24 April 2013Daniel 9:1-6, 20-27
“While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God – while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He came and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision.” (vv. 20-23)
One of the toughest things for many people to do is work out a time, place or style that helps them to pray. Often it can feel as though words are being spoken and then echo in a void somewhere.
This story of Daniel is one where prayer underpins his rise to success in Babylon, his run-ins with jealous officials and his very lifestyle. The reason he ended up in the lions' den (see Monday's Word in Time) was because he faithfully prayed to God three times a day.
In today's passage there is a real encouragement for the moments when it feels that prayers are just hitting the ceiling and bouncing back.
Daniel had been reading the words of a prophet - Jeremiah - and realised the Jews' lack of faithfulness was going to lead to their exile in Babylon lasting 70 years. He begins to pray on behalf of his people, asking for forgiveness.
As he prays, Gabriel, appears. He is reckoned to be the same angel who appears to Zacharias (Luke 1) to tell him that he's going to have a son: the baby who becomes John the Baptist. He's a messenger from God and it's not the first time he and Daniel have talked.
In the passage, the crucial thing isn't that an angel appeared, but that Gabriel tells Daniel his prayers are not wasted.
Gabriel says: "At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved."
It's one of the few occasions in Scripture where there is such a strong indication that God pays attention to prayer. Why? Well, according to the angel, it's because of God's character.
It wasn't that God listened to Daniel and responded to his words. Daniel is told: "At the beginning of your supplications a word went out." Rather God responded the moment a faithful follower went down on their knees and reached out in prayer.
Perhaps the secret to prayer is first to grasp how much God loves each of us and then the conversation becomes easier.
- Can you recall a time when your prayers have been answered quickly? If so, what happened?
- What may make prayer easier for you?