Wait a minute! Daniel was in the Old Testament and Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer in the New Testament? What does Daniel have to do with that?
In many churches, maybe most churches, the congregation recites every Sunday. Everyone has it memorized from the familiar King James translation. It is one of the few parts of today’s services where the language hasn’t been updated. It takes less than a minute. How many people actually pray it? Daniel did, as recorded in Daniel 9.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew
Jesus gave the church a model prayer, not merely to be words to memorize. It is like scales in music: a beginning point for practice, not a completed project. Now that we all have it memorized, we can use it in our personal quiet time by thinking through each clause in turn, praying whatever comes to mind. That can easily fill up an hour.
There are undoubtedly many ways to approach the Lord’s prayer as a model. One is to think of it as addressing various feelings that we all have, and that we all need to get rid of:
- Inferiority: the prayer begins our Father, and among other things, that means Jesus’ Father and mine.
- Depression: as we pray that God’s will be done, we acknowledge that he is in control. There is no need for us to feel like our lives are out of control.
- Anxiety: God is the source of our daily bread. He supplies our needs.
- Guilt: we ask for God’s forgiveness, knowing that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
- Resentment: after all, we need to forgive others, and can’t expect to receive God’s forgiveness if we refuse.
- Temptation: God will test us, but when he does, he expects to prove that we can pass it. God will not induce us to do evil. That’s the work of the devil.
Praying the Lord’s Prayer in Daniel 9
If the Lord’s Prayer is a model to fill out, not a script to follow, it should be no surprise to find one of the great Old Testament prayer warriors discovering the same outline. Follow along with Daniel 9:1-19 and see an entirely different approach to the Lord’s Prayer from the one I just suggested.
Daniel knew that Jeremiah had prophesied that Israel would be in captivity for 70 years and recognized that the promised time of return was near. Therefore, he confessed his people’s sin to God. Confession, by the way, acknowledges both that God’s will ought to be done and that we are not doing it. Even as godly a man as Daniel did not dare to suggest that he himself did not partake of the sins of his people.
Of course, no one in the Old Testament ever conceived of God as Father. That’s something new that Jesus taught. But we can surely see “hallowed be thy name” in v. 4, where Daniel acknowledges that God is “great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant.” It would be too much to expect that an Old Testament prayer would include all the clauses of the Lord’s Prayer in order, but we can see most of the clauses, some restated in different ways, in Daniel’s prayer.
Hallowed be thy name
6) . . . Your servants the prophets, [who] spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
14) . . . for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.
15) And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day . . .
17) . . . and for the Lord’s sake . . .
19) Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.
Thy will be done
The united kingdom of Israel, established by David, was supposed to be the kingdom of God. Not until Jesus’ time would God’s kingdom mean anything “not of this world.” No concept of a heavenly kingdom is necessary to recognize that God’s will is better than human sin and pray that his will, not ours, be done.
5) we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.
7) O Lord, righteousness belongs to You . . .
12) And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
13) As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.
as it is in heaven
4) . . . God, who keeps His covenant . . .
Forgive us our tresspasses
Daniel does not pray about daily bread or acknowledge the need for Israel to forgive its oppressors. Following Jesus’ model requires following all of it, but not necessarily all of it in every time of prayer.
Actually, since so many of us so often pray about little besides our needs of the moment, the absence of the daily bread clause here is both instructive and refreshing.
9) To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
16) O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain . . .
18) O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.
Deliver us from evil
17) . . . cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
19) . . . O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay . . .
For thine is the kingdom
19) . . .for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.
Someone else comparing the Lord’s Prayer with Daniel’s prayer may well parse it differently. That doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we recognize Jesus’ model when we see it and let our own prayer life grow and develop in the process.
It’s still Lent. It’s still a time for us to reflect, as Daniel did, on our own sin and rebellion, and on what we have to show for it.
Every one of us is suffering. We suffer partaking in general human sin. We suffer because of sins committed against us. But we completely miss the point if we fail to recognize that we suffer because of things we have done and should have known better.
Jesus committed no sin and therefore had no need to confess. The Bible does not record whatever personal confession Daniel made over his long life. No matter. In these prayers we can find inspiration for any kind of confession this year’s Lenten season requires of us. And even after we pass from the sorrow of Lent to the joy of Easter.
Lord’s Prayer: Some rights reserved by Randy OHC
Woman at prayer: Some rights reserved by nanny snowflake