Daniel – His boldness in prayer

Today we will look at the boldness of Daniel in prayer. We again take our minds to the prayer of Daniel in the 9th chapter.

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
(Daniel 9:16-19)

He trusted in the mercy of God. Daniel knew that they could not make a plea to God based upon their own righteousness, but all Israel would have to fall upon the mercy of God. This is something Daniel was confident in, that God would be merciful.

Daniel stood on God’s promises. Because he knew the promises of God, and because he knew the God who keeps His promises, Daniel felt very confident to call upon God to act upon those promises.

He was very bold in asking God to:

  • Let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem.
  • Listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy.
  • For your own sake, make your face shine upon YOUR sanctuary, which is desolate.
  • Incline your ear and hear.
  • Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by YOUR name.
  • O Lord, hear!
  • O Lord, forgive!
  • O Lord, pay attention and act!
  • Delay not, for your own sake!

Men, that is the same boldness that God wants us to have when we come to His throne in prayer. Trust in God’s mercy. Stand on His promises. Call upon Him with boldness and confidence that grows out of an understanding of God’s unfailing mercy.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16)

…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
(Ephesians 3:12)

Daniel – His humility in prayer

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God,
(Daniel 9:20)

I encourage you to read Daniel 9 this morning and meditate upon Daniel’s prayer. Daniel, at the end of the 70 year captivity, turned to God in prayer and fasting with pleas for God’s mercy. There is so much to be said here from Daniel 9, and more articles will follow, but today I want to focus on the humility of Daniel in prayer.

As you look over Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, take notice of a few things:

Daniel confessed HIS sin, not just the sins of the nation of Israel. He took ownership of his own rebellion against God. Whatever Daniel was like before he went into captivity, we don’t know, but it sure seems like Daniel had his own part in the sins that caused Israel to go into captivity. Maybe being taken into captivity sobered him up and straightened him out.

In his prayer, Daniel said “we” and “us,” not “I” and “they.” If you listen to good leaders talk, they use we and us much more than “I, Me, Mine.” This was a collective problem and Daniel could not distance himself from it.

Look at the understanding Daniel had of the whole situation. He knew the Scriptures. Moses told them what to do, and said that if they didn’t do it the people would go into captivity (1400’s BC). Several hundred years afterward, Solomon prayed/prophesied that when Israel went into captivity and recognized their sins, that they will pray toward Jerusalem and God will hear, forgive and bring them home (1 Kings 8, 900’s BC). Centuries later, Jeremiah added that they would go into captivity for 70 years, and that they will not come home a day sooner (Jeremiah 29:10, 600’s BC). Daniel was very discerning and knew that these things were written in the Scriptures. He knew the commands that he and the others had broken. It is plain he was aware of the consequences of their unfaithfulness. He also had come to learn and understand of the unfailing love and mercy of God for His people. But he also knew that Israel would not be going home until those 70 years were completed (538-536 BC). Once that time had come, Daniel began praying with all his might for God to act upon His promise. That wisdom and discernment does not come without first having humility.

May we all have the humble heart of Daniel. A heart like Daniel is one that looks in the mirror first before pointing fingers of blame. We will look at God’s word for guidance and light, even when it sheds light and the truth gets ugly. Daniel’s humble heart allowed him to see the ugly in his own life, but he also could see the outreached arm of God ready to forgive and take him back.

Daniel – While I was speaking and praying

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
(Daniel 9:20-23)

This passage is so encouraging to me, and I hope it is to you. Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 is just simply incredible. It is full of humility, love for God and a clear understanding of both God’s word and the history of God’s people. He made all the connections between God’s unfailing love and Israel’s unfaithfulness, but Daniel did not leave himself out of the mix, either. We’ll look at another time at the prayer of Daniel in chapter 9. But what I want to focus on is God answering this prayer.

God did not waste a second in responding to Daniel’s prayer did he? Go back and look over the passage and take note of a few things:

  • While I was still speaking – Daniel was in the middle of the prayer when Gabriel appeared. God didn’t say, “Well, let’s see how he finishes this prayer and then we will decide.”
  • Came to me in swift flight – Awesome…just awesome. I wish I knew more about angels, but it would probably scare me to death. Gabriel flew…and it took time to get to Daniel. Can’t say I understand that, but regardless, God sent Gabriel and told him to hurry to get to Daniel. “Daniel needs you, Gabriel.” That is our God, and in Hebrews 1:14, we are told that angels are ministering to Christians today. They come in swift flight to take care of God’s people today.
  • At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out – Jesus tells us that God already knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8). We still have to ask, though! But when we begin to reach out to God, that very instant God is running to us! It is like the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The son had a prepared speech and was on his way home to give it to his father. The father ran to him and didn’t let him finish his prepared speech. That is our God, that is our loving Father. The moment Daniel prayed for mercy from God, God sent the word out through heaven and Gabriel rushed to Daniel’s side.

Passages like this help me see God in such a tender and loving light. He greatly loved Daniel and he greatly loves us.

Daniel – As He Had Done Previously

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)

What would you do if a law was signed in the U.S. saying that you could not pray to any god except the king for 30 days? What if the consequences were being thrown into a den of lions? Would we do what Daniel did?

I can imagine what might go through the mind of a person in such a situation. Well, it’s only 30 days, God will understand. He wants us to live a quiet, peaceable life and mind our own business. Maybe I can pray in my head and no one will know. A den of lions…that’s scary, stuff. I’ll just take a low profile for 30 days and ride out the storm.

On the other hand, Daniel wasn’t in your face rebellious, either. What I mean by that is that some Christians seem to be looking for a political fight and are trying to take it to the opposition any chance they get. Daniel didn’t do that. What did the text say? Daniel just did what he always did! He prayed three times a day.

Daniel was Daniel, and his prayers to his God weren’t hindered by changes in the culture, by his geographical location, by laws, or by any demands or pressures of life. Like Timothy was encouraged to be, Daniel was the same “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:1-4).

“What he had done previously,” says quite a bit to us. If our manner of life is not one that can be characterized by consistent prayer and devotion, then let’s take a lesson from the life of Daniel. Because Daniel was consistent in his prayer and relationship with God, he could deal with any change, law, pressure, etc. in the turbulent world around him.

Are you praying with your wife?

Here are a few thoughts today about praying with your wife.

Praying with your sister in Christ.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).

Think of all the passages in Scripture that encourage and teach about God’s people coming together to pray. Don’t just apply that to what goes on at the church building! Those same passages can be applied to you and your wife. We get kind of compartmentalized in our application of Scripture sometimes and miss the obvious.

Laboring in prayers

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12).

A brother named Epaphras was mentioned in Colossians by Paul. What I find very interesting is that Paul wrote that Epaphras was laboring, struggling or wrestling in prayer (depending on which version you read). The early Christians had to “devote” themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). This is a spiritual war in which we are facing the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-18). He does everything to oppose God and His people, including our efforts to pray together. You try to pray consistently with your wife and see what happens. There is amazing good that happens, because God is at work. But be on guard because the Devil will do everything in his power to keep you and your wife from praying together. It is war. You are wrestling with Satan and his forces of darkness. But with Jesus you will overcome (Revelation 12:11)! Don’t give up!

Arrow prayers. 

At a practical level, one thing that most likely will discourage you from having regular prayer time is the unrealistic expectation that you have to have a marathon prayer session every time you pray. This is a trap that I believe men fall into even at the church building. We feel like we have to cover every base every time we pray. Please don’t try to cover the whole “prayer list” every time you sit down to pray. Pick one or two specific things each day and pray about that. Rotate it around. Don’t make a rigid schedule. Be flexible and merciful to yourselves if you miss a day or two. Keep trying, don’t give up!

Psalm 90

I encourage you to read Psalm 90 today. The text is below at the end of this post. What I see in this Psalm, this prayer of Moses, is a contemplation on the eternal nature of God in contrast to the fleeting life of a human being. We are but dust, like grass, and we soon fly away. God, however, is from everlasting to everlasting. For us 70-80 years is a long time, but 1,000 years is like “yesterday when it is past” to God.

Since this is a prayer of Moses, Moses makes certain requests of God. Take note of what he is asking God.

Show us goodness in our lives, not just the bad things. We know that God’s wrath is real, and light of His holiness exposes our secret sins. Moses asks for God to show us not only His wrath and justice but also His goodness in our lives. He also requests for God to “establish” the work of his hands. Help us accomplish our plans and purposes and dreams. I like the specific request in verse 15 for God to “make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.”

He wants God to help him “number” his days, so that he would gain a heart of wisdom. Lord, help us appreciate how fleeting life is, and to cherish every moment we have here on the planet. I have talked to several men and women in my age group recently, and I’m hearing the same things. You have kids growing up, graduating, going to college, thinking of finding a spouse, etc. On the other hand your parents are aging, and you are seeking to help them in that stage of their lives. But then you are seeing your own life really racing by. You begin to see what those older folks told you decades ago about how life just blows right by you, while you were thinking at the time, “Yeah, yeah, I know….” Well, life does really just scream right passed you like an Indy car. So, Moses as an old man is keenly aware of how fast life goes by, and he shows us the wisdom of asking God to help us cherish each day, each moment.

 

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psa 90:1-17)

My Circumstances and My Heart

My attitude toward cold weather and snow really stinks the longer the winter drags on. I have to be honest. With prayer, including yours, I will hope to improve that attitude.

I bring this up because I was talking to one of our kids about how we can’t keep asking God to change our circumstances until we change our heart about the circumstances in which we find ourselves. While I was “preaching” to my offspring a light bulb went off in my head. Dad realized how many times he has vocally wished to be in a warmer climate. I’ve had enough of winter when March comes. But can the Lord change my heart about this? Yes, if I let Him. Instead of wishing to be elsewhere, I should take time to be thankful for snow and the cold weather. It does have a purpose (potholes, rising coat sales, slower commutes…oh, man, I did it again.). Really, there is a purpose and beauty in the snow and cold.

Our new puppy absolutely loves the snow. She doesn’t share my opinion. Her nose is constantly in the snow, and she just goes crazy jumping around in it. Watching her helps my general grumpiness.

Watching the kids play in the snow is another thing that brings joy to my heart. Going sledding with them has been a blast this winter.

There is the constant reminder in God’s word that our sins, which are like scarlet are made white as snow by God’s grace and Jesus’ blood (Isaiah 1).

So, do you find yourself in a circumstance where your attitude is crummy and unthankful? Are you trying harder to convince God to change your circumstance or to change your heart about it? There is nothing wrong with asking God to change our situation in life, but let’s not forget where the focus should be first and foremost.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Daniel – Why Did Gabriel Come?

We were reading Daniel 9 this morning and considering the prayer of Daniel that he made at the end of the 70 year captivity in Babylon. So many great things to talk about and think about here. What strikes me is that “while” Daniel was speaking, in fact, at the beginning of his prayer, Gabriel was sent by the Lord. Think about this as you read Daniel 9: Why did Gabriel come to Daniel? Why was Daniel’s prayer answered by God?

Below are a few excerpts from Daniel 9.

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans–in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
(Daniel 9:1-5)

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
(Daniel 9:20-23)

Here are a few quick observations as to why Daniel’s prayer was answered and why Gabriel was sent to him.

  1. Daniel was greatly loved. Why does God answer prayer? Because He greatly loves us.
  2. Daniel’s heart was humble. You see his heart recognizing the sovereignty, the justice and the mercy of God. He also saw his own sinfulness in the presence of that holy God. Daniel didn’t just blame all the other people in Israel for the problem; he took personal responsibility for his own sin.
  3. Daniel read and understood the word. You see in Daniel’s prayer that he recognized the writings of Jeremiah and Moses as the words of God. He trusted in these words and understood from Moses that God’s law was broken and that punishment would follow. He also understood from Moses and Jeremiah that God was merciful and would forgive His people. Through the words of Jeremiah he understood that this captivity would last 70 years. Notice that Daniel wasn’t coming along at year 55 and asking for God’s deliverance. Daniel knew that when God said 70 years, He meant 70 years!
  4. Because God keeps His promises. Another reason Daniel’s prayer was heard was because God promised that when His people were taken captive and humbled themselves that He would forgive them and send them home (Leviticus 26:39-42; 1 Kings 8:33-34; Nehemiah 1:8-9).

Those same 4 things are true for you and me today. God answers the prayers of His people today because He loves them, because we are humble before Him and seek His word, and because He keeps his promises.

Is anything too hard for Me?

In Jeremiah, 32 we find Jeremiah sitting in prison. He has been preaching and warning Judah and her kings for decades. Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, is once again surrounding Jerusalem. This is the third wave of attack brought about by God through the hands of Babylon. During this siege, the whole city and Solomon’s temple will be destroyed and burned to the ground.

While Jeremiah sits in prison for preaching the words of God, he is told by God to buy his relative’s field in Anathoth, bury the purchase agreement and deed in an earthen vessel that it may stay there a long time. Why? Because God was foretelling through a sign that the people of God will one day come back from captivity and buy and sell land in Israel.

This must have sounded like the most impossible thing, especially considering the circumstances in which Jeremiah and the people found themselves. Jeremiah follows with a prayer of praise as he recounts the character and merciful works of God in contrast to Judah’s faithlessness.

But we can see the challenge of faith that Jeremiah is having in this prayer. He admits readily that “nothing is too hard for God” (a statement which God turns around and repeats to him). However, at the end of his prayer, his is really struggling with the concept that God’s people will actually come back to this land.

Yet you, O Lord GOD, have said to me, “Buy the field for money and get witnesses”–though the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans.'”
(Jeremiah 32:25)

Jeremiah is like, I know you said this Lord, but that sounds like hope and light, and this is the most hopeless and darkest situations we could be in. It is at this point that God takes over the conversation, and replies with:

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

God told Jeremiah that yes, Judah will be destroyed and rightly so because of their sins and rejection of God. But God will “restore their fortunes” (vs. 44). “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them” (vs. 42).

Trust me, Jeremiah, God is saying. Just as I will bring certain punishment, I will also bring certain hope, restoration and life! Nothing is too hard for God. And this is the the same God we serve today. God is a just God and will punish sinfulness, but He also a God of mercy who seeks to reconcile us to Himself and pour out upon us His blessings (Romans 5). When we are at our most hopeless and darkest places in life we need to remember that.

Nothing is too hard for God.

When God says “No”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10, ESV)

Were Paul’s prayers for his thorn in the flesh prayed in faith? Yes.

Did those prayers come from a heart that was pure before God? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers for this physical agony fervent, genuine and persistent? Yes.

Were Paul’s prayers specific? Yes.

Was Paul’s motive for this prayer selfish and self-centered? No. Just because it was about himself doesn’t make it selfish. Jesus did the same, right?

But with all of this, God still said “No” to Paul’s request. That is just hard to swallow. When God says “No” to our prayers, it can be a great challenge to our faith. Why pray at all? What does it matter? Is prayer just an exercise in futility?

If you are challenged by me even bringing this up, then that’s good. Read the Psalms. Look at those who are looking up into heaven and asking “Where are you God?”, or “How long will it be before You hear us?”

Remember the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
(Psalm 22:1-2, ESV)

These feelings are real. Sometimes when fellow Christians bring up these feelings and questions they get dismissed or invalidated by others who give their default “churchy” answers without thinking. If Jesus Himself wondered why God had forsaken Him and whether God wasn’t listening at all, is it okay for me to wonder that once in awhile, too?

Yes, yes it is.

Here are some thoughts I see from Scripture that help me when I go through that process of wondering where God is.

God IS listening. The Lord responded to Paul’s prayers. The prayer was heard, and the prayer was answered. “From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached His ears” (Psalm 18:6, ESV).

God answered the prayers of many people in Scripture and gave them their requests. Gideon, Joshua, Moses, Samuel, Abraham, Hannah, Esther, Mordecai, Elijah, Hezekiah are just a few of the faithful to whom God granted their petitions. Prayer is not an exercise in futility. It most certainly works.

God’s grace is sufficient. When God says “No,” or “Wait awhile,” or “Yes, but in a different way,” then you can be assured that He has a very good reason. It may be very difficult at times to accept that, but His grace is sufficient.

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s “No” answers will work for His glory so that His strength, not ours, is exalted.

I will glory and boast in my infirmities. We may want the “testimony” and “witness” to others that we prayed for something and God gave a definite and mighty “Yes” to our requests. But the testimony we may give is like that of Paul, in that we glorify God in the weaknesses, trials and setbacks of life. Paul’s “testimony” was that he was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
(Luke 18:1, ESV)