Prayer should always hold a prominent place in the lives of all Christians. We are to study today the prayer of one of God's greatest servants. As a prelude, let us seek to think on prayer for a while, considering, especially, some of the outstanding reasons for prayer.
1. Christians should pray because God asks it of them. To the Word and the Testimony: "Pray without ceasing." "In every thing by prayer." "Enter into thy closet, and * * pray."
God knew that we needed to pray. He knew the vital place that prayer would hold in every phase of Christian life and service; therefore He commanded us to pray.
2. Christians should pray because God hears and answers prayer. "And thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." "Ask, and it shall be given you." "For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
Prayer, therefore, truly brings things to pass. Where is the believer who has not experienced blessed answers to prayer? When we know that He heareth us, we will surely pour out our hearts before His throne of grace.
3. Christians should pray because prayer is a source of fellowship with the Father. Prayer may be voiced in these words: "Draw nigh unto Me." If we draw nigh to Him, He will likewise draw nigh unto us.
Prayer really is the key that unlocks the presence chamber, where we may go to dwell in His sacred presence.
Abraham "drew near," when he spake to the Lord in behalf of Sodom. Do you wonder, therefore, that the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing which I do?" If we draw near, God will open unto us many of His secret things.
4. Christians should pray because prayer transforms them that are exercised thereby. "And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered." Moses, alone with God, meant Moses with a face that radiated God's glory.
When we, with open face, behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we shall be changed into the same image from glory to glory.
He who walks in fellowship and prayer with Christ, will leave the place of prayer with the beauty of the Lord on his countenance and in his life.
5. Christians should pray, because prayer develops praise. Prayer is not the mere making of petitions. Suppose we ask the Lord for something and He grants our request: will we forget to praise Him when we come before Him at the next season of prayer?
Thus we read, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving." For our part, we would always praise Him, even before we ask a favor of His grace.
Praise magnifieth the Lord. Praise glorifies Him. Praise is comely.
6. Christians should pray because they have many needs to present before Him. Let us draw near that we may obtain grace to help in the time of need.
It is true that the Lord knoweth the things of which we stand in need, yet for all these things would He have us ask of Him, that He may do it for us. Prayer is not a mere formality, to prove to God that we have a dependent spirit. Prayer actually is effective. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
7. Christians should pray because prayer is the secret of obtaining Divine guidance. We know not what the day may hold; we know not what to do, nor where we should go. Prayer is the place where we can get our orders. It was as they prayed and fasted that the Lord said, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
Now, with these things before us, let us follow as the prayer of Daniel is opened up before us.
I. PRAYER IS UNTO THE FATHER (Daniel 9:4 )
1. "I prayed unto the Lord my God." The Lord gave the form of prayer when He said, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in Heaven."
The right manner, then, is to address the Father. We should approach Him in sacred reverence, saying, "Hallowed be Thy Name." Paul wrote: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." There is another wonderful verse in Ephesians which runs like this: "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
Thus, when we pray let us accustom ourselves unto this method of approach. Let us come to the Father by the Spirit and in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not use the words which signify worship, the "Thee," and the "Thou"?
2. I said, "O Lord, the great and dreadful God." Daniel breathed a spirit of holy awe as he came into the presence of the Lord God. He seemed to come as the Spirit wrote, "The Lord is in His holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him."
We may, to be sure, come to God in all assurance; yet we should come with all honor to His Name, and in all deference to His glory. We must recognize our own weaknesses as worms of the dust, and His supreme greatness as the great God of Heaven and earth.
You remember that when Moses came to the burning bush, where God was, the Lord said, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
Do you remember how Abraham said, as he came to the Lord, "Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes"?
You remember how, when Jacob slept with a stone for his pillow, and when he saw the vision of the ladder and heard God speak, then Jacob was afraid and said, "This is none other but the House of God, and this is the gate of Heaven." And he said, "How dreadful is this place."
Let us then come into His presence with holy fear and reverence.
II. PRAYER AND CONFESSION OF SIN (Daniel 9:5 )
1. Daniel prayed and made his confession (Daniel 9:4 ). Whenever we pray we must come to God with clean hands and a pure heart. Our God is a holy God and cannot receive the unholy into His guest chamber. In Isaiah 1:1-31 this is plainly established: "When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
Then follows the admonition: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well."
2. Daniel prayed and said, "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled." In this prayer the Prophet was confessing not his own sins alone, but also the sins of his people, Israel.
What then? If we come confessing our sins, and forsaking them, we will find mercy. God will be found faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Consider the poor publican who prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner." I tell you he went home justified.
Whether the sin be that of an evil way, or of the failure to keep God's precepts and statutes, it must be done away.
In James it is written: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."
III. PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE TO THE VOICE OF THE PROPHETS (Daniel 9:6 )
1. The Prophets brought God's Word to the people. These men of old were holy men who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Their words were inspired of God. The Spirit which was in them testified the things of God.
Think you that the man who passes up the Word of God can pray acceptably unto the Father? Think you that men may on one hand be faithless to the revealed will and Word of God, and on the other hand claim, withal, the favor of God?
This is what the Spirit had in mind when He wrote that "if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." That is, the wrestler or runner in the games must keep the rules of the game, or else he is set aside. So must we serve, obedient to the law and the testimony of God, or else we also will be castaways.
2. The Prophets spoke to the kings, the princes, the fathers, and to all the people of the land. Even so they still speak. God's Word is not to the pastor alone. It is to all. Each one ought to obey the Word of God, and obey it implicitly. The Spirit is given to only them that obey Him.
Shall the humblest member of Christ's Church, which is His Body, think that his is a position so lowly that the Word of God is not binding upon him? Should he not, the rather, think of the great honor that is his as a Christian? Be he the most insignificant man in the church, in his own estimation, or even in the estimation of the members of said church, he is, nevertheless, the son of God, and an heir of Glory. He is, moreover, the representative of a Heavenly court, and he ought to proclaim the glories of Him who brought him out of darkness, into his marvelous light.
Thus it is that all the people are under obligation to God to keep His precepts, and to fulfill His will.
IV. PRAYER RECOGNIZES THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD (Daniel 9:7-9 )
1. Righteousness belongeth unto the Lord. When Abraham prayed to God, he said: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" He was asking God not to destroy Lot along with the Sodomites, and in so doing he pleaded God's righteousness.
Whatever we do or say we must in all events ascribe unto our God righteousness in His every act and in His every command. God is righteous, and we can always depend on His dealing righteously with all His children.
If we do not have this conception of God, we will be weak in our prayer life.
2. Confusion of faces belongs unto us. Daniel was not slow to say, "Righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces." Their confusion was caused by their trespasses which they had transgressed against Him. Their confusion was caused because they had sinned against Him.
Sin always brings darkness into the soul, sorrow into the life, and shadows into the path. When David had sinned, he was ashamed to face his Lord. He felt himself unworthy of the least of God's favors. When Peter had sinned, he went out and wept bitterly; he felt that his contact with the Lord was broken.
As we grasp the righteousness of God, we the more deep-ly realize our own shame and wickedness. In the glow of His glory, we cry we are but an unclean thing.
3. Mercies and forgiveness are the Lord's. How blessed it is, when realizing God's righteousness, and our own sin, that we can also recognize God's mercies and forgiveness toward us as sinners. If it were not for this we could never pray even the penitent's prayer. Because of this, when we have sinned, we may come confessing our sins, and pleading the merits of His Blood, and find access to the Holiest of all, in Christ Jesus, by that new and living way.
V. THE CAUSE OF THE CURSE (Daniel 9:10-11 )
1. Disobedience is the acme of folly. Yet Daniel wrote of Israel, "Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His Laws."
No law is worth the paper on which it is written unless there is, with the law, the penalty for disobedience. Disobedience must ever bring punishment and wrath from God.
Why, then, do men break God's holy laws? It is because they set themselves against Him. They will not that He should reign over them.
God placed the sand as a barrier for the sea, saying to its proud waves, Thou shalt not pass thereby. The sea stays within its bounds, but vain man has revolted and gone.
2. Disobedience is lawlessness. Daniel 9:11 says, "Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy Law, even by departing, that they might not obey Thy voice."
In John's Epistle it is written: "Sin is the transgression of the Law." Transgression means to go across. Men go across the Law of God, and on that Cross so formed, Christ died to sustain the majesty of the Law.
The very essence of sin is my way as against God's way. "We have turned every one to his own way." That is Isaiah's expression of the meaning of sin. David said, "I acknowledge my transgressions." He knew that he had gone across God's Law in his sin in the case of Bathsheba.
3. Disobedience brings the curse. The latter part of verse 11 reads: "Therefore the curse is poured upon us." This is even as it is written in Malachi, "Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them." Then comes the word, "Ye are cursed with a curse."
Perhaps if many of us who seem to be under the chastening hand of God would look around us, we might find the sin that has brought the curse.
Think you that we can escape the wrath of God if we walk not in His way, to do His will? Never, so long as "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."
VI. DANIEL IS NO APOLOGIST FOR SIN (Daniel 9:12-14 )
1. Israel was punished more than other nations. Did not God love Israel more than any people? He did. He said, "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God." Not only that, but "a special people." Yes, even more, a people upon whom God set His love. Why, then, should they reap a greater punishment than any other people? It was because they sinned against a greater light.
They had lavished upon them God's choicest gifts; they had given to them God's greatest deliverances. To them God gave the best of the lands of the earth. He also gave them laws of equity, and above all peoples. He made them a people above all the people on the earth. Thus, when Israel sinned, they sinned against a greater light. You have read of how our Lord said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." Then Christ added, "I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you." Even so, he who knew His Master's will and did it not, shall be beaten with more stripes than he who knew not his Master's will, and did it not.
That is why Daniel said in his prayer, speaking of God's judgments, "Under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem."
2. Israel's sins were augmented by her knowledge of God's judgments. Let us quote Daniel 9:13 : "As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand Thy Truth."
We are all familiar with the "blessings" and the "curse" which Moses set before Israel, and the causes of the same. Israel had sinned, although she knew that the curse would follow her sins. She was not ignorant of the path she took. Her eyes were enlightened to the evil of her ways.
Let those of us who know God, and the righteous demands of our Heavenly Father, not stray from paths of obedience, lest we suffer the more.
VII. A PLEA FOR MERCY (Daniel 9:13-19 )
1. A prayer plea based on past blessings. Daniel first of all reminds the Lord that He brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. He seems to say, Thou who hast been gracious, be gracious again.
2. A prayer plea based on the Lord's righteousness. Daniel prayed: "O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem." The Prophet made His plea within, and not apart from, God's righteousness. He did not excuse Israel's sins. He laid them bare before God. Yet he pleaded that God might, in righteousness, find some way by which He could save His people, and at the same time remove the reproach they had brought upon His holy Name.
3. A prayer plea based upon the desolation of the Lord's Sanctuary. Daniel cried, "Cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate." It is always true that the sins of God's people cause the Lord's Name to be blasphemed. When we are wicked, we shame the Name of Him whom we are called to magnify.
No man liveth unto himself. What befalls us, befalls our God. What defiles us, falls back on Him. He is judged by the way we walk and live.
4. A prayer plea based on God's mercies and not man's goodness. Daniel did not suggest that he and Israel were worthy of the least of God's blessing's. Neither dare we parade any self-centered goodness as the basis for our plea. We come confessing our sins, and seeking His mercy. We plead: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy Name."
Daniel was a man of prayer. The first recorded step of his prayers is found in chap. 2, where he with the three Hebrew children together besought the God of Heaven.
There is power in united prayer. Of course, there is power in the prayer of an individual, but there is vastly increased power in united prayer. God delights in the unity of His people, and seeks to emphasize it in every way, and so He pronounces a special blessing upon united prayer. We read in Matthew 18:19 : "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in Heaven." This unity, however, must be real. The passage just quoted does not say that if two shall agree in asking, but if two shall agree as touching anything they shall ask. Two persons might agree to ask for the same thing, and yet there be no real agreement as touching the thing they asked. One might ask it because he really desired it; the other might ask it simply to please his friend. But where there is real agreement, where the Spirit of God brings two believers into perfect harmony as concerning that which they may ask of God, where the Spirit lays the same burden on two hearts, in all such prayer there is absolutely irresistible power. R. A. Torrey.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Daniel 9". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany