Prayer is essential for the Christian life, and yet it can be so difficult, not only because we all struggle with discipline, but perhaps because we really don’t know how to pray. In our last post, we took a look at a snapshot of the prophet Daniel and found that he was a man of prayer. We noted his commitment to petition in prayer, the first of seven aspects and attitudes that accompanied Daniel’s prayers. In this post, we’ll look at three more aspects of Daniel’s prayers that serve as examples which we can incorporate in our prayer lives.
Praise in Daniel’s Prayer
Daniel’s prayers were largely made up of praise. After God had answered the request of Daniel and his friends concerning their rescue from eminent execution by revealing the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel responded with a powerful prayer of praise (Dan. 2:20–23). Daniel praised and thanked God for who He is and what He had done. The highlight of Daniel’s praise concerned God’s wisdom and power. Daniel 2:21 stands among the most salient portions of Scripture which describe the extent of God’s sovereign control of all things: “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” Daniel also praised God for His omniscience and gave thanks for the fact that He had given him a taste of His wisdom and power in revealing the meaning of the king’s dream.
Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise is a model of a proper response to God’s goodness in the life of a believer. But, as Daniel models for us in chapter six, praise should be the standard posture of the believer. When coworkers schemed against him and sought his execution, he remained steadfast in his usual habit of prayer (Dan. 6:6–10). It is likely Daniel was making request for God’s help in this situation, and likely often made petition for his people. Despite Daniel’s burden for his people and their current condition, along with his own personal dilemma, the text states that Daniel’s prayers were offered with thanksgiving; Daniel praised God in the midst of difficulty. Walvoord notes that even though Daniel knew the law which could spell his doom had been signed, his enemies expected him to continue his regular times of prayer, as indeed he did. Although Daniel was a busy statesman, he was not too busy to keep his scheduled times alone with God in prayer each day.
“Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving and praise is a model of proper response to God’s goodness to us, but it should also be the standard posture of the believer.”
Just as Daniel recognized the importance of praise, so every believer should make this a priority. Although it is often our sinful tendency to allow the blessings we receive from the good hand of the Lord to go unanswered, we should heed Daniel’s example and offer thanksgiving for His abundant goodness. Times of trial should not be devoid of praise either, however. We must avoid another natural inclination to become anxious and disillusioned when we face periods of hardship. Praise must be upon our lips in every circumstance, at all times. As Daniel praised the Lord each day, so praise should characterize the prayers of believers of every age.
Confession in Daniel’s Prayer
Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine is largely composed of confession; his plea for mercy did not come before his acknowledgement that Israel had grievously sinned against God. Although Daniel had lived a life of faithfulness before God, he included himself among those who bore responsibility for this rebellion. H.C. Leupold notes that Daniel’s confession “is straightforward and without reservations and offers no excuse or palliation of the guilt which its author is only too conscious.”
Leaving no stone unturned in confessing the sins of himself as well as his people, Daniel heaped up terms describing the rebellion of the Israelites, and indicted every last member of the nation (Dan. 9:5–6). From the greatest to the least of Israel, everyone had been stiff-necked and disobedient, making a mockery of the Lord’s calling and graciousness upon the nation. Daniel contrasted the holiness of God with the wickedness of Israel, stating, “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame…” (Dan. 9:7).
“Leaving no stone unturned in confessing the sins of himself as well as his people, Daniel heaped up terms describing the rebellion of the Israelites, and indicted every last member of the nation.”
Further, Daniel noted that the calamity which had befallen Israel was of her own doing; God was completely just in bringing judgment upon the nation, for it was the very curse He had promised the Israelites if they forsook His law (Dan. 9:11–17; cf. Lev. 26:14–39; Deut. 28:15–68). Daniel confessed that even though this just judgment had come, it had not affected repentance in the people. It is upon the basis of this exhaustive confession that Daniel made his humble plea for deliverance.
Daniel’s confession is a prime model for the genuine confession of all believers. Rather than a superficial, disingenuous recitation of sin, believers are to follow the pattern set by Daniel of going through the sincere and painful process of naming specific sins and proclaiming personal responsibility for them. We must examine our sins against the backdrop of God’s holiness in order to understand the fullness of our guilt and how much we deserve the severest of punishment as we are reminded of the fact that God is altogether righteous and just.
As members of the body of Christ, we would do well to follow Daniel’s example of including ourselves in the confession of the sins of waywardness, lack of zeal, or whatever might characterize the church at large at a given time. All of this must come before we bask in the richness of His grace and forgiveness which He has extended to us through Christ, and certainly before we present our petitions to Him.
Intercession in Daniel’s Prayer
As we have noted, Daniel bore little, if any personal responsibility for the calamity which had befallen Israel. We have already established that he was no more than a teenager when taken into captivity and speculated that his parents were more than likely among the small, faithful remnant which would account for his commitment to God from such an early age. Daniel is shown to be doggedly faithful from day one of the captivity, and the book paints a broad picture of a man who never wavered. Nevertheless, he included himself as one guilty along with the rest of the nation, thus showing his sympathy with his people. As Isaiah responded to the vision of the throne room of God (Is. 6), using different language Daniel described himself as a man of unclean lips who lived among a people of unclean lips as well.
In a unique and powerful manner, Daniel here gave us a model of genuine intercession. Just as Job rose up early in the morning to offer sacrifices on behalf of his sons and daughters after their feasting (Job 1:5), Daniel offered up the sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart on behalf of his people (cf. Ps. 51:17). Daniel’s use of the first person plural pronoun revealed the intensity of his intercession for the people of Israel. His prayer contained intercession of both confession and petition on behalf of the nation, but Daniel also interceded for God. He asked the Lord to take action in turning away His wrath and restoring Israel to the land in accordance with His word: “For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name” (Dan. 9:19).
“From Daniel’s example of intercession we learn that genuine intercessory prayer involves sympathy, allowing ourselves to feel the weight of others’ pain and suffering, and even their sin.”
From Daniel’s example of intercession we learn that genuine intercessory prayer involves sympathy. To simply say a dry prayer, devoid of compassion likely falls upon deaf ears. If we desire our prayers on behalf of others to be effective, we must put ourselves in their shoes, allowing ourselves to feel the weight of their pain and suffering, and even their sin. Above all else, however, we must intercede for God, asking Him to act for the sake of His own glory.
Through Daniel’s exemplary prayer life we find fuel that can ignite our own prayers. We must not only ask God for things (petition), but we must first give Him praise, confess our sins, and intercede on behalf of others.