The rest of the book of Daniel, the final 6 chapters, are about visions Daniel has about kings and kingdoms. I wanted to highlight the exchange in Daniel 9 where Daniel prays for his people. It is instructive to our role in our current culture and world.
Daniel records these visions and puts them in context, giving us empire and king as a reference for when this happened, and additionally, if we knew the time in which he wrote it, a further understanding of its importance.
As the Persians and Medes conquer Babylon, and in the first year of Darius I, Daniel begins to fast and pray to God for the Jews after reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah had written about how Jerusalem would lie “desolate” for 70 years but God would bring the Jews back. The time was coming soon, and now the empire was under new management. Would this be fulfilled soon?
I want to note that Daniel was reading the modern prophets, the people who heard from God in his day. He was a student of the scripture and open to seeing what God was doing today, here, now, through those scriptures. I hope we do the same. We can.
Now, Daniel’s response could have easily been to just wait it out and see. Why not? He had a good position in the empire, he was taken care of, safe. God had protected him time and again. Just wait and see. God will do what he’s going to do.
But that’s not Daniel’s response. After seeing God’s promise through Jeremiah that there would be a Jewish return to Jerusalem, Daniel enters into prayer and fasting, calling on God to do what is in His heart. He uses this time to align his desires with the will of God.
He humbles himself by wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on his body, cultural signs that he was in mourning and humble. And he prays to God.
Daniel’s prayer is fascinating, but the most important part for us to understand is that he identifies with the people of God that had been in exile for their sin. Even though the scripture never says that Daniel sinned, in fact uses him as this righteous model time and again, and even though Daniel held a prominent position in the new Persian empire, Daniel chooses to lump himself in with the sinful people that need forgiveness and deliverance.
As Christians and people in the Kingdom of God, is this our response? When we see the redemption God has planned for us and the people of God, do we humble ourselves? Do we fast and pray for God’s redemption, plead with him desperately, knowing that only God can accomplish his will? Do we identify with those that sin, those that need redemption, even though we have been redeemed? Do we cry out on their behalf?
Or do we look at those that sin and think they deserve their misery or blindness? Do we have pride as if we deserve our redemption? Do we criticize God and his plan (“how can a God of love exile his people for 70 years”)? Or do we simply go about our own lives and become immersed in the cares of life that perish with the using?
God desires a people like the former, a people like Daniel. That’s what God is looking for, a people who understand the power of the Kingdom and the heart of God for redemption, a people who are willing to be and live humble, a people willing to sacrifice time and effort in prayer and fasting, a people willing to align themselves with the heart of God rather than a political or social agenda.
As we move forward in chapter 10, Daniel continues to war in prayer, to the point that the angel says Daniel’s prayers helped Gabriel overcome the Prince of Persia.
Daniel didn’t quit, either.
In conclusion, let’s remember that it was under the Persian kings that Ezra and Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem and took Jews with them to rebuild the worship in the Temple and the walls around the city. Daniel’s prayers had impact. Let’s remember Daniel as we seek to move more people in our nation and culture to redemption and the wonderful realm of the Kingdom of God.