The well-known Sunday School chorus relates:
Daniel was a man of prayer,
Praying three times daily
Even when they had him cast
In the den of lions …
Daniel well deserved the accolade, “man of prayer,” just as the chorus relates. As a lad in his teens, he prayed when he and his companions desired “mercies of the God of heaven” to enable Daniel to know and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to him. In chapter 6, when Daniel was 85, he was cast into the den of lions. We read in verse 10, when the king’s decree forbad petitions to anyone but himself, Daniel “went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” His example affords at least three lessons for us: pray consistently every day; do not refrain from praying when others may observe us doing so; trust God for protection when adversity looms.
Daniel was renowned for godliness and prayerfulness. Ezekiel, a contemporary fellow-exile, twice records that because of Israel’s sins and departure from God, He would not hear any prayers, even were they the prayers of Noah, Daniel, or Job for their deliverance (Ez 14:14, 20). This surely tells us of his reputation as a man who prayed. It is interesting to note Ezekiel wrote this of him when Daniel was not yet thirty years old! Ezekiel knew how he prayed God would reveal Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation to him. George Mueller in a later day was also renowned for effectual prayer.
We have no details of Daniel’s birth nor who his parents were. In Daniel 1:3 we read he was “of the king’s seed, and of the princes.” King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 606 B.C. and gave instructions that some of these young princes should be taken as hostages to Babylon. These princes were to be trained for service in the king’s palace.
Daniel was among those taken to Babylon (Dan 1:6). We are not told his age. It is likely he was in his early teens when he was removed from his home and country to a foreign land where he lived the rest of his long life. He may have been past 90 at his death. Tradition tells us he died in Shushan. His gentle spirit in trial, his steadfast faithfulness to God, and his faithful service to his superiors are well known and require no further comment.
In view of Daniel’s reputation as a man who prayed, it is remarkable that we have the record of only one of his prayers apart from what we already noted that he prayed to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and when he knew prayer had been forbidden. This prayer is found in Daniel 9 when Daniel was 84. The chapter opens with Daniel’s reading God’s Word in Jeremiah 29:10 (Jeremiah had died 45-50 years prior to Daniel’s reading this writing). Daniel wrote in verse 2 what he discovered in his reading: “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
God spoke to Daniel through this verse and Daniel, stirred in his soul, realized the seventy years would be up in two more years! Now he speaks to God. This is communion, conversation between Daniel and his God! He writes, “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (v 3). Mark his humility and confession as he begins. “We have sinned…” (v 5). Note how he links himself with his people though not personally guilty of the sins he confesses in verses 5 to 15.
He goes on to ascribe righteousness to God in His judgments upon His people in verse 7. He also reminds God of His mercies and forgivenesses in verse 9 and His mighty power that had delivered His people out of Egypt in verse 15. Here in describing God’s greatness and majesty, he is worshiping.
Then he turns to intercession for his people in verses 16-20. “O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain … and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” We have noted communion, humility, confession, worship, and intercession in this short prayer!
It is striking to read that while Daniel was praying God sent Gabriel to him to inform him in verses 20-27 of what God was about to do. As with Daniel here, when we pray, God may bring us into the knowledge of His will. Gabriel informs Daniel he is “greatly beloved” in verse 23. Surely this denotes God is pleased when believers pray. Believers do not “earn” God’s love by praying. His love to each of His own is eternal, causeless, and changeless. We may suggest that when believers pray, as Daniel did here, it affords opportunity for God to declare His love to them.
Gabriel goes on to give to Daniel that wonderful prophetic revelation of the Seventy Weeks till the Messiah will come. When believers enter into the communion of prayer, God will reveal His truth, just as He longs to do.
Two years later, “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom…” enabling the Jews to return again to their land and rebuild their temple. Surely this was a direct answer to the supplication of Daniel.