Daniel 9:1-19 - Praying For Promises
Learn how to make big asks in short prayers.
Read / Listen
Read Daniel 9:1-19
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—2 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. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 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 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 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. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 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.”
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 117
Q. How does God want us to pray
so that he will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart
to no other than the one true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
asking for everything he has
commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must acknowledge our
need and misery,
and humble ourselves
in his majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this
even though we do not deserve it,
God will surely listen to our prayer
because of Christ our Lord.
That is what he promised us in his Word.
Yesterday we saw that Daniel, who was facing execution along with the rest of Babylon's 'wise men,' prayed a model prayer thanking God for giving him wisdom enabling him to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream. What we noticed was that although Daniel's prayer was relatively short, the bulk of it was spent acknowledging who God is.
Today we meet up again with Daniel, who is now in the service of a much different king named Darius, as one of the top three governors over the Babylonian kingdom. Certainly such a position kept Daniel busy, but notice how he makes reading scripture and spending time in prayer his top priority. It's as he reads the prophet Jeremiah that Daniel sees the good news: "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... (Jeremiah 29:10-11)"
Daniel realized that the seventy years were up, and that the time had come for God to "fulfill His good promise to bring them back." Certainly it would have been appropriate for Daniel to pray a psalm of celebration, praising God for His faithfulness, but that's not what Daniel does here.
Rather, he puts on sackcloth and ashes, and prays a prayer of confession. What a lesson Daniel teaches! Even when we claim God's most rock solid promises - promises that are not conditioned upon our good behavior but are guaranteed by the very character of God Himself - we must make those claims humbly and with a healthy dose of contrition.
In other words, we must align ourselves with God's will.
Daniel is making a huge ask in this prayer: that God's people would be set free from one of the most powerful kingdoms in all of history. Two thing stand out about this prayer that can help you drastically improve your own prayer life, even if the things you're asking for are not as significant.
First, although this prayer is longer than the one we looked at yesterday, it still is relatively short, especially given the magnitude of what Daniel is praying for. One of the biggest lessons we need to learn about prayer is that our prayers do not need to be long, rather we need to be praying short prayers often throughout the day.
Second, although the context of this prayer indicates that Daniel is clearly praying for the freedom of his people, he never specifically asks God for that. In fact, throughout most of the prayer, he really doesn't ask for anything! It's not until v16 that his first petition is made, and that is that God will turn away His anger and wrath.
Daniel is assured of the promise God made to free His people after 70 years because Daniel knows he can trust God's Word, given long before through the prophet Jeremiah. Daniel makes the emphasis of his prayer acknowledging who God is (v4, 7, 9, 12, 15) and making sure that both he and his people are aligned with God's will.
So pray lots of short prayers today, reminding yourself who God is, what He's promised, and aligning yourself with His will by confessing your sin.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Lord, the great and awesome God. who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments (v4);
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Confess that you have sinned and done wrong in turning away from God's commands and laws (v5);
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: Lord, listen! Lord forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your people bear your Name (v19).
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - John 18