Prayer and Prophecy – Daniel 9
Read the Passage: Daniel 9
Confession of Sin (9:1–15)
Daniel’s prayer in this chapter was in “the first year of Darius,” which would have been around 539 BC. This means the events recorded here occurred roughly twelve years after chapter 7, nine years after chapter 8, but at the same time as the events of chapter 6. The revelation Daniel received came from a study of the book of Jeremiah (the only time Jeremiah is mentioned by name in this book and the last time he is explicitly cited in the Old Testament). Jeremiah had actually twice prophesied about the restoration of Jerusalem (cf. Jer. 25:8–12; 29:10–14). Since the first of these prophecies was likely given around 605 BC, Daniel realized that at least 67 years had already passed and that the time of the promised restoration was nearly at hand. Jeremiah had prophesied that the people would return to God at the time of restoration—an event that had not yet happened.
In the Old Testament we learn that one of the reasons for the set length of the Babylonian captivity was, “to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chron. 36:21). This is in fulfillment of God’s Sabbath instructions in Lev. 25:4 and His promised retribution for Sabbath violations in Lev. 26:34–35. The fact that the land lay fallow for 70 years means that the Jews had not observed the Sabbath year for at least 490 years, which would have been back to the times of the priest Eli (cf. 1 Sam. 1–4). In response to the biblical guidance he received from the Holy Spirit’s illumination of portions of the book of Jeremiah, Daniel began one of the greatest prayers recorded in all of Scripture. Daniel’s prayer was accompanied by fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
There are many elements of Daniel’s prayer which we could emulate, such as: it occurred in response to God’s Word (9:2), it was marked by self-denial (9:3), it repeatedly affirmed God’s holy character (9:4, 7, 9, 13), it included open confession of sin and guilt (9–15), it focused on the glory of God (9:19), and it explicitly referenced Scripture (9:11, 13). One of the most striking elements of Daniel’s prayer, however, is its corporate or national nature; note that the pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our” occur a combined 28 times in this prayer. Indeed, Daniel’s prayer brings to memory Isaiah’s prayer before the throne of God, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Note Daniel wasn’t concerned with the precise meaning of the number 70, but with interceding for the peoples’ sins.
Plea for Mercy (9:16–19)
After lengthy confession to God of his own sins, and an admission of the peoples’ transgressions, beginning in Dan 9:16–19, Daniel presented the content of his petition to the Lord. Daniel’s petition consisted of a prayer for restoration in three separate parts: (1) restoration of “your city Jerusalem . . . the city which is called by your name”–vv. 16, 18, (2) restoration of “your sanctuary,” which is the Temple—v. 17, and (3) restoration of God’s people, the Jewish nation—v. 19. Note that Daniel based his prayer not upon the peoples’ own righteous deeds, but upon God’s mercies as were demonstrated in history. In response to his prayer, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel to Daniel. Twelve years prior to this occasion Daniel had been visited by Gabriel after his vision of the ram and goat (cf. Dan. 8:16), which was possibly Gabriel’s second visit to Daniel (cf. Dan. 7:16).
Comfort of Prophecy (9:20–27)
The time of the angelic visitation reported in Dan. 9:20 was “the time of the evening offering” (Dan. 9:21), which would have been about 3:00 pm, likely one of Daniel’s regular times of prayer (cf. Dan. 6:10). While scholars are not in agreement as to the exact interpretation of the seventy weeks vision revealed in Dan. 9:24–27, the point is clear: the Lord will be victorious at the end of the age. It seems best to view the seventy weeks to be a description of the time between Daniel’s day and Jesus’ atonement, going slightly beyond this to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by Titus. With this understanding, the first week was from Daniel’s time until the time of Ezra and Nehemiah; the sixty-two weeks extend until the time until Jesus’ birth; and the last week ends at the destruction of the Temple, with Jesus’ death being in the middle of the last week.
- How important is it for believers to know details about the end-times? Why did God give Daniel knowledge about the specific number of years left for the exile?
- For what reason is prayer accompanied by fasting, sackcloth, and ashes? How does God’s sovereign will and the prayers of mankind relate?
- What is the benefit of confessing national sins in personal prayer, as does Daniel in this passage? Can one person confess another person’s sins to God for them?
- Do most people today follow the model of prayer demonstrated by Daniel? Upon what do we base our prayers today? How can we know what to pray for?
- How does knowing that persecution is part of the Christian life affect your walk with Christ? How does knowing that the Lord will return affect your faith?