First, let me welcome Kreig back to the “blogosphere”! Last week Kreig wrote a great post on the Jewish “tefillah”. This sparked a conversation between Kreig and I about how differently the Old Testament saints prayed than we do today. They had a grasp on the nature of prayer and also on the nature of God that we, frankly, do not have today.
One of those prayers that comes to mind is in Daniel chapter 9. Daniel had just read the prophecies of Jeremiah, specifically where God promised that he would keep Israel in Babylonian (later on Persian) captivity for 70 years. Daniel realized that those 70 years were almost over, and so he decided to pray. It was not as if Daniel doubted God, the issue was that God’s people had still not repented of their sins, they were still as wicked as ever, and it troubled Daniel that God might prolong the bondage of His people because they were still very wicked. This led to a beautiful prayer by Daniel. In this prayer, we see a model for how we ought to pray and how we ought to view both prayer and God. Let’s look at a few key thoughts about Daniel’s ‘model’ prayer:
Lifting Up God
We see Daniel begin his prayer in verse 4. The first thing that Daniel says is in his prayer is in reference to the greatness of God. Most times, we skip ahead to the “asking God for stuff” part of the prayer. But Daniel starts by acknowledging the person of God. That is not just how he starts the prayer, but he peppers the praises of God throughout the prayer. One of the primary functions of the prayer was to lift God up!
A part of Daniel’s prayer that takes up a lot of space is his confession of sin, on a personal and a national level. Daniel realized that they were still very much wicked in the sight of God. No verse says it more clearly than verse 5, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.” Throughout the chapter we see Daniel acknowledging his sin, and how heartbroken he was over it.
Understanding Being Undeserving
His acknowledgment of his sin led to an understanding of being undeserving. Throughout the prayer, Daniel pleads for the mercy of God, the concept of mercy is implied throughout because of what Daniel says in verse 9, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.” Daniel was praying that God release them of their bondage, but he did not do so with any pretense that they earned it or deserved it. So many times, we go to God and act as if we are entitled to get good things. We need to realize that we do not deserve anything good from God. Anything good that he gives us falls under the category of the Mercy of God!
Requesting God’s Glory
The conclusion to Daniel’s prayer was that God would release them out of bondage, not because they earned it, but for the glory of God. Verse 17 at the end says, “…for the Lord’s sake,” verse 19 says, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. Daniel’s prayer was ultimately that God would be glorified. We often so get so consumed in asking God for things, that we forget that the ultimate point of prayer (and the ultimate point of the Christian life) is for God to be glorified. Glorifying God is not just saying good things about him, but it even bleeds into the very things we ask for in prayer.
The elements of this prayer ought to look familiar, because Jesus uses the same main points in his Model Prayer:
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name (1. Lifting up God).
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven(4. Requesting God’s glory).
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts (2. Confessing sin), as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
As Kreig so well stated last week: prayer is not just asking God for things. It isn’t even primarily about asking God for things! That very truth is modeled in practically all the prayers in the Bible. Let’s pray in a way that is pleasing to God!
For more of Curtis King’s writing, check out his author page.