“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
One may wonder whether James had Daniel’s prayer in mind when he wrote this. The prayer of Daniel recorded in Daniel 9:4-19 seems to exemplify what James wrote centuries later. In brief let us summarise the content of the prayer.
First, this prayer was motivated by reading Scripture, in particular, that written by the prophet Jeremiah (v 2).
Secondly, Daniel was determined to commune with the Lord with a view to understanding Jeremiah’s prophecy and it’s relevance to his present day (v 3).
Thirdly, he majors on the nature of the Lord: The Lord keeps His covenants and is faithful to His word (v 4), is merciful (v 4, 9, 18) and forgiving (v 9, 19). The Lord is righteous in Being (v 7) and therefore righteous in all His actions (v 14).
Fourthly, in contrast to the nature of the Lord, Israel had been quite the contrary. Israel had not been faithful to the covenant on Mount Sinai (v 5, 7); it had not heeded the warnings and word of God that came through the prophets (v 6) and had been disobedient to the word of the Lord that came through Moses (v 10, 11).
To sum up, Daniel affirms to the Lord that the Lord is right to judge Israel as He has for in doing so He has remained faithful to the word that came through Moses and to His Divine Nature (v 13).
Israel had nothing worthy of merit as a reason for the Lord’s favour (v 18) yet Daniel asks for it. Israel had sinned against the Lord (v 8) and there was no reason or means by which they merited any favour in themselves. If Israel was to be forgiven and restored it had to be based solely on the Lord’s nature and expression of that nature.
It isn’t surprising therefore that we find Daniel basing the hearing of his prayer (v 17) and Israel’s forgiveness (v 19) as being for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of the revelation of the Divine Nature in the world, and not for Israel’s name.
Daniel was a righteous man who least needed such a prayer for himself. He did not characterise the nature of Israel as described in his prayer. But it was this very absence that qualified him to pray such a prayer. Besides, who else would? Those who love sin will never even consider praying anything.
In this Daniel is a kind of foreshadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only Righteous One, the one who had no need of suffering for sin, took upon Himself our sin for His own name’s sake and most definitely not because we, even in the slightest, merited any favour.
We do well to keep in mind that God responded to the prayer of just one man, just as James later wrote He would, and gave us one of the most blessed revelations in all Scripture.
Who will be a Daniel today?