Have you ever come to God in complete humility and brokenness, not asking for anything other than mercy and leniency? This is what Daniel did on behalf of the entire people of Israel. ◊
Everyone prays. Or at least most will admit they do in a time of deep lows or travail. Most people are very comfortable in asking God for help when in great need.
How about prayer that comes out of deep regret and confession of deep sin?
It’s acknowledging wrong actions and disobedience and coming before God in deep sorrow and remorse, almost begging for mercy and leniency.
Think about it.
This is very different from petitioning God for things or for things to work out. This is coming to God in pure humility and brokenness for violating His ways. And by the way, we can now come to God directly in prayer through Christ, we do not need a pastor/priest or mediator:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:5)
We’re given a model of this type of prayer by the prophet Daniel in the first part of Chapter 9 of the Book of DANIEL. In the first half of this chapter, it is this specific prayer that draws out God’s answer to him directly about the future of Israel that is to be played out over next “seventy weeks (of years)” or 490 years.
Daniel’s Confessional Prayer of Great Remorse
Chapter 9 starts out with an extended prayer. The year is 539 BC. Daniel first acknowledges that he understands the 70 years of Jewish captivity that was predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (circa 605 BC – see Jeremiah 25:9-11). He realizes that this period of time (70 years) should be coming to an end and he is praying for the next move of God on behalf of Israel:
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. (Daniel 9:1-3)
The Confession: There is a structure to his prayer that can serve as guidance for us. He first acknowledges God’s faithfulness and our sin. In this case he pleads with God and confesses sin on behalf of his Jewish nation. He notes:
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 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 ancestors, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 3:4-6)
Daniel does not simply make an “I’m sorry we were bad” prayer. He recognizes the litany of serious violations of God’s ways. Daniel speaks of the people’s wickedness, their rebellion against God, their proactive rejection of God’s commands, and overt resistance to the prophets’ warnings:
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, 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.” (Daniel 9:7-11a)
To illustrate how bad the behavior got, here are just 3 verses in Jeremiah, the contemporary prophet who warned Judah prior to their takedown by Nebuchadnezzar. God speaks (through Jeremiah) here of the utter degradation of the people of Jerusalem, including their child sacrifices:
“They know no limits in deeds and evil; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.” (Jeremiah 5:28)
“They have held fast to deceit; they have refused to return. I have given heed and listened, but they do not speak honestly; no one repents of wickedness, saying ‘What have I done!'” (Jeremiah 8:6)
“They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as sacrifices to Baal…” (Jeremiah 19:5)
The Indictment. Being fully contrite, Daniel acknowledges the curses, oath, and judgments due Israel per the Law of Moses.1
“Therefore the curses, oath, 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 on us great disaster.” (Daniel 9:11b-12a)
Daniel cites what was communicated by his contemporary Ezekiel as well:
“Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before.” (Ezekiel 5:9)
“Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem.” (Daniel 9:12b)
Daniel points out that the just consequences of his nation’s sin was meted out by our just and righteous God:
“Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on 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 on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.” (Daniel 9:13-14)
God’s Righteousness and Deliverance. Daniel acknowledges the steadfast righteousness and tangible deliverance out of Egypt of his Hebrew ancestors. He pleads for God to stay consistently righteous and hold back any wrath against Jerusalem. It’s bad enough that God’s people are being mocked by surrounding nations:
“Now, 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. 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 ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. (Daniel 9:15-16)
And finally, Daniel, pleads in spite of all that’s happened and been destroyed (recall the city and temple were decimated by the Babylonians in 586 BC), that God would forgive and have great mercy:
“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our 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. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Daniel 9:17-19)
Yes, Daniel models a direct prayer to God that outright confesses wrongdoing, lays out the indictment and consequences, and then begs for mercy and grace. While God’s judgment is true and righteous, great is His mercy and grace, as we will see in Part 2 of chapter 9.
The Seventy “Sevens”
While Daniel is confessing and praying, he is approached by Gabriel, and is given a decree for the people of Israel:
“Seventy ‘sevens’ (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy One.” (Daniel 9:24)
As this is the crux of modern Biblical prophetic controversies, I will address this part of Chapter 9 in detail in a separate Part 2 post.
Do you take humble confession of sin and prayer to God seriously?
“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…” – Daniel 9:3-4a
1 The Handwriting on the Wall, by James B. Jordan, American Vision, 2007, pp. 453-454. Israel’s sin of disobedience is likened to adulterous behavior and the oath as prescribed in Numbers chapter 5.
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