Daniel Prays for the People
1-2 Daniel wrote:
Some years later, Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, had become king of Babylonia. And during his first year as king, I found out from studying the writings of the prophets that the Lord had said to Jeremiah, “Jerusalem will lie in ruins for 70 years.” 3-4Then, to show my sorrow, I went without eating and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. I confessed my sins and earnestly prayed to the Lord my God:
Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you. 5But we have sinned terribly by rebelling against you and rejecting your laws and teachings. 6We have ignored the message your servants the prophets spoke to our kings, our leaders, our ancestors, and everyone else.
7 Everything you do is right, our Lord. But still we suffer public disgrace because we have been unfaithful and have sinned against you. This includes all of us, both far and near—the people of Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel, as well as those you dragged away to foreign lands, 8and even our kings, our officials, and our ancestors. 9Lord God, you are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against you 10and rejected your teachings that came to us from your servants the prophets.
11 Everyone in Israel has stubbornly refused to obey your laws, and so those curses written by your servant Moses have fallen upon us. 12You warned us and our leaders that Jerusalem would suffer the worst disaster in human history, and you did exactly as you had threatened. 13We have not escaped any of the terrible curses written by Moses, and yet we have refused to beg you for mercy and to remind ourselves of how faithful you have always been. 14And when you finally punished us with this horrible disaster, that was also the right thing to do, because we deserved it so much.
15 Our Lord God, with your own mighty arm you rescued us from Egypt and made yourself famous to this very day, but we have sinned terribly. 16In the past, you treated us with such kindness, that we now beg you to stop being so terribly angry with Jerusalem. After all, it is your chosen city built on your holy mountain, even though it has suffered public disgrace because of our sins and those of our ancestors.
17 I am your servant, Lord God, and I beg you to answer my prayers and bring honor to yourself by having pity on your temple that lies in ruins. 18 Please show mercy to your chosen city, not because we deserve it, but because of your great kindness. 19Forgive us! Hurry and do something, not only for your city and your chosen people, but to bring honor to yourself.
Could it be that the themes of this prayer were the substance of what Daniel was praying about in chapter 6? If so, then he was doing far more than keeping his quiet time. Stimulated by God’s promises, he was interceding for God’s people. He knew that the only ground of his appeal was God’s mercy; but then that is the only basis on which any of us can appeal. God will not be found wanting.
What Daniel has believed since he was a teenager, he now makes explicit. The fall of Jerusalem was not due to the superior power of the Babylonians but to the judgment of God on his people’s disobedience. God was neither taken by surprise nor overwhelmed by the enemy, but rather chose to use a pagan power as his instrument to fulfill his purpose.
This is a great prayer, because Daniel takes God and sin seriously. There is nothing casual about his approach or his attitude towards prayer. For him, confession is not to avoid the consequences but to recognize God as just. The nation has received nothing more than it deserved. Moreover, the reality of sin leaves him feeling ashamed. We have almost lost the ability to be ashamed of anything.
What stands out in all his praying is that it is shaped by what he believes about God. God is awesome and has a great name; he is merciful and forgiving; he keeps his word and is righteous. What prompts this prayer is God’s word to Jeremiah (Jer 29:10–14) that the exile will last for 70 years. That time is almost come (within three or four years) and now God’s people need to pray! As God judged because he said he would, so God will deliver because he promised. ‘God loves to be believed in’! (CH Spurgeon).
I too would pray with Daniel: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We and ask for your forgiveness. Thank you for your love and mercy in Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, July to September 2015, written by Colin Sinclair, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.
Colin Sinclair is a Church of Scotland Minister serving a congregation in the centre of Edinburgh. He is married to Ruth and they have four adult children and three grandchildren. Colin served on the SU staff in Zambia 1974-77 and as General Director SU Scotland 1988-96 and is currently the chair of the SU International Council and Executive. Colin and Ruth led SU holidays together for many years. Publications: “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Bible”; has contributed regularly to Encounter with God/ Wordlive for the last decade.