A Prayer God Hears
Topic: English Passage: Daniel 9:15-23
This morning, we are going to continue our study in Daniel chapter 9. I invite you to turn there with me. The bulk of this chapter is a prayer by Daniel, and the majority of the prayer is a corporate confession praising God and admitting the repeated failure of Israel to walk in obedience. Today, we are looking at the second section of the prayer, which is where Daniel makes his request.
Before we look at it a little more closely, let’s read it. Daniel, chapter 9, verse 15, and I am going to read to verse 23. Daniel 9:15-23.
15And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.
18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
One of the most well-known stories in the Bible is a parable that Jesus told illustrating the love and compassion of God the Father. We know that story as “The Prodigal Son.” A father’s younger son takes an early inheritance, packs his bags, and then leaves for a far-off country where he wastes all that he has.
When he has nothing left and a famine comes over the land, this formerly wealthy Jewish young man becomes a slave of a foreigner and is sent out into the field to feed the pigs. It was humiliating, and it was disgraceful. This young man was disgusted by his own desire to eat what the pigs were eating.
That disgust, however, brought the young man to his senses, and he decided to return home, confessing his sin, and asking for help. You can read Luke 15 for all the specifics, but I think most of you know that the Father’s response was not to scold him, but to joyfully receive his son back. And that reception, Jesus tells us, is a picture of God’s joy when sinners turn to him.
God’s heart toward sinners has never changed. God hates sin and punishes sin, but He is also patient. His arms are extended waiting to receive those who will come to Him. And what we see in the story of the prodigal son, we can also see in the history of Israel. Repeatedly, we have Israel’s rebellion against God, and we have Israel’s restoration by God.
Israel went chasing after every other foreign and false god, assuming that was the better path to joy and satisfaction. That rebellion brought consequences. Leviticus 26 describes the resulting judgment. If Israel disobeyed, God said: “I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache.” God also said that the blessing of crops would be removed, enemies would rule over them, and many would die. All that was intended to lead them to repentance.
If the nation continued in disobedience, things would get worse. Plagues and starvation would come. People would be so desperate for food they would eat their own children. Eventually Israel would be scattered among the nations, living and dying in a foreign land.
But God also said this: If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me… then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land… When they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am Yahweh their God. But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am Yahweh.”
Because of its continued disobedience, Israel was conquered by Assyria, and later the Babylonians, and later the Persians. But that time of judgment was coming to an end. God said it would only last seventy years, so Daniel knew it was close to ending. In the prayer of Daniel 9, he recognizes the sin of the nation, and then he turns to ask God to be merciful.
This heartfelt prayer raises an interesting question. Why would Daniel pray and ask God to do something that God had already promised to do? Why make that kind of request? That’s an excellent question to consider. And maybe it’s something you’ve considered in your own life.
For example, God promises to provide food and clothing and shelter for His people. He tells us not to worry about those kinds of things. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for the provision of a meal or a home. Even Jesus, in His model prayer, said, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
So, again, here’s the question: Why do we ask for things that God has already promised to do? The answer is not primarily theological or doctrinal. The answer is relational. And that’s important for us to understand.
Theology matters. I hope you all know that. It’s vital that we understand what the Bible teaches. In fact, our next Sunday morning class, starting in July is going to be a theology class.
As important as theology is, however, we need to be careful that we don’t allow our view of theology to undo our relationship with God. God is not simply a collection of theological facts. God is a person.
Maybe you’ve heard about the wife who was feeling a little neglected and she says to her husband, “Why don’t you ever tell me that you love me?” And her husband responds, “I said ‘I love you’ on our wedding day. If I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.”
I hope that doesn’t describe any of our marriages, but sadly that might be the way we think about our relationship with God. There may be intellectual truth, but there isa real lack in our relational connection.
When you look at the psalms and at the writings of the prophets, you find prayers like: “You never listen. You never hear me, O God. You have abandoned me!” Those are not theologically accurate statements. But they are expressions of someone pouring out their heart to God. That’s the expression of someone who has not allowed their theology to undermine their relationship with God.
Let me give you one more example, and I hope this is helpful. Let’s say one morning, as a father is getting ready for the day, his little 3-year-old boy climbs up onto the bed, holds out his hands, bends into a squat, like he’s about to jump, and says, “Daddy, catch me!” And the dad responds by saying, “Of course, Son. I’ll always catch you.”
The next day, the little boy does the same thing. He climbs up onto the bed, extends his arms, and yells, “Daddy catch me!”
What’s the dad going to do? Is he going to say, “Stop right there, Son. I already told you I’d always catch you! Stop asking me!”? Is that what he’s gonna say? No! He’s going to listen. He’s going to respond with a smile because he understand that the words of that little boy are an expression of their relationship. This boy is speaking out of love and trust.
That’s the heart behind Daniel’s prayer. After confessing the sin of the nation, he remembers God’s goodness, and he says, “O Lord, help us. O Lord, be good to us.”
And in this prayer we see two important characteristics that need to mark our own prayers. Again, this is an expression of Daniel’s understanding of and relationship to God. And that relationship includes these two characteristics.
Number one, we find a desperate dependence on God’s power. A desperate dependence on God’s power.
In verse 15, Daniel describes God. And in doing so, he points back to one of the key events in Israel’s history—their redemption from Egypt. And he’s going to ask for a similar redemption from Persia.
Verse 15—And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
God delivered Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand. And now, Daniel is appealing to God’s might to deliver them again. He is completely dependent on God’s power.
Daniel does not arrogantly and flippantly take the promises of God for granted. He recognizes that He is completely at the mercy of God. If the Israelites are going to get out of this situation, they need God to act.
Look at verse 16. Notice how Daniel describes Israel’s situation. They are not at the mercy of Persia. They are at the mercy of God. Daniel prays, “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us.
Again, what Israel was and is experiencing isn’t the oppression of Babylon and Persia. It’s the righteous wrath of God against them for their sin. God made this happen, and God is the only One who can fix it. It cannot be fixed by their own power.
Jump down to verse 18. Listen to the desperation in Daniel’s prayer. He is begging God to act in mercy.
Verse 18—O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.
Again, these are not intended to be theological statements. It’s not that God can’t see what has happened. God’s eyes and God’s face are expressions of His blessing. Daniel is asking God to remember them and act for their good.
Verse 19—O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
Daniel and his prayers are marked by a desperate dependence on God’s power. Is that true for you? Do you wake up each morning remembering that you are completely helpless apart from God? Do you internalize the words of Jesus when He said: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing”?
Is a desperate dependence evident in the way you pray? How tragic it is that we will go to God in prayer as if we are asking Him to join our team. We think we can do it all by ourselves, but we can do it a little better if God is with us. We go to God as if He is a bonus, a little something extra in our lives, rather than the absolute source of life and breath and strength and power.
Many times, in our own prayers, we are simply asking God to make our life more comfortable, rather than recognizing our own sinfulness and begging Him to work in us.
For those of you guys who are married, are you asking God to work in your life more than you’re asking Him to work in your wife? And ladies, what about you?
Are you desperately dependent on the power of God? Do you realize how helpless you are without Him and how victorious you can be with Him?
You and I need the power of God every day—whether you feel it or not. Like Daniel, we need to pray with a heart of desperate dependence. We need God to act. We cannot do this alone.
You cannot be the husband God calls you to be—the wife, the father, the mother, the employee, the neighbor, the citizen, the Christian, or the minister—without God’s divine enablement. You need a divine dependence on God’s power. And that should be evident in the way that we pray.
That’s the first characteristic we see in Daniel’s petition. There is a desperate dependence on God’s power.
Let’s look now at the second characteristic. And I am going to call it a desperate desire for God’s glory. A desperate desire for God’s glory. Look again with me at verse 15.
Why did God redeem Israel from Egypt? Daniel tells us it was to make a name for Himself. It was for His own glory—not because Israel deserved it, but because God wanted the glory. He wanted to make Himself known.
When Moses first went to Pharaoh asking for the people to be freed, Pharaoh’s response was, “Who is Yahweh? I do not know Him! Why should I listen to the Lord?!”
Then, over and over again, about 15 times in the book of Exodus, God says He would rescue His people so that the Israelites and the Egyptians would know that He is Yahweh. He is the Lord. He is the One with the power to save. There is no one like Him.
Read Exodus 6-18 on your own, and see how many times it says that because of God’s actions, the people will know that He is Yahweh, the Lord their God. The people will know that the earth belongs to Him. Yes, God wanted His people to be saved, but the ultimate motivation was that His name would be known in all the Land.
And that is Daniel’s motivation here as He prays. He’s not just praying for the good of the nation. He is praying for God’s reputation, God’s holy name.
Look at verse 16. In speaking to God, Daniel remembers that all these afflictions have come against “your city” and “your holy hill.” God owns everything. These people and that holy city are His possession.
And then in verse 17 we see Daniel’s desire come to the front. Daniel prays—Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy.
There’s His dependence, and now here comes His desire—and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.
Daniel is not asking God to act, ultimately, for the good of Israel, but for the sake of God’s own name. For the sake of God’s own reputation.
How is Israel’s salvation good for God’s name? Well, it demonstrates God’s faithfulness. He promised to preserve the people. And He promised to restore them.
And if you read the rest of the prophets, you realize that God still have promises left to fulfill for Israel. But it’s not because of something innate in Israel. It’s because of His faithfulness to His word. God made a promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and David and the prophets. And He will make His faithfulness and His power and His glory known.
In verse 18, Daniel refers to Jerusalem as “the city that is called by your name.”
Look at verse 19 again. It says—O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
Is that how you pray? Do you recognize that all things belong to God and exist for God? Is God’s glory the motivation of your prayer?
It may sound like a simple shift in the wording, but it is a tremendous shift in your heart. We don’t pray for better marriages, ultimately, so we can have better marriages. We pray for better marriages so that the glory of God and the glory of Jesus Christ can be displayed in this world.
We pray, like John the Baptist prayed: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
We pray, like Jesus: “Not my will, but yours, be done.”
Your life belongs to Jesus Christ, and it’s intended to serve His glory. Your marriage belongs to Jesus Christ. Your spouse belongs to Christ. Those children you are praying for belong to Jesus Christ. Your boss, your neighborhood—it's all from Jesus and for Jesus.
Even our evangelism, the people we want to see come to Christ—the motivation there isn’t so you can say you converted someone. It isn’t so that our church numbers grow. What’s the true motivation behind our evangelism? Jesus told us. He said that the Father is seeking people to worship Him. We evangelize for the glory of God.
We walk in holiness and righteousness for the glory of God. We love our wives and our children for the glory of God. We want stray sheep to come back to the flock for the glory of God.
So, step back from your prayers this week and think about what your real heart is and what your real motivation is. Are your prayers marked by a dependence on God’s power and a desire for God’s glory.
Are we really able to say, like Jesus taught us, “Heavenly Father, may Your name be holy. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done”?
If we pray with the dependence and the desire that Daniel model’s for us here, what’s going to happen? We are going to draw near to our heavenly Father, and He will draw near to us. God will be pleased with our prayers, and He will be pleased to answer for His own glory. It may not be in the way that we expected Him to respond, but it will be for His glory. And since that was our desire, we will be satisfied in it.
In Daniel’s case, God was so pleased with His confession and his humble, yet bold, requests, that God gave him an immediate answer. And we’ll start looking at it next time. But I’d like to read the introduction to God’s response. Daniel 9, verses 20-23.
Daniel says—While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
We all need a reminder like this, and maybe some of you needed it a little more this morning. God hears your prayers. As imperfect as you are and as imperfect as you might pray, God answers your prayers.
Listen to how the Apostle John said it in 1 John 5:14 and 15—This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
God is faithful to His name, and God is faithful to His people. And if you belong to God through Jesus Christ, He says to you the same thing He says to Daniel in verse 23. And we might add, it’s about the same thing the father might have said to his prodigal son who repentend and returned—You are greatly loved.
The great and holy and righteous and powerful God loves us, because we belong to Him in Jesus Christ. And when we come in humble confession, He hears us and He receives us, and He responds to our prayers.