It is 537 BC, and the prophet Daniel has been honoured with the second highest position next to King Darius, the Mede, who is in his first year of reign after defeating the powerful Babylonian empire. After reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah, Daniel recognizes that there are only two more years of exile in captivity for the Israelites, before God returns them to Jerusalem. However, there was no visible sign that the promise could possibly be fulfilled. Nor was there any sign that the exiled people were about to return to God and love Him with all their heart. Daniel did not resign himself to defeat, but instead, took the promise of God as His hope and began to pray for God’s promise to be fulfilled -- knowing that he himself may not make it to Jerusalem. This leads to Daniel’s prayer which gives us great insight on how to pray in our time of uncertainty when our nation is rebelling against God.
The prayer of Daniel can be read in Daniel 9:3-19. Stuart Olyott, in his book Dare to Stand Alone says, “the cause of God’s acting in history is not simply His promise, but also the prayer of His people. This is what praying ‘according to His will’ is all about… Praying according to the will of God is finding out from the Scriptures what God has promised and praying for that.” Our challenge then is to find out what the promises of God are and begin praying “according to God’s will”.
Stuart Olyott then gives six elements to Daniel’s prayer that will give us instruction in our own personal prayer time. They are the following: 1) pray seriously; 2) pray reverently; 3) pray penitently; 4) pray trusting in God’s mercy; 5) pray with specific requests; 6) pray with strong arguments.
Praying seriously (vs 3) for Daniel meant humbling himself and dressing in sackcloth, covering himself in ashes, and fasting. This is not what you would expect of the second highest official in the empire. When you pray, how do you express humility to God to show you are serious?
Praying reverently (vs 4) for Daniel meant Daniel not only was intimate with God as Father, but also recognized His Godhood. “O Lord, the great and awesome God” expresses Daniel’s fear and recognition of God’s power and authourity. When you pray, how do you express your reverence for God?
Praying penitently (vs 5) for Daniel meant confession of not only his sin but that of the nation. Daniel was overcome with the sense of sin. When you pray, are you overcome with a sense of sin and are you confessing sin?
Praying while trusting in God’s mercy (vs 9, 18) for Daniel meant that Daniel knew he couldn’t come to God and make his requests based on his own righteousness, but only because of God’s mercy and forgiveness. When you pray, do you pray because you have a right to make these requests, or because you are appealing to God’s mercy to even be in His presence?
Praying with specific requests (vs 16-19) for Daniel meant that he would plead with God to fulfill God’s promise for the sake of God’s glory and not for any selfish ambition on Daniel’s part. When you pray, are you checking your motive so that it is only for God’s glory that you are pleading? Is all selfishness removed? Is it for His will to be done or your will?
Praying with strong arguments (vs 15 and 16) for Daniel meant bringing up the rescue of the Israelites from Egypt and God’s righteous acts. Since God rescued them from Egypt, He can and promised to rescue them from exile. When you pray, do you base your requests on God’s righteous acts?
Let us be called to pray seriously, reverently, penitently, trusting in God’s mercy, with specific requests, and with strong arguments. And let us conclude with Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:4-7:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
 Olyott, S. (1982). Dare to Stand Alone: Daniel Simply Explained (pp. 118–119). Darlington, England: Evangelical Press.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 4:4–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.