1In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—2in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel 9:1-3

Daniel understood the times and knew that it was time for God to move – but he didn’t just sit back and wait for it – he prayed into it. In doing so, he provides an interesting and insightful example for us.

He understood from studying Scripture that the seventy years prophecied by Jeremiah as the length of “the desolation of Jerusalem” was nearly ended. How exciting it must have been when Daniel realized this! From his own description, it’s clear that he hadn’t been counting down the years since his abduction from his homeland and entrance into Nebuchadnezzar’s service. It wasn’t until many, many years later, during the reign of King Darius, that God opened Daniel’s eyes to the Scriptures that pointed to the end of the Jerusalem’s captivity.

Have you ever studied Scripture and suddenly a passage makes sense in a way it never has before? I love it when that happens! In this case, Daniel’s eyes were opened to a message that impacted not just him and his relationship with God, but an entire nation. I would think he’d be tempted to shout it from the rooftops! At the very least I would expect Daniel to be dancing in celebration!

We saw in chapter 1, however, that Daniel was quite humble. He didn’t rush out to boast to everyone what he had learned in Bible study that morning and he didn’t begin to celebrate his impending freedom. Instead, he turned to prayer. Daniel knew that God’s promises are meant to lead us into prayer, not make our prayers unnecessary. We’re not to sit back and wait for blessings to roll in, but rather to contend for them in the spiritual world through prayer. It is prayer that moves the hand of God.

So Daniel turned to prayer, and not only to prayer, but also to confession. Let’s take a look:

4I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:
     “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
     7“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
Daniel 9: 4-11

You know, I’m guessing that Daniel didn’t personally sin to the extent that it would appear from reading his prayer. Today we would call what Daniel was doing “identificational repentance.” Identificational repentance describes what happens when someone chooses to identify with the sins of their family, city, nation, people group or other organization, and confesses that sin. It often involves not only making confession to God but to offended parties as a way of bringing healing between people groups. For example, a white Christian might identify with the sin of slavery in our country’s history even though they or their ancestors personally had no connection with slavery. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit we recognize that the sins of some people group we’re associated with have the same roots as sin we see in ourselves – a desire for power, greed, selfishness, or rebellion, for example – and we confess the sin and ask forgiveness. Identificational repentance is powerful because it brings into the open sins that may have been denied and were never dealt with. Those sins are confessed before God and where possible people who were offended by the sin. Such confession brings reconciliation with God and moves toward reconciliation between people groups. Often times it is the first time the offended party has ever been apologized to for wrongs they have experienced. Again, that can be a powerful thing.

Identificational Repentance is what every priest in the Old Testament did – confess the sins of the people before God. Under the New Covenant, Christ has made every believer a part of the “royal priesthood” described in 1 Peter 2:9. When we participate in identificational repentance we take on a priestly role. What an honor! Remember, an important element is that we identify with the sin – we’re not confessing sins “they” did, but identifying with “their” actions and confessing the sin as our own. It’s what Daniel was doing when he prayed “O Lord…we have sinned against you.”

Daniel continued in his prayer, confessing the sins of his people, rehearsing God’s history with the Israelites, and ending in intercession asking God to step in and change history not because they deserve it but because God is merciful:

17“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel 9:17-19

Daniel’s prayer is an outstanding example of humility and intercession. As you pray for your community and state, confess the sins you see, not as sins others have committed, but as a priest representing those who have sinned.


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