The book of Daniel three times mentions the prayers of Daniel while he was held as a captive in Babylon. First, he and his three companions pray for wisdom in uncovering and interpreting the king’s dream. When God discloses the king’s dream Daniel blesses God for the wisdom received (2:17-23).
Second, Daniel maintains a practice of praying three times a day (6:10, 11). His enemies use this faithful pattern to secure a death sentence against him. Most prayers recorded in the Bible appear to have been uttered in the face of a specific crisis. But what of the contents of daily prayer? Daniel 6:10, 11 summarizes the contents of Daniel’s prayer-“giving thanks before his God” and “making petition and supplication before his God.”
Third, Daniel prays for the restoration of Jerusalem and its temple near the end of the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah (9:2-19). Daniel was greatly disturbed when in vision he was shown that the restoration of the temple would apparently be delayed beyond the seventy year period (8:1-27). He acknowledges that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple were well-deserved. “We have all sinned against you” (8:9). “We have neither repented of our wrongful deeds nor remembered that you are true to your word.” (8:13). Nonetheless, Daniel appeals to God’s mercy and to the honor of his divine name. The prayer comes to a climax in v. 19, “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act; for your own name’s sake do not delay, O God, for your city and your people bear your name.”
For your reflection and discussion:
- The practice of regular times of prayer may seem ritualistic, even legalistic, to some.
- What should we make of Daniel’s pattern of praying three times a day on his knees? Is this position in prayer necessary?
- Jesus told his hearers to pray secretly in an inner room with the door shut (Matthew 6:6) while Daniel’s practice was to pray in the open with his window open towards Jerusalem. Why the difference? Was Daniel wrong in his public prayer?
- What would have been wrong about Daniel closing the shutters of his home after the king’s decree that no one should pray to any god but the king himself? Wouldn’t this be simple prudence. After all, Jesus taught his disciples, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
- Throughout the book of Daniel he is described as a man without fault. But in his prayer of intercession he includes himself in the confession of his nation’s wrongdoing. He describes deeds and attitudes that are not attributed to him in the rest of the book. Is this an honest prayer?