woodcut of Daniel in a pose of lament
“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, …”

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, January 21 is Daniel 9:1-19, Daniel’s prayer on behalf of the exiles in Babylon. Here are some questions that we might (or might not) want to consider in class:

Daniel’s prayer addresses God directly, as “great and awesome, … keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments” (1:4) Do we think Daniel means that God “keeps covenant and steadfast love” with the exiles in Babylon, or not? Why? Does the way we answer this question affect what we think Daniel’s prayer means? How?

More generally, how does Daniel seem to think about God? What in Daniel’s prayer tells us that? How does Daniel’s understanding of God compare to ours – how is it similar, how is it different? Are there ways Daniel seems to understand God that we wish we could share? What are they, and why would we want to share them? (What keeps us from sharing those, anyway?) Are there ways Daniel seems to understand God that we’re glad we don’t share? What are those, and why are we glad about that? (What keeps us from sharing those?)

How would we describe Daniel’s relationship with God as expressed in this prayer? Why – what makes us say that? (More personal: How does this relationship compare to ours – how is it similar, how is it different? What about it would we like to share, or share more? What about it are we glad we don’t share? Why?) What do we think has brought about this relationship – that is, things Daniel has done, ideas Daniel has had, things God has done, experiences, etc.? What are the implications in that for us today?

Daniel’s prayer confesses Israel’s sinfulness, in light of God’s word “through the prophets,” and pleads for relief from Israel’s current punishment. The prophets focused on two main categories of sin: injustice, and idolatry. The punishment has been several decades of exile in Babylon. Do similar prayers seem called for today? Why or why not? Who would pray them – us, others? Why? If we were to pray a prayer similar to Daniel’s today, what would we confess? Would the categories of idolatry and injustice still apply? In what ways? Would we add different categories? Which? What relief would we ask for? Why?

On the other hand, if we wouldn’t see a prayer like Daniel’s as appropriate for today – why not? What are the differences between our situation today and that of Daniel’s that shut down that kind of prayer – something about sinfulness? Suffering? Relationship with God? Hoped-for response from God? Something else?

Daniel is presented as a righteous individual in the book of Daniel, but in his prayer he identifies with the sinful nation. Why, do we think? Are there implications in that for us today? What are they?