Let me ask you a question that you may have been asked before, maybe recently. What were you doing on September 11th, 2001, ten years ago today. I would think that we can all answer that question – Diane and I were traveling on I-75, on the way to visit Aaron at Florida College. I do not remember very many things I did 10 years ago, but I remember that day. One thing I remember doing a lot that day was praying. Did you pray that day?
- Prayer and crisis go together for most of us. But I worry that sometimes, even in times of great need, we do not really believe that prayer does any good. Does prayer change things?
- James said, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:17). If we truly believed this we would pray more and worry less. But, as we have said before, the effectiveness of prayer is not in the activity itself, but in the power of the One to whom we are praying.
- Praying to Make a Difference. Prayer should be more than custom; it is communication with God intended to make a difference. In the biblical record there is clear evidence that God’s people had confidence and prayed to God often.
- Praying in Times of Trouble: God’s people often prayed to God in times of trouble or crisis. .
I. Daniel, A man of prayer. As we mentioned last week, The OT prophet, Daniel, was man of fervent prayer. I want us to look closer at one of his prayers, recorded in Daniel 9. (turn there)
- Daniel had been a captive in Babylon for almost 70 years. He was among the first taken captive into Babylon in 605. He was probably about 16 when taken into captivity. When we find him in chapter nine, Daniel is in his eighties. Babylon had fallen and the Medo-Persians were in power. He had seen many political changes, but Daniel’s faith was still in the God who controlled the nations of men.
- What can we learn about the effectiveness of prayer from Daniel?
Read Daniel 9:1-19
II. Effective prayer begins with the knowledge of God’s word. (v. 2)Daniel’s prayer is an earnest plea for the future of Israel. Daniel’s requests were based upon what God had already promised in the prophets.
- Jeremiah 25:11-12 – 11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 ‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord;’ and I will make it a perpetual desolation. Even though Jeremiah had been dead for some time, his words were a source of great hope for Daniel. Even though Daniel was a great prophet, he was still a student of the scriptures. And the words of scripture were the basis of his prayers.
A. God’s previous promises did not make prayer unnecessary or unwanted by God. Rather, His promises were intended to stimulate prayer by engendering absolute trust in Him as the One who can change things. Jeremiah 29:10-14 – 10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
1. God knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8), but He still desires for us to pray and ask Him for all that we need.
B. The more we know about God’s will, the more effective our prayers will be – 1 John 5:14-15 – 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
- We may pray less than we should because we do not have confidence in God, and
- Our lack of confidence in God comes from a lack of knowledge of His word. The more we know about what God has said to us, the more effective our prayers will be.
III. Effective prayer is driven by our confidence in the character of God. Daniel says, “I set my face toward the Lord God,” (Daniel 9:3) He recognized that God was the One who could help Israel. Daniel knew God. He used several powerful terms to describe the One He was addressing. (both Elohim and Jahweh.)
• “great and awesome,” (v. 4) – God was the One who had the power to answer His prayers. The One who deserved respect and worship. Prayer is an act of worship.
• He knew God to be faithful. One who kept His promises – “who keeps His covenant” (v. 4)
• He knew God t be righteous (v. 7) and just in punishing evil. (v. 14)
• He knew God to be merciful – One who was willing to forgive those who keep His commandments. (v. 9)
A. Daniel has great confidence in the unchanging faithfulness of God. Although Israel had sinned grievously, Daniel was hopeful because He knew His God to be forgiving and merciful. He knew God would keep His promises. In fact, the character of God becomes Daniel appeal – Daniel 9:17-19 – 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 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 do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
1. “For Your own sake” carries the idea that this must be done for the accomplishment of God’s own counsel, the performance of His promise, and the manifestation of His own glory. God is always faithful and true to His word. Daniel appeals to God on that basis.
2. We should never apologize for the practice of prayer, as though it was a response of last resort, or an exercise of wishful thinking. We are not just crossing our fingers and hoping things work out. We are resting upon the power of the Creator of the universe.
3. Do you ask God for forgiveness? Why should He forgive you? On what basis do you expect it? In vs. 18 Daniel said his request for forgiveness was not based upon “righteous deeds” but on the forgiving character of God. We don’t ask God to forgive us because we are so good, but because He is so good.
4. The fact that we have failed God so miserably, should not deter us from going to God in prayer.
5. The more you know about the character and attributes of God, the more worthwhile your prayers will be. Here again we are driven back to God’s word to know more about God Himself
IV. Effective prayer empties man of himself. Real prayer is an exercise of humility. The more we pray, the more we will be able to see ourselves as God sees us. We will lose our own self-importance, self-confidence, self-righteousness and self-seeking.
A. Daniel understood what God had revealed about the reason for Israel’s exile. They had departed from God and served idols. If God was going to bring them out of captivity, He demanded repentance.
B. So Daniel is willing to confess every form of sin. The expressions Daniel used: sin, iniquity, wickedness, rebellion, departing from the precepts, shame, unfaithfulness . . . in verse 10, “we have not obeyed!” Daniel wanted to confess every form of sin; leaving nothing out – highhanded sins, unwitting sins, omission, commission – nothing was held back. This is the true spirit of effective prayer.
1. “Every form of sin that Daniel could find in is consciousness or in his memory was confessed, and confessed with genuine sorrow. He acknowledged personal and public sins in every variety of language. Positive wickedness, deafness to the Divine voice, neglect of plain commandments, disregard of special messengers, contempt of God’s sovereign authority . . all is confessed in a spirit of candour and humility. The axe is laid to the utmost root of pride. His soul is mantled in just shame. There is a complete emptying of self – a needful preparation to be filled with God,” – PULPIT COMMENTARY:
2. I suspect most of us – need to be more earnest and specific and humble – when we confess our sins and petition Divine forgiveness. We may slip into the habit of RITUALISTIC CONFESSIONS – where we repeat a phrase we learned from others, but without real depth of penitence and sorrow.
3. God is not looking for eloquence words, but contrite spirits. The man who comes to God with nothing, who is empty and desperate—that man is accepted with God, Luke 18:13-14 – 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
V. Effective prayer requires earnest pleading. Daniel was an important man in the courts of Chaldea. But his hope was not in gaining the favor or Darius or Cyrus or any government of men. His hope and dependence were upon God, and he prayed fervently. Call it begging, pleading, beseeching—whatever you want. Daniel put every bit of his soul into this prayer, holding nothing back!
A. Why did Daniel beg? Because God was the only hope for Israel.
1. Ezekiel the prophet described Israel’s condition as dead bones lying bleached in the desert. (Ezek. 37:1-5) Who could give life to these dry bones? Only God. Daniel and Israel were dependent upon God.
2. God heard Daniel’s fervent pleading. Maybe if we knew how much we needed God, we would pray with more fervency. The more we study the scriptures, the more we see our need for God.
Conclusion: God heard Daniel’s prayer, Daniel 9:22-23. In the visions that followed God told Daniel that Jerusalem would be rebuilt, and the Messiah would come. The plan of God—for Christ’s sake and for ours—was carried out and came to fruition. God is eager to hear our prayers.
- Isaiah 65:24 – 24 “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
- Daniel 10:12 – 12 Then he said to me,” Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. What do you suppose would happen in your life – in your marriage, your family and in your participation in the local church – What do you suppose would happen if you lived and prayed like Daniel??
(From a lesson by Max Dawson)