The Prayer of Intercession: Daniel
Introduction: This week we turn our attention to a prayer of Daniel - a hero of the Old Testament. If your life was severely disrupted when you were a child, you can sympathize with Daniel. His young life turned lousy when he was taken into captivity by the Babylonians and dragged away from his homeland. Although he was a captive, through his faithfulness to God, he rose to become the highest-level government official. Daniel had such a great reputation that he remained in power even when his captors were defeated and the government changed.
Like the little movie character E.T., Daniel never forgot about wanting to go home. This week we turn our attention to Daniel's prayer to God about going home.
- The Prophecy
- Read Daniel 9:1-2. Let's figure a minute here. If Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians and he is looking at a 70 year prophecy, about how old is he? (Our lesson says Daniel is in his eighties.)
- How young was he when he was taken captive?
- How would you like to be a captive all your adult life? What if you became a captive because of the sins of someone else - how would you feel?
- Let's turn to Jeremiah and read part of the prophecy. Read Jeremiah 29:10-14. What does the prophecy say about the time of the return to Jerusalem? Do you agree with Daniel's understanding about the 70 years?
- Put yourself in Daniel's place. What do you think went through his head about returning to Jerusalem when the Medes defeated the Babylonians - the people who had taken him into captivity 70 years before? (Note that the prophecy ( Jeremiah 29:10) keys the captivity to Babylon (70 years "are completed for Babylon"). Daniel no doubt thought that the change in power might give his people the opportunity to be free and return home in accord with the prophecy.)
- Now, a year after the Medes have taken power, you are still in captivity. What is going through your mind if you are Daniel? (You are wondering why you are not home.)
- Would you doubt God's word?
- Look again at Jeremiah 29:12-13. Is this just a time prophecy? (No! God says that when 70 years are up the people will seek Him with all their heart. When they find Him, He will take them home.)
- Is the prophecy conditional upon seeking God?
- How about God's promises to you? Are they conditional upon seeking Him?
- The Prayer
- Let's turn to Daniel's prayer. Read Daniel 9:3. What do you think about the way in which Daniel came to God?
- Some people think the way you eat is not important to faith because Jesus said ( Matthew 15:11) what comes out of your mouth -- and not what goes in - makes you unclean. Is your diet (or lack of it) important to prayer?
- Have you ever fasted in connection with your prayers?
- A lot of people think that the way you dress is not important for church. Is it important for prayer?
- Have you ever prayed in sackcloth and ashes? (You say you don't know where they even sell sackcloth these days!)
- What is the point of fasting, sackcloth and ashes? What would be the modern equivalent? (I looked at a lot of texts on fasting and sackcloth. Fasting and sackcloth seem to represent the intersection of humility and mourning. For example, Psalms 35:13-14 plainly says you humble yourself with fasting. Sackcloth is unrefined fabric. The other ingredient in Daniel 9:3 is ashes (dust on the head - Nehemiah 9:1). This combination not only represents humble dress and appearance, they are indications of mourning. Matthew 9:14-15. Fasting, sackcloth and ashes show an extreme attitude of "smallness" when you come to God.)
- How important to you think fasting and the signs of distress are to approaching God in prayer?
- Read Daniel 9:4. What do you think about the way Daniel started out his prayer? (Do I ask this every week or what?!! Every week we see that this is the way these great prayers start: praise to God for who He is and not because of what He has done to answer our prayers.)
- Let's re-read the second half of verse 4 and read Daniel 9:5-6. As you consider the second half of verse 4, do you think God's love is conditional upon your obedience to Him? If not, how do you explain this language?
- Is there a distinction between His "covenant of love" and His love? (Yes. Deuteronomy 28-30 sets out the covenant that God had with His people. Essentially the covenant is obey and be blessed, disobey and be harmed. God loves each and every one of us with an unfailing love. However, sin and disobedience have consequences. See John 14:21-23 and John 3:16.)
- Notice the confession of sins in these verses in Daniel. What role does repentance play in our prayers? (In Matthew 4:17 we see Jesus preaching that the people should repent because of the kingdom of heaven was near. Repentance is important to approaching God. See Luke 13:1-5 for an interesting discussion about disaster, sin and repentance. Jesus says the degree of sin does not govern the degree of suffering. But unrepented sin will kill you.)
- Let's skip ahead a moment and read Daniel 9:11 because it fits in this discussion. Is this cause and effect still in place - or under the new covenant are we free from obedience? (Paul, the great advocate of the new covenant, was very clear on the importance of obedience. Read Romans 2:13. You cannot love God and ignore Him. John 14:15)
- One of the problems with the people ( Daniel 9:6) was that they did not "listen to the prophets." What is today's equivalent of that sin?
- Read Daniel 9:8-10. Contrast Judah's attitude toward God compared with God's attitude towards Judah. Is it the same today with us?
- Read Daniel 9:12. What does Daniel mean when he says nothing was ever done like was done to Jerusalem? (He was talking about the destruction of God's temple. The destruction of the primary visible link between God and man.)
- We recently studied the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated the temple. How do you explain that God let the Babylonians destroy His temple -- the temple that King David planned and King Solomon built? Does this make any sense to you?
- Is there a lesson in this for us?
- Read Daniel 9:17-18. What did we learn two weeks ago with Elijah - is our God sometimes preoccupied so that He does not hear us? (No!)
- If God always hears, what is Daniel talking about in verse 17?
- We spoke earlier about the importance of repentance and obedience. What does verse 18 tell us about how our righteous acts get us saved? (Daniel clearly understood righteousness by faith. We are not saved because of anything we do. We are saved only because of God's great mercy towards us.)
- The Answer
- Read Daniel 9:20-21. It would be easy for Daniel to feel that God did not care, that He was not paying attention to His promise to His people. What does this verse show about God's care when we turn to Him? (God sends Gabriel to give Daniel a personal answer!)
- Read Daniel 9:22-23. How quickly does God hear the kind of prayer that Daniel made?
- Does God want us to understand our difficulties? Does He want our problems to "make sense?" (He wants us to trust Him (remember our study of the prayers of Job), but He also wants us to understand.)
- Read Daniel 9:24-25. Speaking of understanding, we are not going to try to completely unravel this vision. (Remember, we are studying prayer and not prophecy here.) What good things can you understand from this message? (They are going to have a holy city again! It looks like they will have their holy city for a whopping 490 years (70x7)!
- Who is the "Anointed One?" (I promised I would not get into prophecy, but this is important. Gabriel told Daniel about when Jesus the Messiah would come!)
- What will the Anointed One bring for us? (Verse 24, "everlasting righteousness.")
- Will God trust us with His important insights when we turn to Him? (Oh, yes! This text shows us that God wants to encourage us.)
- Friend, perhaps you are discouraged. Your life has not been going well. Daniel's prayer shows us the importance of repenting and turning to God with our problems. He is anxious to help and assure us. Will you turn to Him?
- Next Week: Prayer: Listening to Jesus