Prayer is a Privilege
Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans-- 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. 3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day--to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. (NKJV)
On the night of October 12, 539 B.C. Babylon was overthrown by the Medo-Persian Empire. Darius the Mede was named king over Babylon, located in the land of the Chaldean tribes. In 538 B.C. the Jews were given their freedom and could return to their homeland. Daniel decided to remain in Babylon, his home for 66 years.
Daniel had been brought to Babylon in 605 B.C., as a teenager. Assuming he was fifteen at the time, Daniel would now be 81 years old. In this passage, he prays for his people, the Israelites. The time is during that first year after Babylon was overthrown, 539-538 B.C (v. 1).
Daniel recalls the words of Jeremiah – “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:10). The seventy years, from 605 B.C. to the return to Jerusalem, and temple worship, are almost up (v. 2b). Even though Jeremiah wrote these words in 605 B.C. (Jer. 25:1), the year of Daniel’s captivity, Daniel considered them as “the word of the Lord” (v. 2a).
He is moved to fervently pray for his people. His prayer was one of the longest in the Old Testament. He set his “face toward the Lord God” (v. 3a), facing Jerusalem, as was his custom. He fasted, dressed in sackcloth and applied ashes, three customs to express sorrow and contrition (v. 3b).
Daniel began his prayer by praising God. He praised Him for who He is – “great and awesome” (v. 4a). He praised God as One “who keeps His covenant and mercy” (v. 4b), keeps his promises, specifically the Abrahamic covenant, and his mercies. He recognizes that these promises and mercies apply only to “those who love Him, and…keep His commandments” (v. 4c).
Next, Daniel confesses his sins, and those of his people. He confesses that they have “rebelled”, “departing from Your precepts and Your judgments”, the Lord’s guiding principles and commandments (v. 5). He confessed the sin that they had not ‘heeded” the words of all the prophets sent by God (v. 6). He confessed the sin of “unfaithfulness” to God (v. 7). Daniel continues this prayer in my next commentary.
Daniel recognized the importance of prayer. He prayed three times a day. He prayed even when King Darius ordered him not to pray, the crime for which he was thrown into the lions’ den.
Thankfully, prayer is still legal in our country, at least in some places. Some day it may not be. But we can still pray in the privacy of our homes without risking being thrown into the lions’ den.
Prayer is a privilege, which we take for granted. We are privileged that prayer is usually legal in this country. We are privileged to be able to go directly to God with our hopes, wishes, and desires.
We know that as long as we are God’s people, Christians, “those who love Him and keep His commandments”, He will hear our prayer. We know that He loves us and wants the best for us. We know that He will work all things together for our good (Ro. 8:28).
We may not pray three times a day, as did Daniel. But we can all carve out time during our busy day to pray. As someone once said, if we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.
Online Bible Commentary