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. – Daniel 9:17-18 ESV
Throughout his prayer, Daniel has used two different Hebrew names for God: Adonai and Elohim. The first refers to God’s sovereignty as King. The second speaks of His strength. Daniel was appealing to the Almighty God, the very same God who had created the universe, called Abraham, rescued the Israelites from captivity and proven Himself powerful and in control of all things over and over again. Daniel knew he was taking his appeal to the only one who could do anything about it. There was no other place to go and nothing else to do. So he asked God to listen to his pleas for mercy. He asked Him to see their desolations. He begged Him to make His face shine upon the devastated temple in Jerusalem. Daniel was asking God to take a long hard look at their situation, from Babylon all the way to Jerusalem, and do something about it. Not because they deserved His rescue, but because of His mercy. Because of His own reputation.
Daniel subtly reminds God that the devastated city of Jerusalem belongs to Him. It is the only city in the world where a temple dedicated to Him exists, and it is in ruins. Daniel appeals to God’s reputation. He shows concern for the name of God. This prayer is a whole lot less about Daniel and the people of israel than it is about the reputation of God. Daniel seems to know that God is going to act for the sake of His own name. He will protect the integrity of His reputation. He has given His Word to the people of Israel to be their God and to keep His covenant with them. Daniel knows that He will do what He has promised to do and boldly prays accordingly. Daniel also shows a great deal of concern for the city and Jerusalem and its temple. His was not a selfish, self-centered prayer, aimed at his own rescue and restoration. He was praying on behalf of all the people of Judah, including those back home as well as those in Babylon. His concern was for the nation of Israel, the chosen people of God, and the city that bore the distinction of containing the temple of God.
How often our prayers far more focused on our own needs than on God’s reputation and glory. Daniel seemed far more concerned with the fame of God than with his own situation. The truth is, Daniel had a pretty good thing going in Babylon. He had a government job. He had weathered the storms of persecution that took place early on in his stay in Babylon. Daniel had access to the king and was in his good favors. He most likely lived well and enjoyed a certain degree of prominence and prestige that his fellow Jews would have envied. But Daniel was more concerned about God’s glory. He couldn’t stand the thought of God’s temple lying in ruins, the city of Jerusalem sitting unoccupied and the remnant who remained living without a king. He wanted God to act. He longed to see God display His power and exert His sovereignty on the earth. It’s interesting to note that Daniel did not tell God what to do. He didn’t give Him a long list of expectations or demands. He simply asked Him to listen, see, and act. Sometimes we can be so bold and presumptuous as to not only tell God what is going on in our lives, but also how to solve it. We not only share our needs, we share our demands. And in doing so, our concern becomes less about God’s glory than about our own good. We want what we want, not necessarily what He wants. There is nothing wrong with sharing our requests with God. The Scriptures command us to do so. But there is a huge difference between sharing our problems with God and telling Him exactly how and when we want them solved. God is not our personal genie. He does not exist for our glory. Our prayers should focus far more on God’s reputation and glory than our own.
Daniel wanted to see God act. There is no doubt that Daniel would have loved to have seen Jerusalem restored, the people returned to the land, and the nation of Israel reborn as God’s chosen people. He had read in the scroll containing the words of Jeremiah the prophet that this was exactly what God had promised would happen. So Daniel wanted to see that promise fulfilled. But his concern was far more focused on God than on himself. A restored Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple would bring glory to the name of God all around the world. The release of the people of Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon would take a miracle of God, and when it happened, God would get the glory. And for God to do all of this despite the fact that the people of Israel didn’t deserve it, would speak volumes about His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. It would display His power and prove His sovereignty over all nations. It would convince the people once again that He is a covenant-keeping God. Praying for God’s glory requires trusting in God’s goodness. We must learn to trust Him to do what is best. He will always do what is right and will always act in such a way that His reputation remains unstained. We may not always get it and even like it, but God will always do what brings Him glory and results in our ultimate good, whether we see it or not. The key is learning to care first for His glory, and less about our own good.