God’s Renewing Word of Prayer
Daniel 9:1-19: The Book of Daniel was written during a time when the Jews were suffering greatly under the persecution and oppression of a pagan king. Apocalyptic visions comprise about half the book (chapters 7-12), and these visions show God’s control of historical events and provide hope and encouragement for those who remain faithful to God. Today’s reading is Daniel’s prayer in the form of a communal confession, and it follows two of Daniel’s visions as described in chapters 7 and 8. Upon reading the prophet Jeremiah’s writings foreseeing Jerusalem’s destruction and 70-year ruin from 586–515 B.C. (see Jeremiah 25:11), Daniel fasts and wears sackcloth. In this passage, he prays to God on behalf of the people, pleading for forgiveness. His prayer encompasses the many ways the people of Israel and their leaders disobeyed God’s laws.
Daniel Prays for His People
1Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, ruled over the kingdom of Babylonia. 2 In the first year of his reign I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the Lord had told the prophet Jeremiah. 3And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God, pleading with him, fasting, wearing sackcloth, and sitting in ashes. 4I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed the sins of my people.
I said, “Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.
5“We have sinned, we have been evil, we have done wrong. We have rejected what you commanded us to do and have turned away from what you showed us was right. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our rulers, our ancestors, and our whole nation. 7 You, Lord, always do what is right, but we have always brought disgrace on ourselves. This is true of all of us who live in Judea and in Jerusalem and of all the Israelites whom you scattered in countries near and far because they were unfaithful to you. 8Our kings, our rulers, and our ancestors have acted shamefully and sinned against you, Lord. 9You are merciful and forgiving, although we have rebelled against you. 10We did not listen to you, O Lord our God, when you told us to live according to the laws which you gave us through your servants the prophets. 11 All Israel broke your laws and refused to listen to what you said. We sinned against you, and so you brought on us the curses that are written in the Law of Moses, your servant. 12You did what you said you would do to us and our rulers. You punished Jerusalem more severely than any other city on earth, 13giving us all the punishment described in the Law of Moses. But even now, O Lord our God, we have not tried to please you by turning from our sins or by following your truth. 14You, O Lord our God, were prepared to punish us, and you did, because you always do what is right, and we did not listen to you.
15 “O Lord our God, you showed your power by bringing your people out of Egypt, and your power is still remembered. We have sinned; we have done wrong. 16You have defended us in the past, so do not be angry with Jerusalem any longer. It is your city, your sacred hill. All the people in the neighboring countries look down on Jerusalem and on your people because of our sins and the evil our ancestors did. 17 O God, hear my prayer and pleading. Restore your Temple, which has been destroyed; restore it so that everyone will know that you are God. 18 Listen to us, O God; look at us and see the trouble we are in and the suffering of the city that bears your name. We are praying to you because you are merciful, not because we have done right. 19Lord, hear us. Lord, forgive us. Lord, listen to us, and act! In order that everyone will know that you are God, do not delay! This city and these people are yours.”
Today’s Key Verse: Daniel 9:4b
[Daniel prayed:] “Lord God, you are great, and we honor you. You are faithful to your covenant and show constant love to those who love you and do what you command.”
What was the main purpose of Daniel’s prayer for his people? What are some of the reasons he cites for God’s punishment of Israel? What verses speak of Daniel interceding for the people? Do you or does your community of faith offer intercessory prayers on behalf of others?
Great and awesome God, forgive us when we turn away from your love and justice for all. Let your face shine upon your people, that we may know your forgiveness and mercy, and teach us to obey you and do your will. Amen.
Daniel 9:20-27: The angel Gabriel explains the prophecy as recorded by Jeremiah.