Postures of Prayer

In the first year of Darius’s reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws. O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem because for our sins. 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. 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. 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.’

“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, 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. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, ‘O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 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.’” Daniel 9:1-5,7-10,16-23

There are several things that strike me about Daniel’s postures of prayer in this exquisite passage. When he, knowing the calendar, thoughtfully contemplates God’s specific promises to Israel, he brings his plea directly to the Lord. No picking up his phone, no gathering of friends, no “Who should I tell or discuss this with?”— his posture was always to pray. God was his closest confidante as well as the Sovereign over time and times, the One Who was personal and merciful and would hear his plea.

And when he turns to prayer, his posture is humility before his exalted King of kings, appealing to His grace and benevolence. Daniel does not appear at his Benefactor’s throne as a rightful beneficiary with a list of requests, but as one who gratefully, humbly understands even his access to Him is a merciful gift. He confesses personal and national sin (though no sin of his is ever recorded), acknowledging that his plea is based solely on God’s merciful kindness. What beauty in the statement, “While he was praying…”! It is in the very posture of worship and dependence, pleading and waiting, that God is at work answering!

Cross, Christchurch, NZ

How often do I approach God in my haste and swagger, with my agenda and timeline, and dictate how I think He should answer? Is it my posture to stand, tapping my foot, ready to grasp with my hands, rather than to humbly bow in repentance, and be still before my holy Lord? It is clear that Daniel’s life posture was worship and surrender, and his prayer unleashed great power for God’s people.

God Almighty, may prayer to You be my first action and reaction in every situation. Give me wisdom to understand the times, spiritual eyes to detect every impulse of sin, and the to bow before You in honor and full dependence. (1 Chronicles 12:32; 2 Timothy 3:1)

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