniel 9:15-16 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.
Notice, Daniel called upon God as the one who brought His people out of Egypt. He reminded God about His covenant-keeping work of delivering His people from slavery. Daniel reminded God of His “righteous acts”, which refer to His “just actions.” The point is that justice had been served. Israel had been punished for their sins, and now it would be right (“just”) for God to restore the nation, the nation He created. Daniel was quick to acknowledge that although Jerusalem was God’s special city, its situation was due to Israel’s sin, not to any flaw in God’s character or a lack of power on His part. Daniel then pleaded with God to take notice of His people’s predicament and act.
Daniel 9:17-18 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.
Daniel asked God to show favor upon His people and bring the exile to an end. Daniel prayed for restoration of God’s city, and the rebuilding of God’s sanctuary, the Temple. Daniel pleaded for restoration for the sake of God’s reputation, out of concern for God’s name. Daniel also pleaded with God not on the basis of his or Israel’s righteousness, but on God’s great mercy. This is significant! When we ask for God’s help, do we ask because we think we deserve it? Maybe we do not really say that, but do we believe it? Do we ask God for things because deep in our hearts we think we deserve whatever we are asking Him to do? Daniel knew that he and his people, Israel, did not deserve God’s grace and mercy. In fact, they deserved exactly what had happened to them. They had messed up, badly. God had even warned them that it was going to happen, and they still disobeyed Him and rebelled against Him. Now that the time of punishment was at an end, Daniel asked God for mercy and forgiveness. Look at the last verse.
Daniel 9:19 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.
Daniel reached the final part of the prayer. He asked God to hear this prayer, to forgive their sin, and to not delay in acting. Daniel knew God’s character. He knew that God was able. Notice, Daniel addressed God as “O Lord” three times in this one verse, emphasizing God’s sovereign power and ability to answer this prayer. Daniel knew God could bring an end to His people’s suffering as He promised. He asked God to make happen, to restore His people, as soon as possible.
In closing, we can learn much from Daniel’s prayer. We see in this passionate plea to God, that adoration of God, confession of our sin, and acknowledgment of God’s righteousness are important parts of prayer. The biggest part of Daniel’s prayer was a confession of sin. This is a much needed part of our prayers, one we should not quickly dismiss. When we pray, do we spend more time asking God for things, or more time confessing sin and acknowledging God’s faithfulness? Which is more important? Which is the heart of a disciple intent on following Jesus? We should also notice that Daniel’s prayer was really a prayer on behalf of God’s people. It was a corporate prayer in which Daniel was acting as their official spokesperson. Do we pray like this for our church family, interceding for them? Let us learn from God’s servant, Daniel, how to fervently pray for the things that matter. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.