Today’s post is the third prayer from the Old Testament. It comes from Dan 9: 1-19
These prayers have stirred me greatly and have caused me to pray with more urgency for the people of this nation and of the entire world. I pray intently for people everywhere to seek God, follow his ways and for repentance.
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame — the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
“Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Again I offer commentary from The Bible Exposition Commentary
I hope each reader has been moved by these beautiful prayers. I ask you to join me in praying for this nation and the people who live here, that each heart will turn to God and God only.
Confessing sin (Dan 9:5-15). Several times in Israel’s ministry, the intercession of one person brought about the nation’s deliverance from judgment. On two occasions, God was ready to wipe out the entire Jewish nation, but the intercession of Moses stayed His hand (Ex 32:7-14; Num 14:10-25). God answered Elijah’s prayer and sent the rain that was so desperately needed (1 Kings 18), and He heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer and gave Israel victory over the large invading army of Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chron 20). King Hezekiah cried out to God when the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem, and the Lord sent His angel to slay 185,000 enemy soldiers (Isa 37; 2 Kings 19:1). “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV). God doesn’t have to wait for the entire nation to repent and cry out for mercy; He will start to work when He hears the believing prayers of one faithful intercessor.
While Daniel’s prayer was certainly personal, he so identified with the people of Israel that his prayer involved national concerns. The pronoun he uses is we rather than they or I. He confessed that he and the people had sinned greatly against the Lord and broken the terms of His gracious covenant. According to Dan 9:5-6, the Jews had sinned, rebelled, turned away from His law, disobeyed His commands, done wrong, and refused to listen to the messengers God had sent to them. “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron 36:15-16, NKJV). God had been long-suffering with His covenant people, but the time came when He had to act.
What were the consequences of the nation’s rebellion? They became a sinful people, a people covered with shame (“confusion of face,” Dan 9:8), and a scattered people. Their land was overrun by enemy soldiers, their great city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and their holy temple was desecrated, robbed, and burned. No wonder the Jews were ashamed! But it was their own sins that had brought these disasters, because their kings, princes, and priests had disobeyed God’s laws and refused to obey God’s prophets.
The leaders and the people knew the terms of God’s covenant, but they deliberately violated them. The Jews were unfaithful to God’s covenant, but God was faithful to keep His Word. If the nation had obeyed, God would have been faithful to bless them (Ps 81:11-16): but because they rebelled, He was faithful to chasten them. “You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster” (Dan 9:12, NIV). Daniel didn’t make excuses for the nation nor did he say that God’s covenant was too demanding. Israel had enjoyed great blessings when they had obeyed the law, so why should they complain when they experienced great suffering because they disobeyed the law?
But there was something even worse than the sins that brought divine punishment to Israel. It was the refusal of the Jews to repent and confess their sins even after being taken captive! They spent their time praying for judgment against Babylon (Ps 137) rather than seeking God’s face and asking for His forgiveness. God’s will for Israel in captivity was outlined in Jer 29, but the Jews didn’t always follow it. Daniel’s approach was biblical: “For the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does” (Dan 9:14, NIV). Why would He bring His people out of Egypt and then allow them to waste away in Babylon? Daniel knew that God had purposes for Israel to fulfill, and so he reminded God of His past mercies (v. 15).
Asking for mercy on Israel (Dan 9:16-19). God in His grace gives us what we don’t deserve, and God in His mercy doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Daniel asked the Lord to turn away His anger from Jerusalem and the holy temple. He admits that the sins of Israel (including Daniel) were the cause of that great catastrophe, but that God had promised to forgive if His people would repent and confess their sins. “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (v. 18, NIV). But even more, Daniel, desired the nation to be restored that God might be glorified. After all, the Jews were God’s chosen people, and Jerusalem was the place of His holy temple; the longer the people and the land were under God’s wrath, the less glory the Lord would receive. “Your city and your people bear your Name” (v. 19, NIV).