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Daniel’s Great Prayer-Chapter 9–Lesson X

by R. H. Boll

RHBoll(This book on Daniel was originally written in 1944. In 2000 it was revised the 3rd time by R. L. Garrett)

"I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years."

This time was now nearly up. It was the first year of Darius the Mede, who received the kingdom after the city of Babylon was taken and Belshazzar was slain. (Daniel 5:30, 31.) And now Judah's exile should be ended and the day of her liberation was at hand. But was there any indication that such a thing was about to take place? None at all thus far--no stir, no movement, no edict, in fact no visible prospect. But far more depressing to Daniel was the fact that there was no evidence of any spiritual preparation among the people. For God's predictions are not fulfilled in a mechanical sort of way. They are always conditioned. Thus, for [29] example, God had indeed said that He would lead Israel out of Egypt and bring them into the land which He had promised to their fathers; but when they rebelled against Jehovah, the realization of the promise was deferred forty years, until all that generation died; and not they but their sons inherited the land. And, but for Moses' intercession in the matter of the golden calf, none of Israel would have gone in, and the whole program would have been set back by 400 years.

Thus, in like manner, the promise of the return from the Babylon captivity was indeed scheduled to take place after seventy years were fulfilled; but certain conditions were implied, and not only implied, but plainly stated. In connection with the promise of the return as given in Jeremiah 29:10, the Lord said,

"Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, "and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile." (Jeremiah 29:12-14.)

This is in accord with the general principles which had been laid down before by Moses, in Leviticus 26:40-42, in which the confession of their iniquity of their fathers, and the acknowledgment of the righteousness of God's punitive dealings with them, and a humble submission to Jehovah, is made the condition of their restoration. Until such a change took place, and a new attitude was manifest, God could not restore them.

The time had now come for their return from Babylonian exile. But there was no contrition to be seen, there was no supplication, no seeking after Jehovah with all their heart. Far from it--many of the Jews had become acclimatized to Babylon's pleasant surroundings and were content to live there for ever. They had enjoyed many favors from the Babylonians who had carried them captive--largely through the sacrificial faithfulness of Daniel and his friends. Some of them had grown wealthy; and (as the event showed) most of them did not care to go back to the scenes of ruin and desolation which had been their fathers' happy land.

A heavy fear and foreboding gripped Daniel's heart. Could the promised return and restoration take place under these circumstances? He had anticipated with joy the glorious vision of Israel's restoration, as pictured in Jeremiah (chapters 30-33) and in other pre-exilic prophets. If he had perhaps hoped that the hour of this wonderful restoration was near, there were things which troubled him.

Seventy years?--and yet, four Gentile world-powers were to come--four beasts, the little horn of the fourth, the terrible sufferings in store for his people before Israel could be restored to their land?

And those prophecies looked far into the future.

All that was a long way off: the vision was for many days, and belonged to the time of the end.

When would all Israel and Judah be gathered back to their land, and that to possess it for ever, as Jeremiah had foretold? (Jeremiah 30:3.) When at last would Jacob's tempestuous voyage end and his storm-tossed ship anchor in that glad haven of rest, where he "will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid," and "they will sorrow no more"? (Jeremiah 30:10; 31:12.)

When would this be true, this prophecy be fulfilled?--

"In those days and at that time,' declares the LORD, "search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant." (Jeremiah 50:20.)

In seventy years?

This was what perplexed Daniel, and filled him with fears and apprehensions concerning the future of his beloved people, their land and their city.

Therefore, he now lays himself out to pray for them. Because they showed no spirit of penitence, because they did not confess their sins, and appeal to Jehovah in tears and supplications, therefore he, Daniel, would set himself to do this for them, as their representative, their intercessor. Did not Moses do so in Israel's wilderness days, and God heard and accepted the nation for his sake? So now would he do. "So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed . . ." Will the reader now turn to the chapter and read for himself this wonderful prayer of intercession which follows (Daniel 9:4-19), and note some of its high features. [30]

  1. His confession, thoroughgoing, frank and honest. No excuse, no minimizing of guilt, no reservation is there.
  2. He justifies God and condemns the sinner. (Compare Psalms 51:4.) He acknowledges unreservedly God's justice in the judgments that have been inflicted upon the people. He fulfills the conditions laid down in Leviticus 26:40-42.
  3. He confesses also the people's careless and unrepentant state, which, alas, still existed. (Verse 13.)
  4. Although Daniel himself had been pure and true in all his life, he takes his place with the guilty, sinful people and thus pleads for them. It is not merely "they" that sinned, but "we". So also did Moses identify himself with guilty Israel (Exodus 34:9), and our Lord Jesus, who for our sake was reckoned among the transgressors.
  5. Beneath it all, as in all the great prayers of the Bible, there is a deep concern for God's interest--His name, His honor. For Jerusalem was not just a city, dear to Daniel's heart, but she is God's city--"Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain," "the city which is called by Your name." And the temple which lay in ruins because of the nation's sin is "Your desolate sanctuary." Yes, and the people, though for the time disowned, are "Your people" and they are called by "Your name." How long shall this reproach be, that men shall say, "these are Jehovah's people, and are gone forth into captivity?"
  6. The great burden of the prayer is finally compressed into its final sentence: "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name." In this one petition--"do not delay" ("defer not" KJV)--centers Daniel's hope and fear. The seventy years are fulfilled--O Lord, even though you have just cause to do otherwise, delay not, but fulfill the gracious promise to us now, for your name's sake.

But defer He would and must. Yet there should be a token fulfillment of His promise. There would be a liberation and return of a handful of the people. But the great promise of the glorious restoration must wait. How long? This is the theme of the prophecy that follows (Daniel 9:24-27).

While Daniel was yet "speaking and praying," and, as he said, "confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God,"--there came again "the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously." (This either has reference to the vision of chapter 8, verse 16--or to a vision which is not recorded.) And Gabriel instructed him and talked with him, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding." As soon as Daniel had begun to pray, Gabriel received orders from God; "and (he said) I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision." (Daniel 9:20-23). Here follows the wonderful prophecy of the "Seventy Weeks"--the discussion of which belongs to the next lesson.


The Lion's Den episode took place about this time--perhaps before, more likely after, the events of this chapter. Daniel was a man of prayer. Not even to spare his own life would he give up his right and privilege to pray to God (Daniel 6). He knew the source of all his strength and hope. He also knew how to pray. If you do not--say as did the disciples: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1f).

There was special need for prayer at this time. But really, are any of the promised things of God obtained without prayer?

"The appearing of the striking signs of a predicted event, so far from leading the watchful servant of God to assume that the event will automatically transpire without prayer to heaven, calls him to the more extraordinary engagement in prayer. God's promises are not only not automatic in fulfillment, they are not even unconditional." (Stevens.)

Pleading the promises. One of the best ways to pray is by pleading God's promises to Him. "Prayer is not the means of wresting from the hands of God that which He is unwilling to give, but rather of obtaining from Him what He has promised, and what He wants us to have, and is glad to bestow."

The word translated "receive" also means to "take." Prayer is the hand that takes what God freely offers. See how God made promises to David (2 Samuel 7) and David immediately began to pray that God might grant him the thing promised. [31]

How earnest and intense was the prayer of Daniel! He gave his attention fully to the Lord God, he "set his face." (KJV, vs. 3). He did not wait for the mood or for a wind of impulse. He was purposeful. It was "prayer" and "supplications," with "fasting and sackcloth and ashes." We know too little of that sort of praying.

Our somnolent, comfortable, easy-going approach to the throne stands in bad contrast. "Aunt Carrie is not going to get well," said a little boy to his parents. "What makes you think that?" they asked. "I saw the preacher praying for her, and he knelt only on one knee." There is something to that.--A Mohammedan expressed his disgust at Christian's prayers, because, he said, "they lounged" when they prayed. Now we are under no specific regulations as to posture; and above all things we don't want to put artificial fervor into our prayers. God hears short prayers, poor prayers, feeble prayers. But let us have grace to realize what it means to come to the throne of grace, and let us seek to feel the need--our own, that of our loved ones, brethren, friends, of the church, of the world. Ask God to lay the burden on your heart, and you will pray aright. And, whether you "feel like it" or not, set yourself to pray.

"I, Daniel, observed in the books" (Daniel 9:2). What "Scriptures" or "books" did Daniel have? Certainly the "Torah"--the five books of Moses; and no doubt all the historical books insofar as they had been written; psalms of David and all other pre-exilic psalms; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel (whose messages had by this time been long finished); Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. Daniel read and studied the word of God. The fact that he himself was an inspired prophet did not make his study of the writings of others of God's prophets superfluous. Daniel brought his message which God gave him; but for all other teaching he went to God's book just as we must do. Also as this chapter shows, Daniel understood Jeremiah to mean simply what he said.

How far away is heaven? The Jews distinguished three heavens:

  1. the heavens where the birds fly and the clouds float;
  2. the heavens where the stars are;
  3. the place where God abides. "Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You," said Solomon in his dedicatory prayer--"how much less this house which I have built!" (I Kings 8:27). Paul was "caught up to the third heaven" (2 Corinthians 12:2). How far is it to there?

"It took the man Gabriel just a few minutes, being caused to fly swiftly, to reach Daniel and acquaint him with the secrets of God. As long as it takes to utter the words Daniel prayed, so long it took Gabriel to reach the intercessor's side. . . . Heaven is not far away. There is no space and distance for God. What an encouragement to prayer this ought to be to God's people. The moment we pray in the Spirit and in His name our voices are heard in the highest heaven." (Gaebelein.)

-R. H. Boll (1875-1956) was  Editor of Word and Work 1916-1956)

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33