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Jun 23, 2013

Praying Because History Depends on It

Passage: Daniel 9:1-27

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Daniel: Overcoming Under Siege

Category: Christian Walk, Prayer

Keywords: repentance, confession, sin, national failure, prophecy, grief, hope


Daniel's prayer of confession in Daniel 9 is an amazing lesson in seeking God with all your heart. Prompted by his reading of Jeremiah, this passage illustrates what the heart of an upright person should do when he/she is grieved by the sin of the people of God or a nation.


Praying Because History Depends on It

“Overcoming Under Siege” Series

Daniel 9

June 23, 2013


Congregational Prayer  #1 (standing)

Leader: Blessed Jesus, you offered us all your blessings when you announced, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
People: but we have been rich in pride.

Leader: Blessed are those who mourn.
People: but we have not known much sorrow for our sin. Leader: Blessed are the meek.
People: but we are a stiff-necked people.

Leader: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
People: but we are filled to the full with other things.

Leader: Blessed are the merciful.
People: but we are harsh and impatient.

Leader: Blessed are the pure in heart.
People: but we have impure hearts.

Leader: Blessed are the peacemakers.
People: but we have not sought reconciliation.

Leader: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.
People: but our lives do not challenge the world.

Leader: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
People: but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.

Leader: Your Law is holy and your benedictions are perfect,
but they are both too great for us.
You alone are blessed.
People: We plead with you to forgive our sins
and give us the blessing of your righteousness.



We’re not terribly used to public prayers let alone prayers of confession, are we?  How did it make you feel? 


Today’s Scripture passage is from Daniel 9.  It’s mostly a prayer of confession.  But to study this prayer and not experience prayer would be a grave travesty against God’s word. It’s easier to hid from God in some passages of Scripture.  This is not one of them.  


So, if you don’t like interacting with God, you’re probably not going to like this service very much today.  If you don’t want to experience God through prayer today, you’re probably going to say this next hour was a waste of time.

            But if you believe, as Daniel did, that prayer changes you, changes history, changes what and how God does things, then today might just be a really special experience for you. 


So let me lead us in a short prayer again today, a simple petition to God to treat us a certain way this morning.  Will you please bow in humble silence for about 15 seconds and then I will lead us in prayer.

15 seconds

“Lord, have mercy on us.”


The year was 538 B.C., the same year in which the events of Daniel 5 took place when Belshazzar was having his party and the handwriting appeared on the wall.  That very night King Darius the Mede conquered Babylon and killed Belshazzar.  Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 9 tell us that it was somewhere in that first year of Darius’ reign that Daniel realized something that changed his relationship with God.

He had apparently been having his devotions in the book of Jeremiah, one of the books the captives of Jerusalem had brought with them when they were enslaved by the Babylonians 67 years before in 605B.C.  We’re pretty sure from his response to reading Jeremiah what the passage or passages were he was reading.  Two specific verses talk about just how long this captivity was going to take. 

Jeremiah 25:8-11-- Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.


The next time Jeremiah talks about 70 years is in chapter 29:10-- This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”


I personally think that it was this passage in particular that God used to speak to Daniel in such a way that it radically altered his relationship with God for a period of time.  Vs. 12 specifically talks about what would change—God’s people would “call on” Him “and come and pray to” Him…”and [God] would listen.” 


If we had been in Daniel’s sandals, knowing that we were virtually on top of this very clear and direct prophecy about our nation, what would our response have been? 

  • “So God’s people are going to start praying, are they?  I wonder when?  I don’t see any city-wide prayer meetings?  I don’t see any movements of prayer around here.  Let me know when someone really takes this seriously and starts doing something about it!” 
  • Or would you be thinking, “Well, we’ve got 3 years to go until this timeframe is up.  I’ll put a note in my calendar for 535 B.C., 3 years from now, to remember to start praying then.” 


If God had already promised the timing and the event, why on earth did Daniel go to his knees in prayer rather than go to his travel agent in preparation for returning to Jerusalem?  I think Daniel understood that even when God reveals His plan, he expects us to cry out to Him in prayer for that plan. 

            This strikes at the heart of critics of God’s sovereignty who say, “Well, if God has already determined what is going to happen, what I do or don’t do doesn’t matter.”  That’s a view of God’s sovereignty gone to seed. 

            Daniel knew that the certainty of God’s promises made prayer all that much more necessary.  If we think that prayer is just about getting God to do something he wouldn’t do if we didn’t pray, we’ve missed a good bit of the meaning of prayer.  That shows how little we understand the purpose of prayer in the life of God’s children. 

            Daniel’s praying didn’t change God’s timetable.  It didn’t change what God did.  It didn’t even change how God did it or for whom God did it.  But, it changed God’s man, Daniel. 

Daniel knew that one of the most important things prayer could do in His own life was to teach him to “seek the Lord with all his heart,” (29:13).  God had promised in this passage in Jeremiah 29:12 & 13 that he would both “listen” to people who actually prayed and he would be found when people actually sought him “with all [their] heart.”  


So Daniel decides to be that man.  He’s not going to wait for someone else to pick up the torch.  He’s lacing up his sandals first because he doesn’t want to miss out on being one of those people who actually becomes the fulfillment of God’s promises.  He wants to be one of those people who really “find God.”  And he knows that in order to do that, he must become one of those men who seeks God with all his heart (vs. 13). 


If prayer (especially confessional prayer like Daniel is going to pray here in chapter 9) is THE measure of whether or not we are a people who is seeking God “with all our heart,” how we doing

Personal Application:  I can only answer for myself.  And I’m not very impressed by what I see.  I’ve frankly had very few seasons of repentance in my life.  I’m not sure I’ve spent an entire day in my life confessing my sins and the sins of my nation let alone probably the several days or weeks that Daniel might have spent learning to seek God with all his heart in prayer.  It’s been a while since I fasted for several days for anything let alone something God has clearly promised he will do if I ask Him.  So, if I’m honest, really honest, I think I need to admit, according to this passage in Jeremiah 29, that I’m really not seeking God “with all my heart.” 

            You’ll have to measure your own heart and see what God says. 


To help us with that right now, I’d like to suggest that we pray another written prayer of confession.  Who knows how God might use it in our lives as he did Jeremiah 29 in Daniel’s life.  It will be up on the video screen if you comprehend better by looking at the words.  And I will simply read this prayer phrase by phrase, pausing to let God speak to us on a personal level before reading the next phrase.  Please bow with me in prayer.


Congregational Prayer #2

Gracious God,

We confess that we have longed too much for the comforts of this world.

We have loved the gifts more than the giver.

In your mercy, help us to see that all the things we pine for are shadows, but you are substance;

that they are the quicksands, but you are the mountain;

that they are shifting, but you are the anchor.

We plead your forgiveness on the merits of Jesus Christ.

Accept his worthiness for our unworthiness,

his sinlessness for our transgressions,

his fullness for our emptiness,

his glory for our shame,

his righteousness for our dead works,

his death for our life.

We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


A couple of very quick observations now about Daniel’s prayer here that may help us engage in life-altering prayer.

1.)     It was motivated by the word of God.  Our prayers would probably be much more effective if we prayed God’s word back to him rather than our will.  Praying our will has a way of fixing our hopes upon what we want.  Praying God’s word has a way of changing our desires to conform to His will. 

EX:  Mt. 6:33—for someone struggling to pay the bills, to have enough food and clothing, how would praying this verse sound?  (Notice, it isn’t promising anything more than food and clothing…not even shelter.)  “Lord, please teach me how to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness.  Teach me what your kingdom is all about and what your righteousness should look like in my life right now.”

2.)    Prayer for yet-to-be-realized things God had promised started with a deep, passionate, life-altering demonstrations of prayer of confession.  I say “life-altering” and “passionate” demonstration because “fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (vs. 3) accompanied this season of confessional prayer. 

Anybody here ever worn “sackcloth” because you were in a time of repentance?  Every covered yourself with ashes because you were grieved by your sin and the sin of our nation?  Fasted because you were grieved about your own sin, the church’s sins or this nation’s sins???  If you have, I can guarantee that there was a different depth and passion to your praying than you normally have in your daily devotions or Sunday morning prayers here at Mosaic.  Sometimes it really helps to do some things with our bodies that will help our souls connect better with God. 


The very fact that none of these actions of humiliation even carry over into our culture says something profound.  We live in a culture (both spiritually as Christians and nationally as Americans) that is poverty-stricken when it comes to actions and symbols of humiliation and contrition.  That in itself should tell us something.  Yes, we live under the New Covenant in which our sins have been forgiven at the cross of Christ and we have been unreservedly adopted into God’s eternal family. 

            But that does not mean we don’t have some of the same problems the people of God have had throughout the ages—problems of getting calloused to sin, getting apathetic spiritually, of drifting back into functional idolatry while hanging onto the trappings of spiritual worship through routine religious practices. 

            I actually think we have a lot of learning to do about confession if we are to have much experience of renewal. 


Let’s read what Daniel’s confession sounded like in vss. 4-15.  And please notice that there is not one single request made of God during this portion of Daniel’s prayer.  It’s just solid, humbling, honest confession of sin and the reality of what Daniel’s life and nation was placed against the contrast of who God was.


“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong.


I count at least 17 different confessions of sin here in these 11 verses.  It will be followed by 9 specific requests that only God can accomplish in a short 4 verses. 


So here is what I would like us to DO right now.  In this prayer of Daniel, as truly righteous as this amazing man is, he chooses to identify with the sins of his nation.  Granted, for the Jews, God entered into a covenant with them as a national people.  The New Covenant we live under today is with individuals, not nations.  But it is with God’s people the church, nonetheless.  And as the 7 churches of Revelation 2-3 illustrate, God still deals with His people at some level as a group. 

            I think that under the New Covenant with Jesus Christ that is most likely done on a city-church basis.  After all, most of us cannot affect God’s people who we do not know in other cities or states.  We have a hard enough time making changes in the local churches we are a part of week by week.  So confessing sins of God’s church in Spokane is probably a good place to begin…and possibly end. 


So this is what I would like us to do for the next 5 minutes. 

  • Use the card/paper we are passing out today as Daniel used whatever parchment he wrote on his prayer of confession.  Take some time to ask God what sins WE at Mosaic and God’s church in Spokane might be involved in. 
  • Write out a short prayer of confession.
  • After 5 minutes, I will lead us into Communion.  Here’s how we would like to celebrate it today.  We have 2 paper shredders here at the cross today.  As you come to take communion, as a symbolic act of confession and recognition of Christ’s forgiveness of all these sins, we’d like to have you come and feed them into the shredder on either side of the cross.  Yes, it’s going to be noisy.  That’s O.K.  Golgotha where our Lord was crucified and bore our sins on the cross was a lot louder than this.  Dealing with sin can be noisy!  And after you have fed those sins to the shredders, you are welcome to go to either side, take communion and return to your seat. 

So take 5 minutes for reflection, prayer and writing out a prayer of confession, if you would.  Then I will lead us in Communion. 




Before we spend a solid block of time worshiping God through music, I would like us to engage in a couple more prayers of confession and repentance.  In lieu of ashes or sackcloth, let me invite you to take some bodily posture of humiliation and contrition.  (Kneeling?  Standing?  Head bowed?  Face down?)  And let’s recite together these prayers found on the second side of the prayer sheets you received today. 


Congregational Prayer #3

Almighty and most merciful Father,

We are thankful that your mercy is higher than the heavens,

wider than our wanderings,

deeper than all our sin.
Forgive our careless attitudes toward your purposes,

our refusal to relieve the suffering of others,

our envy of those who have more than we have,

our obsession with creating a life of constant pleasure,

our indifference to the treasures of heaven,

our neglect of your wise and gracious law.
Help us to change our way of life
so that we may desire what is good,

love what you love,

and do what you command,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.



Congregational Prayer #4

Father in heaven,

We need to be forgiven.
We have tried to heal ourselves.

Instead of trusting in the death of Jesus Christ, we have tried to work off our guilt.
We have tried so hard to pile up good deeds to outweigh our sins. When this doesn’t work, we quickly turn to denial and distraction.
Instead of trusting in the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
we have tried to change through our own efforts.

We have tried to change our hearts through sheer willpower.
This has left some of us arrogant.
This has left most of us anxious and depressed.

Forgive us for trying to heal ourselves.
Forgive us for neglecting your grace.
Forgive us and heal us, for Jesus’ sake.



Congregational Prayer #5

O King and Father,

Your Son died and was raised up in power.
Now enable us to die to our sin in repentance so we may rise to
new life in Him.


We confess to you:

Lord, though You should guide us, we inform ourselves;
though you should rule us, we control ourselves;
though you should fulfill us, we console ourselves.

We think your truth too high, your will too hard,
your power too remote, your love too free. But they are not!
And without them, we are of all people most miserable.

Now heal our confused minds with your word,
heal our divided wills with your truth,
heal our troubled consciences with your love,
heal our anxious hearts with your presence,

all for the sake of your Son, who loved us

and gave himself for us.