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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.” - Daniel 9:23

From his study of the Scriptures recorded in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet Daniel learns that the Babylonian exile will last 70 years.  He immediately responds by pouring out his heart to God; making supplication for the forgiveness and restoration of his captive people. At the very beginning of his pleas for mercy, a word goes out into the heavens.  The angel Gabriel is dispatched to inform Daniel of the coming Messiah who will atone for sin and inaugurate everlasting righteousness.

While prayers are not always answered instantaneously and with an angelic messenger, we know God is certainly moved by the earnest prayers of his saints. God has bestowed on His Church the authority to move Him to specific action while maintaining His established plans. Thus forms this mysterious relationship between our prayers and the sovereign will of God.

What lay in front of Daniel was a promise that God would restore His city, Jerusalem, and His people—the people of Israel—in which he believed wholeheartedly.  From Daniel we can glean key insight into characteristics of prayer that are certain to draw a response from God.

First, Daniel is resolved to obtain the blessing he seeks.  Note the expression he uses before making supplication. “I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” The turning of his face expresses a firm determination, undivided attention, and fixed, resolute perseverance.  Have you ever prayed with such determination?

Second, Daniel’s deep sorrow for personal and corporate sin leads him to confession. “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.”

Third, Daniel displays an unwavering belief in God’s power to help His people in their distress. When faced with suffering, the people of Israel drew confidence from past stories of God’s saving power for His people.  “And now, O lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.”  As C.H. Spurgeon states, “[Daniel] lays hold upon that deed of ancient prowess and pleads, in effect, after this fashion: ‘You can do the same, O God, and glorify Your name anew, and assure deliverance to Your people.’”(1)

Finally, Daniel’s plea is grounded in a desire for God’s glory.“Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”  We too, if such is the burden of our prayers, shall receive the blessing we seek.

As we, like Daniel, turn our faces toward God, seeking Him with resolve for an outpouring of His Spirit across our nation, be encouraged that as soon as we began to pray and fast, a word was sent up into the heavens.  By faith, let us continue to entreat His Almighty favor with expectancy until this special blessing is obtained.

(1) Spurgeon, C.H. (1867, February). The Dawn of Revival, or Prayer Speedily Answered. Sermon conducted from the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, U.K.

Justin Shanks
Friend of Christian Union