Daniel in prayer

Daniel is clearly a devout man of God, when God was looking for three examples he could give of righteous men Daniel was one of the ones chosen[1]. He also enjoyed a long and prosperous life in favor with God and man. Underpinning this we get glimpses of a life of prayer. Of course many people pray, or claim to, I aim to look at some of the features of Daniel's prayer life that made it both real and effective.

The first feature we see with Daniel's first recorded prayer session. His prayers were motivated by real situations. In Daniel 2 he and his friends were literally praying for their lives, similarly in Daniel 6. In Daniel 9 the weight of the whole country was upon his shoulders, and Daniel prayed into the situation.

The second feature we see is identification; in Daniel 2 & 6 you would expect this. Daniel had an urgent pressing need that he would clearly identify with. Daniel 9 gives us a clearer understanding of his character. He is really praying for the whole nation, he is praying about a possible return to Jerusalem. By this time he almost certainly knew he was too old to return himself, and he was doing very nicely. But throughout chapter 9 we keep seeing 'we', 'us' & 'our'. He wasn't praying in a detached way, he was involved.

Perhaps one of the most amazing features, especially considering this is a man that God declared as righteous, is his deep understanding of his own sinful character. In V20 of Chapter 9, right in the middle of considering huge social and political issues we find him confessing his own sin. If we contrast this to Lu 18 where we find a Pharisee being thankful that he "wasn't a sinner" we begin to see why Daniel's prayers worked.

Of course in chapter 9 we hear words Daniel used, but anyone can recite nice words, the real proof of the genuineness comes in chapter 10 when we hear it said "Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words." Daniel's words came out of a prior heart action. He wasn't heard because he got the words right, he was heard because he got the heart right.

The next thing we find is that having a real situation and a correct heart he actually had something to say. The Lord warns against vain repetitions[2], as we go through the recorded prayers of Daniel we don't see any formulas or creeds; he addresses the situation in hand with a fairly concise piece of prose. Again if we compare to the Pharisee we find his prayer fairly formulaic, in fact we are told from other sources that they did have formulas they regularly used.

Importantly, whilst Daniel avoided repetition in word, he didn't avoid repetition in action. This was the key behind Daniel 6. In verse 10 we find that when the decree was issued he went to his house, knelt and prayed three times a day as he did aforetime. Daniel didn't just pray when he 'had' to; it was his habitual practice. We are not told precisely what times he prayed but I fancy it was probably at the start and end of each day and around lunch. Prayer surrounded his day and was the highpoint of it.

On a purely practical basis we also find from Chapter 6 that Daniel tended to pray at home, he does in Chapter 2 too. The Lord recommended going into a closet[3] the more professional prayer recommends the temple as you get more visibility[4]. The issue is simply this, Daniel prayed to God. The Pharisee is said to have 'prayed with himself'. We need to pray in whatever way allows us to focus upon the one to whom we are praying, for most people that means privacy.

For all of the above, the ultimate attestation to Daniel's prayer life comes in the simplest of forms: his prayers worked. In Daniel 2&6 he got out of some nasty scrapes; in Daniel 9+ he is handed some of the deepest prophecy we get. This shouldn't surprise us, James 5:6 says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Daniel is a superb example of this.

However, my favorite feature of Daniel's prayer life is the easiest to overlook. In Daniel 9:2 we get 'I Daniel understood by books!' and then in verse 3 'I set my face unto the Lord God.' Daniel understood the prayer he was making; the character of the one whom he was praying to; the basis in God's character of the request he was making; even the potential blockages in the way. In Daniel 2 there was probably little wisdom, a young lad appealing to his creator for help. But when we see him again some 70 years later he hadn't stagnated; he had used his time to fill his head with every ounce of information he could muster to help him understand God's mind.

I do agree and we have seen, that effective prayer comes from deep heart movement. And we accept that deep heart movement comes from the Holy Spirit[5]. But I believe the Holy Spirit uses and honors the simple straightforward labor we put in to serving and understanding God. The intellectual and the spiritual are often seen as antithetical. I believe that Daniel managed to harness both in his service of God. Further, I believe that, if we can do the same, we may have prayer lives approaching the efficacy of Daniel.


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