“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him…”
When I became a Christian at the age of 16, I was taught both in word and by example, that there were disciplines in the Christian life. Among them were reading, studying, and memorizing the word of God, sharing one’s faith, and prayer. Whenever we gathered together as a church or youth group, the word of God was central and there was a time of prayer. As a formerly Catholic girl who grew up reciting memorized prayers, this was a new and rather mysterious matter, so I listened very carefully. These teens and adults in my new church unknowingly became my prayer models. Throughout the many years that have passed, I am still learning from the lives of faithful prayer warriors as I seek to grow in this area.
As believers, we look not only to those around us for instruction, but we turn to the scriptures for the models of prayer scattered across its pages. In the New Testament, we have the examples of Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and others. In the Old Testament, there are also many, among them Moses, David, Elijah and the rest of the prophets.
In the book of Daniel, we find another whose prayer life we can emulate. Daniel was a young man growing up in the royal family in Jerusalem when he was taken captive with several others from his family and homeland to serve in the court of the king of Babylon. Early on we are given insight into his character as we learn that Daniel had made up his mind not to defile himself with the King’s food. He also set himself apart from the King’s false gods to worship and serve YAHWEH alone. We see Daniel and his friends as praying men, who sought the Lord continually, trusting Him for wisdom and protection.
In Daniel chapter 9, we read an incident in the life of Daniel that is instructive for us today. Daniel is now an older man, perhaps well into his 80’s. He has spent nearly 70 years in Babylon, far away from his Jewish homeland. As he has spent time reading and studying the word of God through Jeremiah the prophet, he takes note that the 70 years of exile decreed by the Lord for the desolation of Jerusalem would soon be complete. The Lord had promised that at the end of the 70 years He would punish the King of Babylon and bring His people back to the land. What was Daniel’s response to God’s word?
- Daniel was motivated by the promises of God and “gave his attention to the Lord to seek Him.” In our day, as I am sure was just as true in Daniel’s day, we live with distractions on every side. It is a true discipline to turn it all off and focus on seeking the Lord, learning to not only speak to the Lord but to listen quietly to Him.
- Daniel exhibited his humility and dependence on the Lord by fasting with sackcloth and ashes, mourning over the sin and unrepentant hearts of his people.
- Daniel approached the Lord on the basis of what he knew to be true about His character. He was the great and awesome covenant-keeping God, full of loving-kindness! One of the things that I love about Daniel is that his circumstances did not change his confidence in the faithfulness of his God! Remember, our circumstances may change, but our God does not.
- Daniel confessed the sins of his people, identifying with them as he pled their case before the Lord. He acknowledged the justice of God in bringing calamity upon them while appealing to God’s compassion in pleading for forgiveness and restoration.
- Lastly, Daniel reminds the Lord that it is for the sake of His great name that he is making this request. The city and the people are called by His name. It is God’s reputation that is at stake! Today, we the Church bear His name as well. When we confess our sin as a body or as an individual, we remind the Lord that is for the glory of His great name that we seek restoration and forgiveness. A Christian or a church living in sin brings reproach upon the name of Christ.
Of course, while he was still speaking in prayer, the Angel Gabriel came to Daniel. He brought a response to this one who was highly esteemed. What made Daniel a man who was highly esteemed in God’s eyes? I believe that is was having a heart set on living purely before the Lord, his great humility and unwavering faith in the character and promises of his God.
May we all follow the example of Daniel.