24 April 2014Daniel 9:20-27
“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.” (v. 20)
In Daniel we read amazing visions and miraculous events but maybe we sometimes miss the background of prayer. After all it was prayer that got Daniel into the lions' den (Daniel 6:11) and it is prayer that leads to these visions.
There have been many attempts to match the vision to history, either using the timetable of the vision (for example translating it into seventy weeks of years or 490 years) or to map the events in the vision onto history or historical figures.
There are also many attempts to fit these visions with other apocalyptic writings such as the book of Revelation and then map them onto events in modern history, usually to make predictions about the return of Jesus.
None of these seem to captivate, excite or challenge many Christians today. Non Christians appear to find these unconvincing and even weird. So maybe there are other ways to learn from and submit to this text.
Perhaps we could start by considering Daniel's commitment to and inspiration through prayer. This is something we also see in Jesus who is frequently described in the Gospels as disappearing to pray alone, in a quiet place, up a hill or mountain. A pattern of prayer is also seen in the lives of many Christians who have gone before us as well as today. John Wesley, too, has long been celebrated for his commitment to time in prayer and to his variety of prayers. Note though Daniel is not criticising those who are not able to pray as he is.
A second challenge to us from Daniel might be the very visions themselves. These visions are one of the fruits of a disciple whose life is fuelled by prayer. We can imagine the power of these visions for an exiled people lacking everything, including prayer. The visions reminded them that they were not forgotten by God, and that despite oppression and disaster they were loved by God and God's kingdom was coming.
- What builds and encourages you in prayer? And what hinders or discourages you?
- What experiences of prayer and its connections to vision do you have?
- How might prayer lead us to a vision of God at work and God's kingdom coming for us today?
- What vision(s) have you heard for the world today? How have they encouraged God's people?