Praying rooted in God's Word

Daniel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:19
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Daniel 9:1–19 ESV
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 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. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”


I remember how our kids used to pray when they were young. They learned a pattern of praying from their preschool, and they carried that with them for a while. After thanking God and asking Him for requests, they would say, “Amen, bushmerica”. At school, their teacher would lead lunch prayer and end it by saying, “We pray for President Bush and America”. That was a good thing to remind the kids to pray for our leaders and our nation. But as time passed, Bush was no longer president, but they kept the phrase bushmerica because it was part of their repertoire of prayer words. They needed to mature in their prayer. So often, we too may remain in prayer that needs to mature. The prayers we first prayed when we came to Christ reflect a limited understanding of prayer. They are often me-centered and function like a to-do list for God. So how may we move into mature prayer that is God-centered, addressing the present needs of life and recognizing God’s desires and will? We can look at the example of Daniel, who submitted his heart to the Word of God and prayed what he learned in it.
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Jerusalem and the Exiles

Because we are reading an English translation, we will not have noticed that Daniel was written in two languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. Chapter 1 began in Hebrew but changed to Aramaic, the language of Babylon, in chapters 2-7. And the remainder of the book uses Hebrew. While we are not directly told why this is, we should appreciate how it points us to the emphasis of location. Daniel and some early exiles came from Jerusalem and endured in Babylon by God’s grace. But Babylon is now history, and the focus shifts back to Jerusalem and the exiles scattered over the empire. We see that Daniel’s prayer here is for his people, the Jews in exile.

Daniel and the Word of God

We do not know if Daniel owned a copy of the Hebrew scriptures, but the text states that he had “books” and knew the words and writing of the prophet Jeremiah. Daniel spent time reading the Word of God, and in his time, he became aware of the current events and the promises of God. The two texts in Jeremiah that are the best candidates for what he read are Jeremiah 25 and Jeremiah 29. Chapter 29 seems to fit the story perfectly. Let’s read part of the words that Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon..
Jeremiah 29:10–14 ESV
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
You may be familiar with verse 11. It is a verse that comforts and encourages any believer in any time period. But the context is specific for Daniel. When he looked at the timeline of history, he recognized that Babylon had fallen and it was now the era of the Medes. With excitement he must have reread the text and concluded that God was faithful to His promise. But he recognized that this promise required a response from the people. They needed to call, pray, and seek God with all their heart. And this is the motivation for Daniel’s prayer. The Word of God directed Daniel how to pray.

Daniel’s Prayer: A Model of Gospel Repentance

While praying, Daniel fasted with sackcloth and ashes. Sackcloth was an uncomfortable material to wear, for it was made from low-quality cloth from goat or camel hair. It was also a material used for sacks that held various items. We would compare it to the modern sackcloth used in farming. Daniel also put ash on his head, which was the ancient sign of humility and extreme grief. Daniel entered his time of prayer with deep humility. And this theme of humility continues through his prayer. Daniel’s prayer has four main sections.
Invocation - Daniel called upon God by recognizing God’s greatness. He knew that there was only One True God. By properly recognizing God as above himself, he readied himself to be humble throughout his prayer.
When you pray, do you treat God as one of your childhood friends, or do you give him the proper place? May we never let our prayers be filled with any exalting of ourselves, recognizing our goodness. For if we do, we will miss the privilege of humbling ourselves before God. We enter God’s holy presence by his grace and invitation.
Confession - Daniel has read and agreed with God’s word that the end of exile does not come automatically; it requires confession and repentance. God's covenant calls for the repentant return of hearts back to God. Daniel identifies himself with the sinful community in his prayer even though we have seen him act righteously in Babylon. Although he is not a priest, he takes up the sin of his people and places himself among them in declaring their sin and asking for mercy. He correctly recalls the covenant faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of the covenant people. God. Daniel acts like a lawyer who knows his client is guilty and makes no excuses or distractions from the undeniable guilt.
When we confess our sins to God, are we sorry for our sins and actions or got caught? May we be honest in our confession admitting our guilt before God. May our hearts and actions show that we are repentant.
Crocodile Tears
Can we not somehow think we can fool God through crocodile tears.
Reflection - Daniel recognized that they deserve all that they are experiencing. It is because of God’s covenant that the people have gone into exile. God foretold them the warning and then gave the people the consequences of their sin, proving He is holy and righteous. God is fair in His judgment. God is vindicated from any negligent action or unfair terms.
Petition - Daniel recognized that the only hope that they have is if the Lord turns his wrath away and gives mercy. He asks God to make turn toward his people with grace. He does not make the request because the people can appeal to their innate goodness. No, they must appeal to God’s righteousness and great mercy.

The Gospel in Daniel’s Prayer

Daniel’s prayer of confession lays the groundwork for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is the great creator of humanity. We are born with a sin nature, and we affirm that we are sinners with our earliest acts of sin. We may not be “bad” in our own eyes, but we are not the standard of righteousness; God is. If we understand the gospel correctly, we will admit that we are sinful people who do not deserve God’s goodness and mercy. We must recognize that we do not have any grounds on which to make any demands from God. If we fail to acknowledge this, we will miss our need for God’s grace and mercy. But Daniel looks forward to God's mercy which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. God deals with the sin of the people through a new covenant in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who intercedes on our behalf by becoming the one who takes up our sin upon himself. His sacrifice on the cross gives us freedom from the wrath that is due upon us. And the new covenant assures us that if we are in Him, we enjoy a righteousness that comes from God through faith. Daniel may not have known the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but he knew how to surrender himself and the hope of his people upon the mercy of God. We find the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.

Growing in Mature Prayer

When we look at the life of Jesus, we will see that Jesus lived the habit of praying. We may find it a challenge to connect how the second person of the Trinity prayed to God the Father, but we should appreciate that Jesus led by example. If the Son of God lived a life of prayer, then we too, ought to pray. Jesus showed how his humanity required Him to submit and depend upon the Father. In His prayers, He reflected complete unity and dependence on the godhead of the Trinity. Therefore, we must not neglect the privilege and pattern of prayer that we have with God.
But we also realize that when we do make prayer a priority, we may find that we don’t know how to pray and make prayer just a time to inform God of our most pressing issues. While this is often normal, it is not the goal we should have in prayer, for there is so much more that God intends for us in prayer. If we consider Daniel’s prayer, we find a model for praying for confession and restoration of people separated from God. Daniel prayed this way, not accidentally, but deliberately because he had spent time in God’s Word. These two elements, prayer, and the Bible, are essential parts of our Christian life. They complement and enhance each other so that we grow in the knowledge of God.

The Word in Our Prayers Today

Too often, we may consider that the goal of prayer is to get our requests met. We may continue to pray if we get what we have asked or feel discouraged and stop praying because we don’t get what we asked. God invites us to ask Him to supply our needs, but there is more. God invites us to worship Him and agree with His kingdom priorities before asking for our needs to be met. “Thy kingdom come, and Thy will be done” comes before “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daniel’s prayer can be our model prayer for our current situation in America. In your time of prayer, spend time reflecting on this chapter and praying like Daniel.
Consider these verses about prayer and pray them this week.
Luke 10:2 ESV
2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
1 Timothy 2:1–4 ESV
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
James 5:16 ESV
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Colossians 4:2–4 ESV
2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Matthew 6:10 ESV
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
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