Are we praying right to God, with the right motives and for His glory?
As we approach the throne of grace, made possible only through Jesus Christ, let us remember that confession is good for the soul. Psalm 66:18 If we regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
This prayer of confession and confession IS good for your soul. Most of us are much better at excusing our sins and mistakes than confessing them or quick to point out other peoples’ mistakes, while we have a hard time admitting we have blown it.
Daniel 9 is one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible. The first part of the chapter contains a marvelous prayer of confession and repentance.
Let us learn some important principles about prayer by examining Daniel’s prayer.
Dr. S.D. Gordon wrote: “The greatest thing we can do for God and man is to pray. It is not the only thing, but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor yet those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those who take time to pray. They have not the time. It must be taken from something else…It is wholly a secret service. I often think that sometimes we pass some plain-looking woman quietly slipping out of church. When we hardly give her a passing thought and we do not know or guess that she is the one who is doing more for her church, and for the world and for God than a hundred others who claim more attention, because she prays, truly prays as the Spirit of God inspires and guides.” (Quiet Talks on Prayer, p. 12)
WHEN YOU PRAY THE BIBLE WAY–YOU WILL:
1. PRAY ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD (vs. 1-2)
Daniel 9:2. “…in the first year of his reign [Darius], I, Daniel understood from the scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.”
Daniel had a copy of some of the books of the Old Testament. What Daniel read and understood was that the captivity of the Jews would end after 70 years. Jeremiah 29:10-12. “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Daniel understood the Word of God spoken through Jeremiah and he understood his current time. He has been in captivity for 67 years. He recognizes his people are only three years away from returning to Jerusalem, they are not spiritually prepared, so he is driven to his knees in prayer, simply from reading and understanding the Word of God.
Andrew Murray wrote: “Little of the Word with little prayer is death to the spiritual life. Much of the Word with little prayer gives a sickly life. Much prayer with little of the Word gives emotional life. But a full measure of both the Word and prayer each day gives a healthy and powerful life.” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, p.161)
Some people don’t understand the dynamic connection between God’s Word, the Bible and prayer. In God’s Word, He tells us what He is going to do and then he tells us to pray that it will happen! Many people are very confused at this point. They say, “Well, God is going to do it. There is nothing for me to do, so I’ll just sit and watch it happen.” Then when nothing happens they think God must be faithless to His promise. Rather, it is because man has not responded to the part God gives him. Prayer is God’s way of involving us in the program He sets out to do. Many of us think that prayer is a way God has given us of making Him work for us, so we rely on the promises of God. “You said you would do ‘whatever I ask,’ now, and this is what I want you to do.” But that totally misunderstands the nature and purpose of prayer.
Prayer is God’s way of involving us in what He intends to do.
You ought to pray: with an open Bible and an open heart. As you read what God is saying, you start doing what He tells you to do.
How can you know you are praying according to God’s will? To know with absolute certainty you are praying according to God’s Will is to pray according to God’s Word.
Example one: If you have a friend or a family member who doesn’t know Jesus. You pray for them to be saved and you know you are praying God’s will, because God’s word says in II Peter 3:9, “God is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Won’t God save this person whether or not I pray? Remember, God’s plan is often not put into action until His people pray.
Example two: You are having trouble in your marriage. Do you pray for a divorce or for your marriage to be healed? What does God’s word say? Jesus said in Mark 10:9 “What God has joined together, let not man separate.” That settles it.
2. PRAY WITH HUMILITY: IN ATTITUDE AND ACTION (vs. 3)
Daniel 9:3. “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
Daniel robes himself in a simple gown of rough burlap, and then he takes ashes and covers his head and body. “sackcloth” is used 46 times in the Bible and often combined with “ashes.” These were symbols of deep grief and mourning. The pain and irritation of wearing that garment spoke of the inner pain the person felt. Spreading ashes on the head was more of a statement of guilt. Ashes represent something burned or lost, a symbol of deep repentance. Christians who observe Ash Wednesday and have a small smudge of ash rubbed onto their forehead to prepare themselves for 40 days of preparation and repentance before Easter. In the Bible, the penitent person often covered their entire body with filthy ashes.
Fasting is another act of humility that enhances prayer. When you refrain from eating food or certain foods for a period of time, it must be done with a prayer goal in mind, your specific prayer burden. It teaches you to say “No” to your bodily appetites.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:16-18, “When you fast, do not look somber as the as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full…But when you fast, put oil on your head [wash and fix your hair]; and wash your face so that it does not appear to men that you are fasting. And your father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Our humility should be on display for God only. When we are humble before God, others will see our humility, but we aren’t doing it for their sake. If you wonder why your prayers don’t seem to be getting past the light bulbs, perhaps you should try humility. Charles Spurgeon said, “Proud prayers may knock their heads on mercy’s lintel, but they can never pass through the portal. You cannot expect anything of God unless you put yourself in the right place, that is, as a beggar at his footstool; then will he hear you, and not until then.”
3. PRAY WITH INTENSITY, BUT WITH BREVITY (vs. 3-4)
When you pray the Bible way, you will pray with intensity, but with brevity. In verse 3 Daniel said he pleaded with the Lord, which in Hebrew word suggests “to wrestle” like Jacob did with the angel in Genesis. Then Daniel 9:4 says, “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed.” The word for “prayed” is an emphatic imperative—it denotes extreme intensity.
So many of our prayers are just vain repetitions of the same-old-same-old.
This was a prayer of urgency and fervency. Ten times Daniel says something like, “O, Lord” or “O My God.” The word “O” is actually an untranslatable word that represents a groan. Romans 8 says when we are praying in the Spirit there are often groans that can’t be uttered. Have you agonized in prayer? Have you wrestled and groaned in prayer?
James 5:16 “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (NKJV) But notice, for a prayer to be intense, it doesn’t have to be lengthy to be effective. We can read this entire prayer of Daniel in about two and a half minutes. The Lord’s Prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17 the night before He was crucified can be read in three minutes.The Model Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray can be spoken in less than 30 seconds.
4. CONFESS PERSONAL AND NATIONAL SINS – SPECIFICALLY (vs. 4-13)
The main thing we can learn from Daniel’s prayer is that we must confess personal and national sins, specifically.
Here is a man in his mid-80s, kneeling in sackcloth. His head and body has been polluted with filthy ashes; he has been fasting and was on his knees, as was his custom. He began to pour out his heart to God in verse 4: “Oh Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands [prayer should always start with praise stating God’s glorious character]. We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”
He admits the nation of Israel has gotten what it deserved. Verse 13: “Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.”–
Then his prayer concludes with a crescendo of intensity as he asks God to act. Verse 18. “Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O, Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear Your Name.”
Daniel’s confession is both personal and collective. He speaks about his sin and he joins the group as he says, “We have sinned.” He didn’t say, “Oh, Lord they have sinned.” Daniel recognizes he is part of a group punished by God for their collective sins. Although Daniel may not have been personally responsible for the sins that caused his people to be penalized into Babylon for 70 years, he took responsibility.
We live in a “no-fault” culture where you can get “no-fault” insurance, and a “no-fault” divorce. The mantra of our modern culture is, “Hey, it’s not my fault.” We have come up with pretty names to excuse our sin. What we call an “affair,” God calls “adultery.” What we call “a little weakness,” God calls “wickedness.” What we call “a mistake,” God calls “madness.” Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
Do you spend time regularly confessing your personal sins to Jesus or do you spend more time concealing your sins from others? Samuel said, “God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray for you.” (I Samuel 12:23) That’s a sin. Have you confessed and repented of the sin of not praying for your church and your nation as you should?
Daniel was not only willing to confess his sins; he was willing to repent, that is, to change his behavior. There can be no true confession without repentance. They are spiritual Siamese twins that can’t be separated. If you think you can continue to sin and then just run into God and say, “Oops, sorry I did it again. Please forgive me.” Then you don’t understand the holiness of God.
True confession always starts with the general and then proceeds to the specific. Verse 5 “we have sinned and done wrong.” That’s general. Then “we have rebelled, we have turned away from your commands and laws…we have not listened to your prophets…All Israel has transgressed your law [we have stepped over your line] and turned away, refusing to obey you.” Daniel goes on to admit the reason they are in such a mess is their own fault. “Oh Lord, forgive all my sins and forgive the sins of my nation while you’re at it. Okay, amen, that’s done.”
It’s important to get specific with God, because in confession you aren’t informing God of your specific sins, you are agreeing with God specific things that you have thought, done and said are wrong. In the model prayer when Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins,” He wasn’t teaching us a formula for confession. What was the next line? “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” He was teaching us we do not have the luxury of holding unforgiveness in our hearts if we ever need the forgiveness of God.
Your personal, private sins don’t need to be confessed to anyone but God. You don’t have to air your dirty laundry to a priest or another person if the sin is personal. However if you sin against another person, you must confess the sin to that person as well. A good example is if you have gossiped against another person; confess it to God and to that person.
Daniel’s prayer became a public prayer–we are reading it today–because it involved the national sin of Israel’s rebellion. We need to be Daniels today and confess our personal and national sins and seek God’s mercy for our nations.
After confessing Israel’s sins, Daniel cried out to God for mercy. Daniel refers to Jerusalem as a reproach to all the nations. America has become an international “reproach” in our time, no longer known for decency, goodness and fairness, but for violence, pornography, rock music, drugs and sexual immorality. Several years ago, Billy Graham said, “If God does not judge America for her sins; He will owe an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah!” Revival won’t come to this land until we start confessing our personal and national sins to God.
5. ASK FOR GOD’S GLORY–NOT YOUR GAIN (vs. 15-19)
Verse 17. Daniel says this prayer is “for your sake.” So many of our prayers are “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” Daniel prayed this prayer for the return and rebuilding of his nation. Daniel died before these events were fully implemented. He wasn’t praying for himself, He was praying for God’s glory.
James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Could that be one of the reasons why your prayers are ineffective? You are always just bringing a grocery list to God saying, “Go down the aisles of heaven and fill my basket with these particular blessings.” Try praying with the glory of God as your goal, not your personal gain.
6. YOU OFTEN RECEIVE AN ANSWER BEFORE YOU FINISH (vs. 20-23)
Finally, when you pray the Bible way, you will often receive an answer before you finish. That’s not always the case. We are going to see in Chapter 10 the answer to prayer is sometimes delayed. But many times when we pray, God answers us before we get up off our knees. That’s what happened here. Verse 20. “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill—while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man [he’s an angel and ordinary angels most often appear as men] I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me [the Hebrew word is na-ga which means ‘to reach out and touch’] in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.”
Wow! He had not gotten to the end of his prayer before a soft hand touched him, and he looked up, and there stood Gabriel in the form of a man. That was much quicker than Daniel expected, for as soon as ever he began to pray, the word went forth for the angel to descend. The answer to prayer is the most rapid thing in the world.
Isaiah 65:24 God says, “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” That is a specific promise as to how God will respond during the millennial reign of Christ, but it speaks of His ideal model for our prayers now. It takes the light of the sun eight minutes to arrive here. The prayers we pray and the answers to our prayers are faster than that–they travel at the speed of thought. Have you ever gotten on your knees to ask God for guidance and direction and while you are asking Him, the answer comes?
God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is “Yes,” sometimes it is “No,” and sometimes it is “Wait.” But He always answers prayer. This passage is where we get the chorus that we sang earlier: “While I was praying – somebody touched me, it must have been the hand of the Lord.” Can you say, “While I was praying, somebody touched me?” If you can’t, you need to study this prayer of Daniel and start praying the Bible way.
We need a revival in the world in the deepest way. What’s the answer to the teenage drinking and driving problem? violence and crime?. fractured marriages where husbands aren’t the spiritual leader of their home? Revival.
The problem is not with the pornographer, the bootlegger, the casino, or the drug pusher. God never said anything about those folks repenting. He said, “If my people which are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face…then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)
Would you like to change your personal world? your family world? your national world? The very best way to do it is to pray. Daniel prayed this prayer and God answered it. Are you willing to become a Daniel and pray and confess the national sins of our society? That’s the only hope for real revival in our land.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your personal prayer life?
May God bless you as I have been blessed.