1In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, 2in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the prophet, to complete the time of the desolations of Jerusalem, seventy years. 3And I turned my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. . . . 21while I was still speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, touched me about the time of the evening sacrifice, because he had been made to fly swiftly. 22And he instructed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I have come now to give you wisdom and understanding. — Daniel 9:1-3, 21-22
We’ve been talking about how God is in control, no matter what things look like, then looking at Daniel 8, we saw that God has a time. Chapters 1-7 discussed what God was going to do, but paid no attention to when he was going to do it. Chapter 9 lets us in on God’s plan a little bit more.
There are lots of things that can be learned from Daniel 9, but I just want to focus on God’s plan as it’s shown here. Notice that right after asking â€œHow long?â€ we see Daniel doing two very important but commonly neglected things: Studying the scriptures, and praying. I could spend hours discussing Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, because it is such an excellent example of intercession. Sometimes in intercessory prayer we stand at a distance and intercede for â€œthose other people.â€ But Daniel, who was known for his righteousness, included himself fully in the confession and repentance.
And that is the key to the story. What God expects during the intervening time is simply that his people get busy, confess their sins, repent, and carry out his commands. For us as Christians, this involves things such as loving our neighbors as ourselves, and carrying out the gospel commission. â€œPreaching loveâ€ is often ridiculed as a sort of easy gospel, but truly loving your neighbor as yourself is anything but easy. Recruiting your neighbor to start loving other people as he loves himself is even tougher. But it’s the thing that God is looking for.
Notice what happens with Daniel. As he is still praying, the angel comes to him with enlightenmentâ€”to give him wisdom and understanding. We are very limited in the ways we use prayer. Generally we wait until we have an emergency, but even when we’re praying well ahead of the emergency we need an excuseâ€”something specific to thank God for (heaven forbid it’s something we’ve already thanked him for!) or something to ask for. The conversation has to have purpose.
Some of my atheist friends will say that Christians have an invisible friend. It’s a way of saying, â€œShow me!â€ But I actually wish we behaved more like we have an invisible friend. You can talk to an invisible friend and tell him or her anything. Our prayers our not very much like conversations with invisible friends. But they should be!
Everything will go better if you talk to God about it. Perhaps God won’t send a major angel to help you outâ€”or perhaps he will. But he will help you gain wisdom. And that’s his planâ€”to get us on his plan to reach the world and solve the problem. We aren’t told to pray for our persecutors because we’re masochists. It’s because we want even them to come to know the joy that we have.
How about chatting with God about his plan today? How about chatting with him about everything that interests you? He has the time for you! It’s his plan.