The Mighty Angels of Daniel 9: Prayer Preparations
By Nathan Jones
Time to Pray
Vic Batista: When was Daniel 9 written? Verse 1 gives us the date — “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.”
Nathan Jones: Daniel was exiled from Israel by King Nebuchadnezzar in probably the second of the three exiles before Jerusalem was finally destroyed in 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar believed in kidnapping all the young noblemen and the learned men of every country he conquered, bringing them as captives back to Babylon. We read about Daniel’s arrival in Babylon in chapter 1. The king would then educate the young men in the Babylonian culture. He would also assign them new names. Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar. They were taught the Babylonian language, and Daniel would also learn Aramaic under the Medo-Persians. The captives basically became Babylonians. In that way Nebuchadnezzar grew his empire.
The Babylonian Empire eventually fell under Nebuchadnezzar’s inept grandson, Belshazzar. The Medo-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians. When the Medes and Persians came into control, they were very good to the Jewish people. At this point in Daniel’s life, Darius was in charge. He’s the son of Ahasuerus, also called Xerxes, in the lineage of the Medes. Babylon is under new management!
Verse 1 notes that Darius is now in the first year of his reign. The first year is considered an ascension year, and after that year came the first official year. So, from our modern-day point of view, technically this is the second year of King Darius’ reign.
Darius became a good friend of Daniel. Darius took very good care of Daniel, that is when he wasn’t being tricked into throwing Daniel into a lion’s den, and Daniel served Darius very well.
Vic Batista: Because the Jews had been in exile quite a number of years by the time Darius took the throne, Daniel began to wonder just how many more years God would keep the Jewish people in exile. In verse 2, Daniel began to research the prophets. “In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
Daniel learns from Jeremiah, a prophet from the previous generation during Jerusalem’s destruction, that 70 years would be the sentence. So then, in verses 3-4, Daniel begins to pray to God to fulfill his promise of restoration. “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments…’”
Notice that Daniel didn’t just pray. He prepared himself first. He set his face towards the Lord God in supplication, through fasting, wearing sackcloth, and covering himself in ashes. Daniel was prepared to give a real prayer of repentance.
Nathan Jones: How many Christians really go to the trouble of preparing themselves to pray by fasting? It was rather an ancient Middle-Eastern practice to don sackcloth, which are basically old burlap bags. The supplicant would remove his good clothes and put on sackcloth, which by the way is very uncomfortable. The fabric is gritty and chaffing, thereby contributing to the practice of repenting. Wearing sackcloth was rather like immolating oneself.
Then the supplicant covered their head in ashes. They would actually take leftover ash from the fire and dump it over their heads.
We can now picture Daniel. He is not wearing his fine clothes from the royal court. He is wearing an itchy, coarse, burlap bag and his head is covered in gray ash. Combined, the coverings were supposed to demonstrate that you were in deep sorrow. Go back to the book of Job. Job was adorned the same way. He sat miserable in sackcloth and ashes. That practice went on for hundreds of years.
Daniel provides a wonderful living example of a truly contrite heart. We can look at Daniel to learn the importance of preparing our heart and body beforehand. Once in the correct state of mind, we can then engage in abject sorrow to beg the Lord for the forgiveness of our sins.
What a prayer life Daniel lived out! After all, how many of us even go into a dark closet to offer up a prayer?
Vic Batista: Those are the kind of prayers that God’s responds to. When we find ourselves due to our sin backed into a corner and there is no way out that we can figure, and when we cannot manipulate or connive our way out of the situation, it’s when we finally reach that low that we most find ourselves surrendering. We waited too long! Return as quick as possible to our heavenly Father. In sincerity fall on our faces before the Lord and recognize our great need for His forgiveness.
I love that Daniel is both physically and mentally prepared through fasting and donning sackcloth and ash to offer up a prayer of supplication. In verse 4, Daniel prays, “I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications.” In supplicating, that means Daniel is confessing his sins.
Nathan Jones: Yes, and while Daniel is preparing to confess his and the people’s sins, in verse 4, Daniel also adds praises to the Lord in the mix. “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments.”
Daniel calls God great and awesome. He reminds God that those of His people who love Him are those who keep His commands. God in turn returns that love with mercy. Daniel’s prayer shows there should be a praise aspect to our prayer life. It’s the “P” for “Praise” in the PRAY acronym.
Preparing to Yield
Christians often express that they get hung up on the asking part. Daniel does ask for something, but then he accepts that there is a yielding part — the “Y” — where he yields to God’s will, whatever that may be. We can pray for whatever for our lives, but we have to yield to God’s will in our lives, and that may not always be what we want. A lot of times God’s will isn’t our own. We don’t often get to choose God’s will in our lives, but God wants us to face the challenges we encounter in order to build up our spiritual maturity, grow in our relationship with God, and become more Christ-like.
Vic Batista: Yes, we need to yield to God’s will. Often times we request something in prayer, but then we try to help God out if He doesn’t act as quickly as we want, or doesn’t even act at all.
Nathan Jones: God’s timing is certainly not our timing. This troubling situation hits close to home for me. My son is a special needs child who doesn’t talk. His autism is extreme on the spectrum. Every night as I tuck him in to bed I pray to the Lord, “Oh, Lord, please give him the gift of speech. Please heal my son of his autism.” I have been praying that prayer now since we found out he has autism, probably going on a decade now. To my great sorrow, the Lord has not answered my prayers. My son remains autistic.
Even if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, we can read from the Bible and gain hope concerning God’s perfect will. When it comes to my son, I know for a fact that one day he will receive his glorified body. He will finally be healed! I will be able to talk to him one day and we’ll carry on a conversation together. Sure, I wish that would happen in this lifetime and not have to wait until Heaven. Maybe the Lord will answer that prayer in my son’s life here on earth, and maybe He won’t.
Nevertheless, I have to yield to God’s will in his life and my own life as his caretaker. I’ll be honest, yielding to God’s will a very difficult thing to do, but it must be done. Many of go through different trials and we wonder God why isn’t fixing our problems. “If you love me, fix it!”, we’ll demand. But, there are times when God says, “No, I’ve got something better for you in mind, but you just have to be patient.”
Vic Batista: Other people’s challenges can make us better appreciate the blessings God has given us. I have three wonderful children, and sometimes I tell them to stop talking because they talk way too much.
Nathan Jones: I would be more than happy if my son talked to us. He babbles a lot, and sometimes I ask him to stop babbling so much. If he was truly a talker and he received the gift of speech, I can’t imagine a better blessing that would be. That would lift a tremendous burden off of him and his family. His speaking would be an answer to prayer. But, it could be that maybe God uses our sufferings to help encourage others to recognize their own blessings.
In the thirteenth segment of this series on the mighty angels of Daniel, we’ll hear Daniel’s confession.