Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
Daniel’s study of Scripture brought him face to face with the situation that he and his people were in, far from home in Babylon and being brought face to face with the ‘word of the Lord to Jeremiah’ he turned to pray. In other words he ‘prayed biblically.’
This was not of course the first time he turned to prayer during the long years in exile and there are frequent places in the book where prayer is either explicit or implicit but, the prayer we have recorded for our instruction and encouragement in this chapter takes us to the heart of his praying and therefore is indeed instructive for us.
In teaching his disciples what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus included the petition ‘Your will be done’ and therefore when we pray according to God’s will we must expect God to answer. So Daniel, being reminded of the 70 year time scale of the exile and the promise that it would end, bows to God’s will and prays. Once again that is praying biblically.
He comes in confidence but acknowledges two things.
- That the Lord is ‘ the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
- That he is in need of God’s mercy for he, along with his fellow exiles, has sinned, done wrong and acted wickedly turning aside from God’s commandments and rules.
This was indeed ‘praying boldly’ for he was taking the great and awesome God at his word.
He would have known these words of God from Exodus 33.19
And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
and he dared to pray in the light of them demonstrating his lack of ‘right’ to come as he did and pleading for mercy with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
He knew his God. He had proved his God on frequent occasions during the years of exile so he prayed boldly and big.
Our studies in Ephesians chapter 1 have reminded us of the blessing we have ‘in Christ’ which Daniel could only see as in a glass darkly, for the full wonder of them could only be revealed in Christ so the prayer he prays here has a depth which we do well to imitate. In particular, even though we are in Christ, we still need to come into God’s presence acknowledging our need for mercy, which, because of our relationship with the almighty God, through the death of Jesus, will be granted.
Acknowledging our need of mercy and claiming our God given righteousness (praying biblically) is the prelude to praying boldly and praying big!
Let’s pray like Daniel today!