How can we pray at such a time as this? Consider the Old Testament man of God, Daniel.
Daniel’s life was changed forever by other people’s mistakes. When he was just a teenager, he was taken by force from his home in Israel. His life would be spent in a foreign land: Babylon.
You might say that Daniel just lived at the wrong time. God’s chosen people Israel had persisted in disobeying the Lord for generations. God warned them. They refused to listen. Finally, God disciplined Israel.
Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by a Babylonian army. All who survived were carried off into exile in Babylon. God’s people would not return to the Promised Land for seventy years. So, Daniel would live and die in Babylon.
Daniel was truly an extraordinary man. He could have hated the Babylonians. After all, they destroyed his home and kept him in exile. Instead, he served in the Babylonian government with distinction and integrity.
Daniel could have been bitter toward God. After all, God could have protected Daniel, couldn’t he? But Daniel showed no bitterness toward God. He was devoted to God and faithful to God’s word. He was a man of prayer, even when praying risked his life (Daniel 6)!
Daniel could have been angry at God’s people and refused to have anything to do with them. After all, their sin kept him from living in the Promised Land. But Daniel had no malice for sinful Israel. His love for God’s people is evident in his prayers.
One of Daniel’s prayers is recorded in the Bible (Daniel 9:1-19). He began by confessing the sins of Israel. Surprisingly, he included himself. “We have sinned and done wrong,” he said to God.
Daniel was willing to reckon himself among God’s people, even though they were sinful and he was faithful. He knew God loved his people and had a plan to bless them, despite their past disobedience and despite their current circumstances.
Daniel appealed to God for restoration of his people Israel. Because Jerusalem was God’s city, and the Temple was God’s sanctuary, and Israel was God’s people, Daniel pleaded with God to restore them.
Daniel wanted God’s name to be honored among the nations. If God’s city and temple were destroyed and his people were defeated, then the other nations of the world would assume the God of Israel was weak and defeated.
The world around us is like Babylon, increasingly pagan. The church is too often like ancient Israel, distracted by countless idols. God seems to be distant, angry, allowing disaster to sweep across the land. How can we pray?
We can pray like Daniel. We can remain united with God’s people, the church, despite their shortcomings. We can appeal to God’s mercy for his people, remembering his promises. God promised that his church will be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it!
Daniel did not live at the wrong time. He was appointed by God to live faithfully in Babylon during the Exile. We are not living at the wrong time. God has called us to serve him now, in these circumstances. Let’s be faithful in our generation.
Brother Richard Foster