During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, was studying the writings of the prophets. I learned from the word of the LORD, as recorded by Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. - Daniel 9:2
Occasionally people talk about “wrestling in prayer.” They are referring to the fact that prayer is not easy. Saying prayers may not be difficult if it means simply reciting what we learned as children. But really praying, really laying hold of God, really pouring out the soul fervently and earnestly, does not come without a struggle. So we need help.
Daniel identified the great resource for stimulating prayer: it was as he was “studying the writings of the prophets” that he was prompted to turn to the Lord and plead with him (9:2). Daniel read Jeremiah’s prediction that the Exile would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12). Daniel did not understand what this meant, so he prayed. As he did so, he began to think about the behavior of God’s people, which had led to divine retribution, and his heart was moved to confess the sins that had led them into their predicament of exile.
It is worth noting that Daniel’s prayer was sprinkled with allusions to the Scriptures that he had been reading. For instance, when he exclaimed, “We have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations” (Dan. 9:5), he may have been thinking of Jeremiah 14:7. And when he affirmed, “Lord, you are in the right; but our faces are covered with shame, just as you see us now” (9:7), he may have had Jeremiah 3:25 and 23:6 in mind. Daniel’s talking to God was a direct result of God talking to him. This is exactly how it should be, for in no other way can we be confident that we are praying as we ought.
It may strike us as odd that Daniel should include himself in the prayer even though he had led such an exemplary life. But we should remember that while we are individually responsible for our actions, we are also products of our culture, and if that is corrupt, then we are corrupted.
Daniel prayed from a heart touched by the Scriptures. He was conscious of God’s righteousness and human sinfulness because of what the Scriptures teach, and he was looking for God’s promises in the word to be fulfilled. His praying was not shooting from the lip; it was responding to God’s word.
The relationship and fellowship between God and his children, like all relationships, needs communication, and communication involves listening and talking. In the divine-human relationship God talks to us in his word, and we should listen. Then we talk to him in prayer—and he does listen!
For Further Study: Daniel 9:1-19