And I set my face unto the Lord God - Probably the meaning is, that he turned his face toward Jerusalem, the place where God had dwelt; the place of his holy abode on earth. See the notes at Daniel 6:10. The language, however, would not be inappropriate to denote prayer without such a supposition. We turn to one whom we address, and so prayer may be described by “setting the face toward God.” The essential idea here is, that he engaged in a set and formal prayer; he engaged in earnest devotion. He evidently set apart a time for this, for he prepared himself by fasting, and by putting on sackcloth and ashes.
To seek by prayer and supplications - To seek his favor; to pray that he would accomplish his purposes. The words “prayer and supplications,” which are often found united, would seem to denote “earnest” prayer, or prayer when mercy was implored - the notion of “mercy” or “favor” implored entering into the meaning of the Hebrew word rendered “supplications.”
With fasting - In view of the desolations of the city and temple; the calamities that had come upon the people; their sins, etc.; and in order also that the mind might be prepared for earnest and fervent prayer. The occasion was one of great importance, and it was proper that the mind should be prepared for it by fasting. It was the purpose of Daniel to humble himself before God, and to recal the sins of the nation for which they now suffered, and fasting was an appropriate means of doing that.
And sackcloth - Sackcloth was a coarse kind of cloth, usually made of hair, and employed for the purpose of making sacks, bags, etc. As it was dark, and coarse, and rough, it was regarded as a proper badge of mourning and humiliation, and was worn as such usually by passing or girding it around the loins. See the notes at Isaiah 3:24; Job 16:15.
And ashes - It was customary to cast ashes on the head in a time of great grief and sorrow. The principles on which this was done seem to have been,
(a) that the external appearance should correspond with the state of the mind and the heart, and
(b) that such external circumstances would have a tendency to produce a state of heart corresponding to them - or would produce true humiliation and repentance for sin.
Compare the notes at Job 2:8. The practical truth taught in this verse, in connection with the preceding, is, that the fact that a thing is certainly predicted, and that God means to accomplish it, is an encouragement to prayer, and will lead to prayer. We could have no encouragement to pray except in the purposes and promises of God, for we have no power ourselves to accomplish the things for which we pray, and all must depend on his will. When that will is known it is the very thing to encourage us in our approaches to him, and is all the assurance that we need to induce us to pray.
Because God has promised, we are not released from the responsibility of beseeching him for the fulfillment of his word. Daniel might have reasoned in this manner: God has promised to release his people at the end of the seventy years, and he will accomplish this promise; I need not therefore concern myself at all in the matter. Daniel did not thus reason; but as the time drew near for the accomplishment of the word of the Lord, he set himself to seek the Lord with all his heart. And how earnestly he engaged in the work, even with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes! This was the year, probably, in which he was cast into the lion’s den; and the prayer of which we here have an account, may have been the burden of that petition, which, regardless of the unrighteous human law which had been secured to the contrary, he offered before the Lord three times a day.DAR 184.2
I set my face - to seek by prayer - He found that the time of the promised deliverance could not be at any great distance; and as he saw nothing that indicated a speedy termination of their oppressive captivity, he was very much afflicted, and earnestly besought God to put a speedy end to it; and how earnestly he seeks, his own words show. He prayed, he supplicated, he fasted, he put sackcloth upon his body, and he put ashes upon his head. He uses that kind of prayer prescribed by Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple. See 1 Kings 8:47, 1 Kings 8:48.
The Hebrew captives were men of like passions with ourselves. Amid the seductive influences of the luxurious courts of Babylon, they stood firm. The youth of today are surrounded with allurements to self-indulgence. Especially in our large cities, every form of sensual gratification is made easy and inviting. Those who, like Daniel, refuse to defile themselves, will reap the reward of temperate habits. With their greater physical stamina and increased power of endurance, they have a bank of deposit upon which to draw in case of emergency. MYP 242.1
Right physical habits promote mental superiority. Intellectual power, physical stamina, and length of life depend upon immutable laws. Nature's God will not interfere to preserve men from the consequences of violating nature's requirements. He who strives for the mastery must be temperate in all things. Daniel's clearness of mind and firmness of purpose, his power in acquiring knowledge and in resisting temptation, were due in a great degree to the plainness of his diet, in connection with his life of prayer. MYP 242.2Read in context »
Oh, how solemn and important is the work entrusted to us! How far reaching this work is in its results! How are we to obtain strength and wisdom necessary for its successful accomplishment? As Daniel sought the Lord, so we are to seek Him. Daniel declares, “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). We are to seek the Lord in humility and contrition, confessing our own sins and coming into close unity with one another.... HP 328.3Read in context »
Let men be connected with God's work who will represent His character. They may have much to learn in regard to business management; but if they pray to God as did Daniel, if with true contrition of mind they seek that wisdom which comes from above, the Lord will give them an understanding heart. Read carefully and prayerfully the third chapter of James, especially verses 13-18. The whole chapter is an eye-opener, if men wish to open their eyes.—Letter 55, 1895. PM 127.2Read in context »