“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)
Before we move on to the amazing answer (in verses 20-27) to Daniel’s powerful prayer (in verses 3-19) let’s seek to learn from Daniel on how to pray effectively as “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) John MacArthur summarizes Daniel’s prayer in eight key points: [“Daniel prayed 1) in response to God’s Word, 2) in accord with God’s will, 3) with fervency, 4) with self-denial, 5) prayed for others, 6) prayed with confession, 7) dependent on God and 8) focused on God’s glory. The whole point of his prayer was on the glory of God.” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/27-24/israels-future-part-1]
“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.” (Vv. 17-19) [“As Daniel reflected carefully on this information, he was moved to repentance (Dan. 9:3–7). This is a remarkable response, given other reactions that one might expect. For example, he could have hailed the fall of Babylon as the prophetic event signaling the end of Judah’s captivity. He could have taken the information to Darius and demanded his people’s immediate release, in the style of Moses. He could have become complacent in his duties, figuring that he was on his way home. Daniel did none of these things. Instead he repented. His focus was not on dates and timetables, but on his own heart attitude toward the Lord. He was less concerned with how soon the captivity was going to end than with why it had to happen in the first place. The question for him was not “When are we going to return?” but “Are we ready to return?”] (I apologize to the writer of this quote but I cannot remember where I found it.)
As I wrote last week, I was personally convicted as I read this prayer because I realized that compared to Daniel my fervency in prayer for God’s will do be done in our nation and in 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. Some years ago I began a Men’s Day Alone with God, which is an eight-hour retreat to provide men the opportunity to experience the blessing and spiritual value that 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. Last week we looked at the first three of these and today we will study the other key points in an effort to grow in our understanding and desire to become “fervent men of prayer” like Daniel.
SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR SPENDING TIME ALONE WITH GOD IN PRAYER
SEE (http://www.lensykes.com/archives/1235) for the first three points on prayer.
4) JESUS MODELED THIS – “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8) Jesus is the model for everything. “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness (or lonely place) and pray.” (Luke 5:16) In Mark 1:21-39 (please read) we see a very busy day of ministry in the life of our Lord. Yet, note that even after ministering what appears to be late into the night, He still arose before dawn the next morning: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” As a human being like us (in every way yet without sin) He needed spiritual renewal/energy to carry out God’s call on His life. As it seems from this text He received both renewed energy and clear direction from His Father as He left those who were seeking Him and went where God directed Him. “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
QUESTION: This was said about Jesus: “Zeal (passion) for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17) How did Jesus (the God-Man) model restoring His passion for God and hearing God for direction on a regular basis? (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35)
5) TO HEAR GOD’S VOICE – “The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13) “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:2-3,10) “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) ”So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) From these passages we see that God speaks to Elijah (and us) when he got alone with Him (40 days for Elijah as he was seriously depressed). He speaks to us when we get still (both physically, emotionally and mentally); He speaks to us as a good shepherd speaks to his sheep and the sheep know the difference between the voice of a good shepherd (Jesus) and the voice of a hireling/stranger (John 10:4-5;11-14), the world, the devil and the flesh. We grow in this discernment by regularly “hearing the word of Christ.” Jesus is the Word of God both in the Old and New Testament (John 1:1). Even though words are the primary way we communicate as humans and God with humans, He also communicates in other ways even as humans do (body language, tone of voice, etc.). God speaks to us: 1) through others (Deut. 18:17-19; Prov. 11:14; 15:22); 2) through circumstances (open doors/closed doors – but He lets us force closed doors open if we are willful); Joseph “saw” God’s will through his very painful circumstance (Gen. 50:20). As C.S. Lewis says, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We should always seek to hear God’s voice of correction or comfort in times of pain and adversity; 3) through thoughts or impressions from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-8); 4) through the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4); the more we know the Lord and His Word the closer our desires will be aligned with His. 5) God also speaks through dreams and visions (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28-32) but Godly counsel and knowledge of God’s Word may be needed to discern the validity of our subjective experiences.
QUESTION: A) How do you “hear” God speak to you? B) In addition to His Word, which of the five other means of communication does God use the most to speak to you? C) Are there other ways He has spoken to you or to people you know?
6) CONFESS OUR SINS/CAST OUR CARES UPON THE LORD – God “speaks” to us in all these ways but we can create barriers of communication with Him: 1) un-confessed sins and 2) un-confessed cares. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:3-5) Confession of sin restores fellowship/intimacy with the Lord and opens the line of communication that may have been blocked by un-confessed sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” (Psalm 66:18-19) Thus our times alone with God can serve to clear the channels as we ask Him to search us and show us any sins that we need to confess: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) Also we can live in denial or try to carry our burdens, and stuff or bury our emotions. But if we do, we bury them alive and they come out in unhealthy, sinful ways and can give the devil an opportunity to lie to us. ”Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:7-8) “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) God tells us and wants us to share our burdens/cares with Him. He made us weak so we would know we need Him.
QUESTION: God “speaks” to us in many ways but we can create barriers of communication with God: 1) un-confessed sins and 2) un-confessed cares. Take time to pray this prayer and ask the Lord to show you any un-confessed cares (anxious thoughts) and un-confessed sins (offensive way). “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) Now write down what the Lord showed you and repent of any sin He convicts you of. Also repent of carrying your burdens/cares rather than sharing them with Him and leaving them with Him.
7) THE SABBATH PRINCIPLE/REGULAR EXTENDED TIMES ALONE WITH GOD – The Sabbath is not a NT commandment but it is a NT privilege. “And Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made on account and for the sake of man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The idea of Sabbath is spiritual rest. Spiritual rest is not just the absence of work but being in the Presence of God. It takes time to quiet our hearts and minds and enter into His Presence and experience His rest- His re-creation of spiritual energy. My suggestion is make time each week (a Sabbath) for an extended time alone with God (three to four hours of unhurried time alone with God). Put this on your calendar and protect it as an appointment with the King of kings that is non-negotiable. A few years ago I changed my one day a month alone with God to Tuesday and Thursday mornings (four to five hours) alone with God. It is on my calendar. Receive the gift of Sabbath from the Lord by “making” time for God – unhurried time alone with Him every week.
QUESTION: Receive the gift of Sabbath from the Lord by “making” time for God – unhurried time alone with Him every week. Put this on your calendar and protect it as an appointment with the King of kings that is non-negotiable. How does this speak to you and will you do it? Why or why not?
8) INTERCESSION – “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” (1 Samuel 12:23) I am convinced that intercession, praying for others, can be one of our most important and effective ministries. There are many examples in the Old and New Testament of God’s people interceding for others and God answering prayers by intervening in the lives of others as clear answers to specific prayers. (See Acts 12) As I stated earlier 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. (1 Sam. 1:19-20) “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) There is certainly mystery here in how all this works so we must take God at His Word when He tells us to pray and do it by faith.
QUESTION: Are you convinced from Scripture that intercessory prayer really makes a difference in the lives of your family, friends and others, and how may this impact your prayers for others?
9) RENEWAL OF THE MIND THROUGH EXTENDED TIME IN THE WORD – Prayer is two way communication with God and His primary way to speak to us and reveal Himself and His will for our lives through His “living and active Word” (Hebrews 4:12). As in any relationship if one person does all the talking there won’t be much growth in the relationship. Likewise with the Lord, if we do all the talking (prayer requests, etc.) and don’t listen to Him through His Word we won’t grow closer to Him. God wants to be known and thus reveals Himself to us. In fact, we can only know Him through the revelations of Himself that He chooses to give us. He reveals Himself through the natural world (Psalm 19; Rom. 1:18-29); through our conscience (Rom. 2:14-16); through Scripture (Rom.10:17) and most clearly through His Son. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) (Application: read and study the Gospels regularly and see the perfect Man and how He relates to God and to people- He is THE MODEL). And God reveals His will for our lives primarily through His Word.”Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (through God’s Word). Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) Yet we must be careful not to just be “bibliologists” who know God’s Word but don’t know the God of the Word. God is relational and wants us to know Him as a Person – Abba Father, Jesus as our Bridegroom, and the Holy Spirit as our Counselor and Comforter (all very personal and relational words). He is also our Master and King. As we grow in our knowledge of Him we will grow in our love and reverence for Him and respond to Who He is and not just propositional truths and principles seen in the Bible. So in reading the Bible, seek to know the Person of God not just principles to live by.
QUESTION: A) Do you talk (pray) more than listen (read God’s Word) in your times with God? B) How can we avoid being “bibliologists” who know principles from God’s Word but are not growing in the knowledge of God as a Person?
10) FAST AND PRAY – Fasting can accompany confession and repentance for restoration with the Lord. “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12) Fasting can also enable us to hear from the Lord and discern His will as seen in Acts 13. “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. (Acts 13:2) Physically speaking, fasting from food can allow the blood that is normally used to digest our food, to be used to make our minds more alert. Spiritually speaking, fasting shows our fervency and earnestness in seeking God’s will.
QUESTION: What are two benefits from fasting seen in Scripture? How can fasting help us physically and spiritually in our times alone with God?
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION (See the 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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