In this series on prayer, we have been considering the prophet Daniel. We have already made the observation that, as much as prayer is a struggle for all believers no matter how mature, much of the struggle begins with an inadequate understanding of how to pray. In order to help us in our struggles, we’ve looked at several aspects and attitudes that accompanied Daniel’s prayer life. In our first post, we looked at the first aspect of Daniel’s prayers, namely, his commitment to petition. In part two, we saw the aspects of praise, confession, and intercession in Daniel’s prayers. In this final post, we’re going to add a few more attitudes that are essential to a healthy understanding of prayer.
The Attitude of Scripture Saturation
This may sound like a strange title for an attitude, but follow the logic.
All of Daniel’s prayers were clearly driven by particular attitudes which he apparently cultivated throughout his life, but they were also driven by the word of God. We know this because the content of Daniel’s prayers was loaded with the word of God. The most obvious example of this is found in Daniel 9:2, where he states that his prayer was based upon an observation in the book of Jeremiah, but the prayer is saturated with so many allusions to other Scriptures that critics have used this as an argument against the prayer’s authenticity.
The fact of the matter, however, is that all true men of God are students of the word of God, and Daniel was certainly no exception. His prayers were fueled by his knowledge of the Scriptures.
As mentioned, Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine was sparked by his meditation upon Jeremiah’s prophecy. He was obviously familiar with the Pentateuch, for he exhibits knowledge of the curse that was promised for disobedience (Lev. 26:14–39; Deut. 28:15–68), and borrows from Exodus 32:11 (Dan. 9:15). Other allusions and parallels could be noted in chapter nine, but even more striking are those found in the prayer of chapter two. H.C. Leupold calls this prayer “Daniel’s psalm,” and lists over a dozen quotations or allusions to other passages of Scripture.
The richness of Daniel’s prayers was obviously rooted in his abundant knowledge of the word of God, and so it should be with the prayers of all believers. Daniel reminds us that we should never be without our Bibles in our regular times of prayer. Nor should we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) throughout the day without being like the man in Psalm 1 who meditates upon the law of God day and night. This posture, or attitude toward the word of God will spill over into our times of prayer and we will find ourselves praying God’s word back to Him. Not only will this help us to grow spiritually and be a cause of delight for our Lord, but we will become more confident in prayer, knowing that what we pray is indeed in accordance with God’s will.
“All true men of God are students of the word of God, and Daniel was certainly no exception. His prayers were fueled by his knowledge of the Scriptures.”
The Attitude of Humility
In all the dealings of Daniel recorded in his book, he is shown to be humble. From his appeal to the commander of the king’s officials in chapter one to his demeanor in the presence of the various kings before whom he had the opportunity to appear, to his response to the angelic messengers who revealed special revelation to him, he conducted himself in a manner of great humility.
This attitude of humility was a foundational aspect of Daniel’s prayers. Wood comments on his seeking of the Lord by prayer and supplications (Dan. 9:3): “The stress of the verse is on Daniel’s attitude…The importance was not on what Daniel sought, but on his heart attitude in seeking.” This attitude was humility, as is clear from Daniel’s fasting, sackcloth, and ashes which accompanied his prayer. These practices were not only outward symbols of humility, but served as aids to keep a person in a mindset of humility, reminding him that “he has not even deserved food from God” and that “not even the comforts of good clothing are his right and due reward.” This was likely not the first time Daniel had employed these measures during prayer. Another outward sign of Daniel’s humility is that his customary posture during his regular times of prayer was kneeling (Dan. 6:10).
Daniel’s outward signs of humility were matched by his words in prayer. The simple fact that he offered thanks to God for the revelation he received in response to his and his friends’ petition concerning the interpretation of the king’s dream revealed that he knew that his abilities were only gifts from the sovereign God of the universe (Dan. 2:19–23). In chapter nine, Daniel first of all approached God as his Lord, completely surrendering to Him in an attitude of humility. His confession was obviously undergirded by humility, for genuine confession cannot take place without a deep sense of this attitude. This theme is highlighted in Daniel’s two statements that open shame belonged to him and his people (Dan. 9:7–8).
Perhaps the most telling sign of his humility is seen in the petition, however. In verse 18 he stated, “…we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on any account of any merits of our own, but on account of Thy great compassion.” Daniel understood that with him and his people there was no hope, and so “he appealed to the only source of hope, the mercy of God.”
Daniel exemplified an attitude of humility in his prayer life which should be emulated by all who would come before the throne of grace. While we are called to come boldly before this throne, it must always be remembered that it is only upon the basis of Christ’s righteousness, and none of our own that we are able to do so (Heb. 4:14–16).
“Daniel exemplified an attitude of humility in his prayer life which should be emulated by all who would come before the throne of grace. While we are called to come boldly before this throne, it must always be remembered that it is only upon the basis of Christ’s righteousness, and none of our own that we are able to do so.”
The Attitude of Waiting
A final attitude which characterized Daniel’s prayers is that of waiting. Both his prayer in chapter two and that in chapter nine were answered fairly quickly, but the reference to his regular prayer life in Daniel 6:10–11 reveals that potentially all and more of the aspects and attitudes of prayer we have observed in him were routinely applied every day, three times a day for years.
Daniel knew the Scriptures and he knew his people’s history. As he kneeled time and again with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he likely prayed a similar prayer to that in chapter nine many times. And he waited. He waited upon God, trusting Him that, in His time, He would fulfill His word and restore His people. Even though his heart must have ached over his situation, he remained faithful and patiently continued in prayer.
“As Daniel kneeled time and again with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he likely prayed the same prayer many times. And he waited.”
As the people of God in our day, we must be willing to wait upon the Lord no matter what situation in which we may find ourselves. In the good times as well as the bad we must trust that God has a perfect, sovereign plan for our lives and put our hope and confidence in Him even when it seems as though our prayers go unanswered.
Daniel stands as one of the great figures of the Bible to whom we can look for examples of many things: great courage, great faith, great character, and, as we have seen, great prayer. Daniel modeled several universal principles of prayer found elsewhere in Scripture, giving us a living example of what they look like in practice. By carefully studying Daniel’s prayer life and seeking to apply these principles in our own lives, we will discover that we, too, serve the same great God to whom Daniel prayed and find encouragement and delight in approaching the throne of grace.