Summary: Daniel is about to say sorry to God on behalf of his people, the Jews. In 'Part 1' I look at WHY he prayed (he understood scripture), HOW he prayed (intensely) and WHO he prayed to (his God, a covenant-keeping God, a great and awesome God). Part 2 will be WHAT he prayed.
Daniel’s prayer of confession Part 1
Today we are continuing our mini-series on prayer, and looking at an amazing prayer which teaches us about saying sorry. It’s a prayer which the prophet Daniel said; we find it in Daniel 9. I’m going to start to look at it this week and complete it next week.
Before we look at Daniel’s prayer, let me give a quick recap on Daniel. I imagine most of us know the main points of his story. Daniel was living in Jerusalem, probably a teenager, when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem. Daniel was taken into captivity to Babylon and there he served Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, but he remained faithful to the God of Israel.
At the beginning of the Book of Daniel, Daniel’s fellow Jews have an amazing moment when they refuse to bow down to a giant statue which Nebuchadnezzar made and they are thrown into a fiery furnace. Later, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of another great statue and Daniel is able to interpret it. After that, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a tree, and once again Daniel interprets it. Later, Nebuchadnezzar dies and his son Belshazzar takes over. Belshazzar uses the vessels from the Jewish temple for his feast, and a hand appears and writes a mysterious message on the wall. Once again, Daniel interprets the message. Belshazzar gets booted out, and someone called Darius the Mede starts to rule. We don’t know exactly who he was. Some people think that Darius was a title, not a name, and Darius the Mede is another name for Cyrus. Maybe he was a governor under Cyrus. We just don’t know. But it was in the time of Darius the Mede that Daniel prayed.
By this time, many years have passed, and Daniel is probably about 80.
But there’s another aspect of introduction I’d like to give you. Until about 200 years ago, almost everyone accepted that Daniel was a real person. But over the past couple of hundred years, a number of scholars have taken the view that Daniel wasn’t a real person, and the Book of Daniel was written about 200 years before Jesus, in the time of some people called the Maccabees, who were a kind of Jewish rebel group. However, the three commentators I went to in preparing this talk took the view that Daniel was written by a real person called Daniel in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.
[Slide: Stephen Miller: ‘a second-century date for the autograph of Daniel is extremely difficult to maintain.’ / Steinmann: ‘This evidence is in harmony with the view of its authorship by Daniel around the year 536 BC.’ / Tremper Longman: ‘I interpret the book from the conclusion that the prophecies come from the sixth century B.C.’]
Without further ado, let’s take a look at Daniel’s prayer.
2. Why Daniel prayed
In verse 2 we pick up a really important point. Daniel writes:
…in the first year of his reign [i.e. Darius's reign], I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
What was Daniel on about? Daniel lived towards the end of the time when the Old Testament was written. He would have had quite a lot of the Old Testament we have today, including the book of Jeremiah. You can imagine him poring over these old Hebrew scrolls, wondering what they meant.
Daniel is not one of those people who read just a few pages of a book and then give up. He’s reached Jeremiah 25. And this is what he found.
25:11-12 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
If he continued to Jeremiah 29, he’d find God saying the same thing.
29:10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”
Let’s notice a few things about this.
First, Daniel read scripture! It’s such an obvious point! We should seek to understand God’s purpose – based on scripture – and then pray according to that. Daniel read the prophets. We need to do the same in our time, especially with all that’s happening in the world in connection with global warming, Covid-19 and so on.
Second, Daniel wrote, ‘I, Daniel, perceived … according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet.’ Daniel believes these words that he read are God’s words.