Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3
A friend asked me to pray. She felt the issue was big enough in her life that she was going to fast as well as pray. She had recently read the Book of Daniel and was following his example.
Driven to Pray
In Daniel 9:2 Daniel understands, from the Word of God, that the exile is about to be over. That realization drives him to prayer and fasting. Daniel 9:3, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”
Most of Daniel’s prayer is his confession of the sins of the nation, including his own. Daniel 9:15 sums it up this way, “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.”
Sin and Sacrifice
We are a people who hate to think about our own sin, no less fasting as we confess it. Most of us grew up being cheered on by enthusiastic parents (and now we do that with our children). We like to think of ourselves as good people. Good people don’t need to fast and pray, right?
With prayer and fasting we sacrifice food so that our spiritual attention is keener. When we deprive ourselves of food, we can begin to focus on the harder things to think about. When we fast for a purpose and we get hungry, we are being reminded to remember to pray. A fast without a specific purpose is spiritually useless.
When we fast for a purpose and we get hungry, we are being reminded to remember to pray.
Confession of sin is also a sacrifice. Spiritually, we are sacrificing that deceived image of ourselves as “good” for the truth that we are sinners before a Holy God. Daniel took this seriously for the whole nation of Israel who was living in exile in Babylon.
Daniel’s prayers were also humble, including himself. It would have been much easier to see the sin of others. Israel had been taken from their land and exiled to Babylon where there was plenty of wickedness. But, he didn’t point God to the sin of Babylon. He prayed with fasting for his own sin and the sin of his people.
Daniel said his prayers were for “Your own sake, O Lord.” Perhaps some of the reason that Daniel received insight and understanding was because his eyes were on the glory of God and not just relief from his own situation.
All things that are for God’s glory are also for our good. If God was glorified in the confession of sin through Daniel, then my prayer friend is on to something in following his example.
When you and I pray, are we concerned for the glory of God? Are we humble to confess our own sin? When the need is great, will we fast so that we sacrifice and think about God’s purpose rather than our own?
My friend’s invitation to fast and pray pointed me to the meat of the Word of God. I pray it’s also food for thought for you.