Friday, October 7, 2011

Daniel 6 and 1 Kings 8: Praying Toward Jerusalem

Growing up knowing the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den, I always wondered why Daniel faced Jerusalem while he prayed. It seemed more like a Muslim practice rather than a Jewish law.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. (Daniel 6:10 ESV)
In reading through 1 Kings during this year's M'Cheyne reading, Solomon's dedication of the temple in chapter 8 brought Daniel to mind.

“If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. (1 Kings 8:46-52 ESV)
Solomon prescribed one instance when the people of God should pray toward Jerusalem: while in exile with a repentant heart. This is exactly the situation Daniel was in, and this is exactly the heart Daniel had.

Daniel knew his Bible exceedingly well. I'm embarrassed that it took me this long to notice the connection, and I long to have the heart of Daniel some day.

A couple of other things worth pointing out from these passages:

The context of Daniel is one where praying to anyone other than King Darius would result in the death penalty. The men trying to trap Daniel knew this was his practice, and he did not waver in righteousness during this persecution. There is some connection between knowing God's Word and faithfulness to him.

Even though Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem, toward the temple (which God filled with his glory during Solomon's dedication), he knew that God was not limited to the temple or Israel. Someone who knew God's Word as well as Daniel would have also remembered Solomon saying, "Then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause" (1 Kings 8:49). No temple, nor universe, can contain the infinite God (1 Kings 8:27).

But God dwelled bodily, died on a cross, became sin for us that he might live within us and intercede for us. What is man that God is mindful of us?

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