When God’s patience with the children of Israel ran out, He allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem. The soldiers took many Israelite captives to Babylon. But God promised that in 70 years’ time (Jer. 25:8-14), the children of Israel would be rescued from captivity and permitted to return.
When Daniel 9 opens, Daniel realizes that 70 years has come.
I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God… “We have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem… Listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications… O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action!”
Now, God had already promised that He would restore the remnant to Jerusalem after seventy years. But Daniel didn’t sit on his hands waiting for God to keep His promise. Daniel raised his hands and began praying fervently for God to bring His promise to pass. He begged, “Lord … take action!”
Maybe there is something here that we can learn about the intersection of God’s will and our prayers.
Prayer Triggers God to Act on His Promises.
As soon as Daniel finished his prayer, the angel Gabriel showed up at his elbow to inform him that, at the “beginning of your supplications,” God issued a command to put into motion the events that would restore the remnant, and set the stage for the coming of the Messiah.
What if Daniel never read Jeremiah, or didn’t bother to pray? Would God’s promise have come to pass? Sure; after all, God’s deliverance can always arise from “another place” (Esther 4:14). But I don’t have to speculate. Daniel did read, Daniel did pray, and that prayer moved God to act.
We’re Not Being Pushy When We Pray for God to Keep His Word.
In none of these prayers are we accusing God of being slow or forgetful or impotent. We aren’t wasting God’s time to ask Him to do what He was planning to do anyway. When we pray for God to fulfill His promises, we show that we have read His word, that we are expectant and excited, and that we greatly desire for His will to be done. We signal our desire to be on the correct side of His will, and our readiness to participate in accomplishing His will. Our prayers also organize our minds around God’s priorities.
We Are Invited to Pray for God’s Promises.
The Return of Jesus. Jesus promised to return and bring judgment upon the world (Acts 1:11, 1 Thess. 5:2). As for which day the last trumpet sounds, God will keep His own counsel and act according to His own plans (Matt. 24:36). Nevertheless, it would be entirely appropriate to pray for and “hasten” this event (2 Pet. 3:12).
The Success of His Word. God promised that His word would radiate from Jerusalem to all nations (Micah 4:2, Luke 24:47). It has, and it continues to do so. Still, we often find His workers praying “that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ … that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak” (Col. 4:3-4). God will see to it that His word gets into receptive hearts. But prayer helps us to be a conduit for those blessings.
The Strength of His Church. Jesus promised in Matthew 16:18 that the power of Satan would not overcome the church. It is a kingdom that “will never be destroyed” and will “endure forever” (Dan. 2:44). Still, we often find Christians praying for it (Eph. 3:14-16, Col. 4:2). God doesn’t need our help to maintain His own body. But our prayers indicate that we don’t want to get left out of the great plans that God has made.
The Hope of Salvation. I am convinced that we can know we are saved (1 John 5:13, John 5:24). Yet we pray fervently for salvation, for we constantly feel inadequate and are in danger of stumbling (Jude 24, 1 Cor. 9:24-27). God is the Savior; so let us never stop praying “Jesus, remember me!” (Luke 23:42) and “My God, save me!” (Psalm 109:26).
Our Daily Bread. God promises to supply us with our food and shelter (Matt. 6:25-33). Still, Jesus prayed for God to provide it (Matt. 6:11). It may not be that we go hungry if we fail to pray; but our prayers for God’s provision may change the ways or means through which it comes, and makes us stand in greater appreciation when it comes.
Help in Temptation. “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…” (1 Cor. 10:13). Yet, if we do not pray for God to help us through, we will find ourselves stumbling. Jesus prayed, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Maybe our prayers help us spot the “way of escape” that God provides.
Wisdom and Guidance. Paul said of inspired Scripture, “when you read, you can understand” (Eph. 3:4). If I desire to know about God’s nature, His will for me, and how to make good decisions, I simply need to open the Bible. James adds, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Spend time in the word, but pray that God will use that time to bless you with wisdom. —John Guzzetta