“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:14
Daniel’s prayer is a great example for praying according to God’s will revealed through His Word. Though this does not have direct application to any nation but Israel and God’s covenant with them, it is a model of intercessory prayer for America and any nation. Think of and pray for America as you come to Israel, Jerusalem or Judah. Also, as you read/pray this prayer include yourself (as Daniel did and I do) as committing the sins against God that has brought His judgment on our nation as it did Israel.
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land. “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice. “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Daniel 9:1-19)
I was personally convicted as I read this prayer (though I have read it many times) because I realized that compared to Daniel my fervency in prayer for God’s will do be done in our nation (and my life) is greatly lacking. So I feel led to spend some time on this prayer so we can learn from Daniel and may grow in our passion and prayer life for God’s will to be done in our nation beginning with our own lives.
Before I make specific application of the lessons we can learn from Daniel, let’s look at an un-biblical reason some people (and maybe you) do not pray with fervency or maybe hardly pray at all. How do we reconcile the sovereign will of God and the need for prayer; i.e., if God is going to do it why does He need my prayers? Well first of all there are many things I don’t understand about God. I can’t explain the Trinity but I believe it; or Jesus being both fully God and fully Man but I believe it. I don’t understand God’s election and man’s choice in salvation but I see both in Scripture. And I don’t understand the mystery of our participation in God’s will being realized through prayer but I believe it because God says it does: “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) God uses our prayers (amazingly) as He allows us to participate in His unfolding plans for our lives and the lives of others. It is true that praying changes us even if it does not change our circumstances or those of our friends. (Phil. 4:6-7) But it is also true that prayer does change things; not God’s will but the circumstances of our lives that are aligned with God’s will through our prayers.
Another important point is that the more we know God as He is (versus our distorted view of God) the more we, like Daniel, Paul and others, will see our great sinfulness compared to His Perfect Holiness. We tend to compare our righteousness with that of others instead of compare it with God and with Jesus as the perfect Human. Reading God’s Word shows us both His Holiness and our sinfulness and His revealed will in many areas of life (especially relationships). So we will pray only as effectively as we know God’s Holiness and have the desire to grow more like Him and know His revealed will and agree with Him in prayer for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Some years ago I began a Men’s Day Alone with God, which is an eight hour retreat (formerly held at the Ignatius House in Sandy Springs) to provide men the opportunity to experience the blessing and spiritual value I was receiving from spending a day alone with God once a month. Over the years I summarized and documented the Scriptural basis for spending time alone with God along with the blessings and spiritual benefits of doing so. During the next few weeks we will study these key points in an effort to grow in our understanding and our desire to become “fervent men of prayer” like Daniel. We’ll look at the first three today.
SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR SPENDING TIME ALONE WITH GOD IN PRAYER
1. DISCIPLINE >DESIRE>DELIGHT – I heard this phrase from someone regarding prayer and then was challenged to put this discipline into practice beginning in 1992 when a friend and mentor of mine challenged me to spend a day alone with God once a month. I’ll never forget the first time I did it. I went to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers (a great place to pray) and spent just eight hours (later on I progressed to a full twenty-four hours) in prayer (or being alone with God). After the first couple of hours I did not know what else to pray about so I just “sat with the Lord” mindful of His Presence. It was hard at first but as I continued this discipline I gradually could hardly wait until the next day away came up. So I went from discipline to desire and soon it became (and still is) a delight. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door (be alone with God) and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matt. 6:6) As we obey the Lord’s Word about prayer/spending time alone with Him (Discipline), God works in us to make time alone with Him a desire (Desire) and ultimately it grows into a delight (Delight). Then like David we will say: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2) (Does this sound like a man who feels “I ought to pray more”?) “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) In time His desire to meet with us will become our desire to meet with Him.
A) Is spending time alone with God a discipline, a desire or a delight (or none of these) at this stage of your spiritual journey? Explain your answer. B) What do you think it was for Daniel, David or Paul and what we can learn from them? (Remember in chapter 6 we saw Daniel risk his life to pray.)
2. THE LORD LONGS TO SPEND TIME ALONE WITH US – “There I will meet with you and, from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are upon the ark of the Testimony, I will speak intimately with you of all which I will give you in commandment to the Israelites.” (Exodus 25:22) “I will meet with you.” God says this six times in the book of Exodus and many other times in the Bible: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20) “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:8) If Billy Graham or some other famous leader we admire wanted to meet with us personally, one on one, we would jump at the chance. So why do we have trouble finding the time to meet with the King of kings? Maybe it’s because in our wrong thinking we do not really believe it has value. Maybe the world system has indoctrinated us to buy in to its values. Note what God says about this: “This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom (worshiping education, worldly-wise) or the strong man boast of his strength (worshiping the macho man; the athlete, man’s physique/appearance, or the “self-made business man” ) or the rich man boast of his riches (worshiping the stuff money buys including man’s praise) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.” (Jer. 9:23-24) “Because your love is better than life (the “good life” per the world’s value system), my lips will glorify you.” (Psalm 63:3) As Jesus says in John 17:3, knowing God is the essence of life – the most valuable thing in life. “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (A. W. Tozer) If we know Him wrongly, we will respond to Him wrongly from the atheist to the worldly believer. May we cry out and live out Paul’s prayer: I want to know Christ (more and more intimately). (Phil. 3:10)
A) Had you rather spend a day alone with Billy Graham (or the person you admire the most) or God? Explain your answer. B) Why do you think some Christians spend so little time alone with God in prayer and how may this apply to you? (See Jer. 9:23-24 above)
3. SPIRITUAL RENEWAL VS. SPIRITUAL ENTROPY – “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in (or wait upon) the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31) “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) In prayer try to answer these three questions with God’s guidance: 1) Why do I want to serve God? This relates to our passion, our emotional/inspirational element of our desire to know and serve the Lord which energizes us to serve those He calls us to serve. 2) Mission relates to how we carry out our desire to serve the Lord and His people. And 3) vision relates to what the end result of our ministry will look like. Yet, if we run out of passion we run out of spiritual energy and will plateau or backslide. One way to see the critical importance of spiritual passion is to envision it as a thoroughbred horse at the Kentucky Derby. The jockey is your mind and will. As the gate opens for the race your horse dies and you have to compete on foot against the other thoroughbred horses. Likewise if we try to carry out God’s call on our lives (to love and glorify Him in all arenas of our lives) we will “lose the race” if we do not regularly restore our passion for Jesus. This comes as we wait upon the Lord (wait here means active trust) as we get alone with God to pray and He imparts to us His strength and energy to carry out what He calls us to do.
A) What does it mean to “wait upon the Lord” (See Isaiah 40:29-31 above and my comments)? B) On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) how is your passion for Jesus? C) Why is passion for Jesus more important than your mission and vision for Jesus? D) What drains your passion for Jesus more than anything else and how can you stop it or slow it down?
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION (See the three questions in bold print above.)
What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?
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