"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: "O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and keep your commands." Daniel 9:4
Welcome back to the study of Daniel! We are reminded at Easter (this past weekend) that we live in a post resurrection world; a different view than Daniel had. Yet, Daniel's faithfulness, devotion, and prayer life reflects his acceptance of God's grace and mercy, the very same message Jesus brought to the world. Studying Daniel (the book) and Daniel (the person & prophet) has added a layer of insight to my faith; I hope you have been enriched as well.
Chapter 9 takes us in a slightly different direction. We get a glimpse into Daniel's prayer life. Like chapters 7 & 8, it is a flashback, this time to the first year of Darius the Mede's reign. Darius was the ruler that conquered Belshazzar on the same night that Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall; the 3rd ruler since Daniel's captivity.
As we read through the first part of chapter 9, pay close attention to what Daniel says and how he says it. Why does he pray this way? It reminds me of when I was little and the pastor would say these long-winded, over my head, on-and-on prayers. I often thought to myself, "just get to the point already". In my defense, I was little and probably didn't understand most of what the pastor was saying, but generally my prayers still follow the formula of short & to the point. It is only in recent years that I've modified my prayers to include praise, adoration, confession, along with asking for what is needed or wanted. And that's not 100% of the time; it's usually for especially difficult circumstances. Am I alone in this? How do your prayers usually go? I'd love to know.
Compare Daniel's prayer to your prayers. Have you ever prayed like Daniel did? Why? Do you recall how you felt before, during, and after the prayer? This isn't part of the study guide, but a little reflection on prayer that might be helpful in connecting Daniel, chapter 9 to our own lives.
The second half of this chapter takes us back to the realm of the supernatural. As Daniel is praying, Gabriel shows up again. This time, instead of interpreting a crazy dream, he gives insight and understanding as to what happened as a result of Daniel's prayer and what will happen. It's like Gabriel is shedding light on God's decision process: 'as soon as I heard you, I put some things in motion. Just wanted to let you know that something is in the works and here's how it's going to work out.' At least, that's how I read it. I'm less concerned about the timing; looking more towards the fact that God has it all in hand and it was Daniel's prayer that set the ball rolling. Wouldn't it be great if we received insight into how our prayers will be answered?
Another thing to note is that Daniel is praying for his nation. He's not praying for specific people or even for himself, but for his nation. I will admit, I don't usually think of my prayers as having the ability to have an impact on my nation. It's so big & complicated and I'm so small, not even a cog in the political wheel. I have, on occasion, prayed for the nation and the world, but it's not on my regular prayer list. Daniel has inspired me to pray regularly for our nation, it's people and it's leaders. The timing of this study & this chapter are like God's timing: perfect. This chapter offers hope for the future as we pray for God's mercy and grace for our nation. This is especially important in our current political atmosphere and in every election, as each one has an effect on the next.
At the end of this week's lesson, the Now and Later asks us to write a prayer of "national confession". If you are willing to share this, I would love to read it. Perhaps we could write one together as a group. Even if you don't have a complete prayer, share your thoughts in the comments and/or bring them to our gathering on Friday. We will compose a prayer together for our nation based on Daniel's prayer.
Your Partner in Ministry,
"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24