In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:1-6)
Daniel’s Prayer For Grace
Prayer says a lot of a man’s character. What a man prays for is something that comes from his heart and expresses how deep his devotion for God will be. Of all the great men of faith in the Old Testament, Daniel stands as one of the sterling examples of faith under fire and courage in the face of certain death. The book of Daniel is a testimony to a young man who shared with his three friends a life of faithful service to God. This would be difficult in the best of circumstances but as a young man Daniel was taken away from his home and enslaved in a foreign land. Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel would create a bond with one another that was concreted by their love for God and remain in holy writ as a testimony to faith in trial. The setting for the prayer in Daniel 9 is important to note the time frame. Daniel was reading the book of Jeremiah when he remembered the word of the Lord telling the prophet Israel would be punished for a period of seventy years before returning home. It was clear these years had transpired and reports from the few that had returned to Jerusalem were discouraging. The temple had yet to be rebuilt and the land was in ruin. Daniel was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plight of Israel and God’s people. His prayer is a mournful confession to the cause and effect that brought about the punishment of God upon His chosen people. His spirit was such he prayed to the Lord with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. There was no pride in where Daniel found the people of God. His prayer is a personal confession of the rebellion of the people against the will of the Lord. The punishment was just and righteous for the Lord to exact upon the nation that refused to listen to the prophets. What was remarkable is Daniel and his friends were the bright rays of hope in Israel. It would be fair to say at the destruction of Jerusalem and the captives taken away (which included Daniel and his friends) the cause of God’s wrath came upon the wicked of Israel and the righteous had to suffer the pains of captivity along with the guilty. Now seventy years later, Daniel reflects upon the word of God and is filled with remorse and sorrow at the sinful condition of Israel leading to its destruction. It was a prayer seeking the mercy and grace of God.
Daniel could easily have blamed the people for his situation. His prayer could have been a plea to justify himself above all the others who brought about the seventy-year bondage. The prayer of Daniel was about himself as much as the people. He knew that he needed the grace of the Lord as much as those who had refused to follow the will of God. His prayer was a plea to seek mercy. He said, “we have sinned … we have done wickedly.” It is remarkable that Daniel had such humility to present himself before God in the spirit of all the people including his own failures for the cause of the bondage. Most men would first blame others and deflect all charges against themselves. Daniel’s prayer is a full expression of how to understand the grace of God to save men. No one is without sin and while Daniel and his friends were righteous of Israel, they bore the shame of face because they had sinned against the Lord. He declares in the prayer to the Lord God belongs mercy and forgiveness though they had rebelled against Him. It is as if someone needs to stop Daniel and remind him that he was not the cause of the bondage and the rebellion of the people is where the blame lies. The man of God realizes that sin is the common lot of all men and God’s grace covers the wicked and the righteous. If the wicked refuse the grace of God there is no hope. The righteous know the grace of God has blessed them but they also know the power of God’s love to forgive.
Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross for the sins of all men bringing the grace and mercy of the Lord to the hearts of those who would accept His love. Most men will not receive His grace. Judgment will still come though the righteous walk among the unrighteous. Daniel’s prayer of grace is a reminder that while Christ has saved those who obey His word and walk in His truth, there is no man that does not need the saving blood of a risen Savior. The apostle Paul would remind the Roman saints that all men sin and it does well for every child of God to embrace the knowledge that God’s grace saves them from sin. Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 is a pattern of how to pray for forgiveness and the cleansing of God’s mercy. All have sinned and committed iniquity and have done wickedly and rebelled. To all the people of God is given a reminder that all bear the shame of face because of sin. Daniel pleaded with the Lord to remove the stain of rebellion and to hear the prayer of His humble servant. Gabriel, the messenger of God, revealed to Daniel the answer and blessed him. The prayer of the devoted Christian will embrace the knowledge that God’s grace is beyond measure and through the blood of Christ salvation is found. No one is worthy to receive the love of God but He gives it to those who humble themselves like Daniel. Prayer is pleading the grace of God seeking blessings from the Father.