38 - Powerful Prayers
R Dean: Daniel Lesson 38
Powerful Prayers – Daniel 9:3-5
We live in a chaotic world; we know that God has a plan for Israel and Israel is going to persevere. We also know that the rapture can occur at any moment and there doesn't have to be anything takes place for the rapture to occur so it could be tonight or it may not be for another 20 years, 100 years, we don't know. But it looks as if God is setting the stage more and more for the events of the Tribulation. One thing that has occurred to me is that there's a statement we often make about prophecy and the rapture that is a little bit confusing. So let me go over the principle.
First, no prophecy has to be fulfilled before the rapture. What that means is that the next event that we know of… that we know of, with certainty, that will happen in God's time table is the rapture. Nothing has to take place before the rapture. We're not looking for the appearance of the antichrist, we're not looking for the appearance of the ten nation confederacy, we're not looking for the rebuilding of the temple; none of those events are the next stage that we know about. The next thing that we're to look for is the blessed hope of our Lord's appearing. That's what the Churches hope is; we're looking forward to that.
However, once the rapture occurs, when the rapture occurs that ends the Church Age. Now there's going to be some sort of interim period and as we're going to see in our study of Daniel 9 when we get to the end of the chapter, what begins the Tribulation is a peace treaty that is put into effect between the antichrist and Israel. So what we have looks something like this: here's the cross, on the day of Pentecost you have the beginning of the Church Age, when the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples in Jerusalem. That began the Church Age. In the Church Age God has set aside Israel temporarily and is not currently working through Israel. But as we're going to see when we get to this fantastic prophecy at the end of Daniel 9 is that there's still a seven year period; a seven year period that God designated specifically for Israel that has not yet come to pass. And that will not come to pass until what is called the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's trouble, that is the next major dispensation in history.
Now before the Tribulation can start, because the emphasis in the Tribulation is on Israel, the Church has to be taken out of the way. So Jesus Christ returns in the clouds for the Church and "the dead in Christ for shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to be with Him in the clouds." That event is called the rapture. Now after the rapture the next clear event in prophecy is the signing of that peace treaty between the antichrist, called "the prince who is to come" in Daniel 9 and Israel. So there's going to be the signing of this peace treaty. Now apparently there is some transition period between the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation.
At the beginning of the Tribulation certain things are going to be in place. We know, number one, there has to be a nation, Israel in the land. You can't sign a peace treaty with a nonexistent nation. So there has to be a nation in the land. The second thing, either at that time or close to that time there is going to be the rebuilding of a temple on, and it has to be on the temple mount. That's going to take place. Certain other things may or may not transpire but there are certain things that will come to pass in that early stage of the Tribulation.
Now the thing is, in order to get things prepared for what's going to happen at the beginning of the Tribulation, as you near the end of the Church Age, certain events that relate to Israel and relate to setting things up in Israel for this seven year period may start to take place towards the end of the Church Age. And some of those things may be fulfillment of prophecy. For example, in Ezekiel 37 and 37 where you have the vision of the dry bones, and Ezekiel has his vision where there are the dry bones in the passage and they're just all scattered out throughout this valley and then the bones start come together and as the bones are joined together, eventually sinew is put on the bones and eventually there is muscle put on the bones, and flesh, and then there's life given to that new body and that's a picture of the regathering of Israel. At first they're dead, they're dry bones, they're still dead. So that is the regathering of Israel as a nation that has to be there at the beginning of the Tribulation and is going to start at the end of the Church Age. That means there is very likely to be prophecy fulfilled, or partially fulfilled, or beginning to be fulfilled at the end of the Church Age, not for the Church, not for the rapture, but in order to set things up for what's going to happen at the beginning of the Tribulation. That does not mean that prophecy has to be fulfilled before the rapture can occur, or if you start seeing these stage setting events start to take place that the rapture is necessarily right around the corner.
To say nothing has to take place, no prophecy has to be fulfilled before the rapture take place is a much different statement from saying that some prophecy might be fulfilled right at the end of the Church Age to prepare the groundwork for what's going to take place immediately following the rapture in that new dispensation of Israel. And it's very likely that we're seeing some things happen today but we don't know that. You can't say for certain. Nobody can look out there and say that this event… I've had people e-mailing me this week saying do you think this has to do with the battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and that we may see an Arab coalition here and Russia brought in… that's just pure speculation. You don't know how some of these things are going to take place until they actually happen.
That's one thing we ought to learn about prophecy and prophetic fulfillment from Daniel. Daniel saw certain things; at the end of Daniel 8, when he's given this fantastic vision about Antiochus Epiphanes and the rise of the shaggy goat, the he-goat, that's just two centuries removed from Daniel, Daniel knew certain things, he knew that the first goat that he saw with the two horns was the Media-Persian Empire. He knew that the shaggy goat was going to be Greece. But he didn't know precisely how every detail was going to work out. He had a general framework and a general idea. And that's what we have when we look at prophecy, we have a general idea but what's going to be fascinating when we sit and watch these things actually unfold and say ah, that's exactly what that means. It's like we see it but we're looking through a…for those of us who are getting a little older, it's like we see it and we catch its form but we don't have our glasses on, it's not quite in focus. It's like reading the paper, you can hold it out at arm's length and get a fairly good idea but you really need to have that focus tweaked a little bit and we won't until it actually happens.
I want to make this clear: I am not saying that anything that we're seeing right now is definite fulfillment of prophecy other than the regathering of Israel and I think that definitely…this is the first time in 2,000 years that there is a nation in the land, and there are incredible things taking place so I think that we very possibly could be very close. We may not be but it just seems that way. And as things continue to set the stage, it could be 10, 20 years from now; there could be some real international turmoil. We have to be aware of the fact that just yesterday Iraq threatened to not send any oil to the U.S. for 30 days, that isn't really going to do much damage, we don't get that much oil from Iraq, but it upset the oil market and prices spiked yesterday and people worried about it. We live in an age and at a time right now with this war against terrorism, which is really a war against radical Islam or Islamic terrorists. If you think about it, every group that is named, with the exception of North Korea, every other group that is in the axis of evil, every other group that is targeted is a radical Islamic group. You don't have to be real bright to be able to connect the dots here. The State Department and the President do not want to connect the dots for us because that has radical implications but it doesn't take much to connect the dots and we still have many members of Al Qaeda, many terrorists who are inside this country who are waiting for orders and it is just the grace of God that we've caught as many as we have, we've foiled a lot of plots and arrested a number of people and managed to completely disrupt their organization so that nothing more has happened since September 11th.
But we need to be prepared; we live in very uncertain times right now, just as Daniel did. Think about the events that we are studying in Daniel 9. Last time we began this great chapter and we saw that it was in the first year of the reign of King Darius. Now the first year of King Darius was a year of turmoil. For seventy years Babylon had been a stable world empire under the control of first Nebuchadnezzar, and then his descendants, then there had about three years of warfare where the Medes and Persians had been gathering like storm clouds on the horizon, now they have finally, in a fantastic strategic or tactical move, captured Babylon and overthrown the Babylonian Empire. We studied that back in Daniel 5. That has just taken place so it is a time of international crisis; it's been a time where everything has been upset.
You can imagine what it did to the world markets at that time, and yet it's in the midst of that that we watch Daniel as a mature believer who has stability. Why does he have stability? Because he's able to look at the crises that are going on around him, the storms that are taking place. We can well imagine that in the midst of those kinds of crises as you shift from one empire to another how it affects the markets, how it affects imports and exports, how it affects money, monetary exchanges, the economy of the time, how it affected jobs, how it affected families because there were people who were killed, military men who lost their lives, there were political leaders who lost their lives. There were friends of Daniel who were killed during that time, it was a time of tremendous crisis and yet it is a time of stability for believers because they know what is going on, they understand that history is God's plan and the outworking of God's plan and so we can just relax and enjoy the show and it gives us also a great opportunity to witness to people.
As I watch the events, the things that are going on, watching the news I keep thinking what must it be like as an unbeliever, someone that does not know that Jesus Christ controls history, someone that does not know that they have an eternal destiny in heaven, to watch these events they must be scared to death. Ever since September 11th people are rethinking their priorities, rethinking their lives, people changing jobs; I haven't noticed on person at Preston City Bible Church change their job, rethink their priorities, reevaluate their relationship with their friends and family because most of you already had those priorities squared away from doctrine. But people who don't have the Word, don't have an eternal focus, eternal perspective to focus on the details of life, are running scared and that gives us an opportunity to share the gospel with people. Again and again we need to take advantage of those opportunities.
This is what's true for Daniel because Daniel has specific revelation as to what is taking place during this time and he is going to pray on the basis of that revelation. Last time we began to look at Daniel's preparation for his prayer. Daniel 9 begins with Daniel's prayer, that's the focus of this chapter down through verse 19, Daniel's prayer for the nation. But before we can get into the details of Daniel's prayer we have to understand Daniel's preparation and last time we looked at a variety of passages, 1 Chronicles 29, Jeremiah 29, passages in Leviticus 26 that were familiar to Daniel. Daniel knew the Scripture; this prayer is not the result of God appearing to Daniel or God giving Daniel another vision. Daniel had the previous visions, he has a framework for history but what happens in Daniel 9 is not the result of a vision, it's a result of his study of the Word of God.
Prophets also had to study the Word of God. Sometimes we get the idea that in the Old Testament that it was normative in the life of every Old Testament believer for God to speak directly to the believer. I think this is one of the greatest distortions of the modern charismatic and Pentecostal movement is they get people thinking that somehow that's how God has always operated. But even in the Old Testament the Theophanies, the Christophanies, the visions and dreams that God gave were extremely limited. It was only to a small group of people, in fact, it was probably less than 100 people during that 2500 year period from Noah's flood up to the time of Christ, fewer than 100 people had this kind of direct revelation from God. It was not a normal thing. What was normal was that they were to study the Word, they were to study the Mosaic Law, they were to, as the writer of Deuteronomy said, as Moses said, they were to bind it on their foreheads, they were to bind it on their hands, it was to be a part of their thinking, that's what that symbolized, it was part of their thinking, it had an impact on everything they did, everywhere they went, the Word of God was to affect everything but they were to be students of the Word of God first.
So Daniel is a student of the Word of God and it is his study of the Word of God that motivates and energizes this prayer in Daniel 9. So we're going to start where we ended last time, with a quick review of Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah was one of the three great prophets to Israel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And Jeremiah, like Ezekiel and Daniel, lived at the time that the southern kingdom of Judah went out under the fifth cycle of discipline when they were removed from the land that God had promised them. And so we have to go back to what God had promised in Leviticus 26 and 27 and that is that God had promised Israel a specific piece of real estate. That's clearly spelled out in what we call the Palestinian or Real Estate Covenant in Deuteronomy 30. God promised Israel a specific piece of real estate and the borders of that were the River of Egypt which is down around a Wadi between Egypt and the Sinai, from there to the Euphrates and back to the Mediterranean. That's a huge piece of real estate; it covers what is most of modern Israel, modern Jordan, a lot of Syria and part of modern Iraq, all falls under that land that God promised Abraham.
Now remember, God promised that to Abraham but Abraham always lived in a tent; he never saw that promise fulfilled. God promised Abraham, "I will give you this land." Second, God promised his son, Isaac, "I will give you this land." Third, He promised his grandson, Jacob, "I will give you this land." Yet Abraham never owned that land; Isaac never owned the land; Jacob never owned the land. And Jesus that as an argument for resurrection, that they will be resurrected, God will fulfill that promise and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will own that land and control that land but that takes place yet in the future. So there is a future fulfillment of that promise that God never fulfilled to Israel at any time in the Old Testament. Never once did they control that piece of real estate. There is a future for Israel and the promise, as we saw last time and it's part of the Mosaic Law, there were blessings and cursings, and as part of the Mosaic Covenant God promised that if Israel disobeyed God that He would remove them from the land, but if they turned back to Him then God would restore them.
That's where we stopped last time, we saw that Daniel understood that and understood that God had made a promise to restore the Jews to the land. And then we come to Jeremiah 29:1, "Now these are the words of the letter," now this is not the main book of Jeremiah, this is a segment at the time that Daniel lived. This letter is like one of the epistles we would have in the New Testament, it is not attached to the main scroll of Jeremiah, it was attached later. But this is direct revelation from God to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah to give them information about how they are to live and what they are to do during these seventy years of exile.
"Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah, the prophet, sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile," see, Jeremiah is back in Jerusalem and he is giving this information to those who have already been taken out in the exile, such as those in the first group with Daniel in 605 BC, those in 598 BC with Ezekiel, these are instructions as to how they are to handle the exile.
Jeremiah 29:4, "Thus says the LORD of hosts," that is Yahweh of the armies, "the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon," notice that God directed history here. It is not Nebuchadnezzar who took these into exile, it is God who sent them, it is an active voice verb, God sent them into exile. God is emphasizing the fact that he is still in control, He controls their discipline, He controls their calamity. He is still in control even though they're not in the land. He tells them that they're to settle down, they are to live and operate culturally within this country of their captivity. Verse 5, they are to "Built houses and live in them;" they are to "plant gardens, and eat their produce." Verse 6, they are to "Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease." They're to live a normal life, they are to put down roots, they are to become involved in the every day life and affairs of Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:7, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile," in other words, don't isolate yourselves, be involved in the politics, be involved in the culture, and "pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." There's an application there for believers because out citizenship is not on this earth, our citizenship is in heaven so we need to apply the same principle; we need to be actively engaged in our world. We need to be engaged in local politics, we need to be engaged in state and national politics, we need to be engaged in the affairs of our world to the degree that it is not a distraction from Bible doctrine and application of the Word.
Jeremiah 29:8, "For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you," this is really a reference to false prophets, "and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. Just because prophets prophesy and dreamers dream and they say there's a word from God, they have a word of knowledge, doesn't mean they know anything, doesn't mean it's coming from Scripture. They are deceived. God has promised that He's going to put them into captivity for seventy years; it's not going to be shortened by their prayers. God outlined that specifically and God is going to stick to His Word. There are some things that we can pray for and it will not change God. But there are other things that we can pray for and God will change, and that's part of what we're going to see in Daniel's prayer. Do not be afraid to challenge God in prayer. All you can hear is no, but that doesn't mean that we can't challenge God in prayer based on His Word. We'll see that.
Jeremiah 29:9, "For they," that is these prophets and diviners, "prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, declares the LORD." And then we get the details of the prophecy in verse 10, "For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon," that is seventy years from 605 BC down to 535 BC, you ask, well this is 539 BC and Babylon is already taken out, what's the difference, and that's a transition period. This is a seventy year period related to their captivity and in 605 BC the first group went out and in 535 BC the first group returns. In 586 BC the temple was destroyed, so you see, you really have a period of 20 years, from 605 to 586, a transition period as Israel is transitioned out of the land. The fifth cycle of discipline actually begins in 605 when the first group gets taken out of the land, but it is not brought to a completion till 586?
See, Biblical history doesn't always have these clean dates. That's why I'm saying that there is this transition period between the end of the Church Age and the beginning of the rapture. Now that has not always been clearly taught. Some people think it could be…I don't, but nobody has anything to base it on, it's pure speculation, some people think it could be as long as a decade between the rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation. I tend to think that most of these transition periods are less than a year so it's not going to be that long but we really don't know, it's just pure guess work.
God says these seventy years have been completed for Babylon. From 586 BC when the temple was destroyed, to 516 BC when the temple foundation is re-laid is again seventy years. So God is precise in the way He looks at these numbers, they are not fluid, they're not some sort of allegorical number that you just jump in there and say well, seventy, that's seven times ten, seven is the perfect number, ten is the number for this, let's just massage it some way, which is how many people want to handle numbers in Scripture. The numbers that we are going to see in this chapter are important to understand and they are to be taken literally, because what you see here is that just as these numbers, seventy years were precise, from 605 to 535, precise from 586 to 605, when we come to the end of the chapter and begin to talk about this vision that Daniel has of the seventy weeks, the 490 years God has decreed from Israel, those numbers are going to be treated, must be treated, just as literally and just as precisely as the other numbers.
You can't come in to this prophecy in Daniel 9 and say well, these initial numbers are literal but when we get down here to the end they become figurative. Whatever…what's the old Texan saying, you gotta dance with the one who brung you. What means is you've got to, if you're going to start with a literal interpretation you have to end with a literal interpretation. You can't change interpretive schemes in hermeneutics, it's like another good old Texas saying, you can't change horses in midstream, you've got to stick with whatever you start with. If you're going to start with a literal interpretation you have to stick with a literal interpretation. Unfortunately when you read some of these people, like the postmillennialists and the preterist interpretation, when they come to Daniel 9 and this vision their whole system falls apart because they can't figure out where Daniel's seventieth week was fulfilled.
So Jeremiah 29:10 gives us the precise number of seventy years and so when Daniel reads this, Daniel begins to look at his own life and counts up his birthdays and goes back to 605 and says it's been 67 years, God said it would be seventy, we need to start getting ready to go home. So he's beginning to put together the promises of God from Deuteronomy, from Leviticus, from 1 Chronicles and he knows that God is about to return them to the land; He said seventy years and He meant seventy years.
Jeremiah 29:11, God says, "For I know the plans that I have for you," God has a specific historical plan for Israel that He is working out, and they are "plans for welfare and not for calamity," they are plans for good and not for evil, "to give you a future and a hope." Notice here in verse 10 and 11, we're talking about Israel's return from Babylon. Now that's important. If you're taking notes you need to make a note of that; in Jeremiah 29:10-11 we are talking about Judah's return from Babylon. This is a partial return. Verse 11, God has a future for them, there is a future for Israel and it's a future and a hope, it is a positive plan.
Then when we get to verse 12, God says, "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you." And in verse 13, "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Now verses 12 and 13 indicate a national return to God. Then you, you all, second person plural, "you all will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for me with all your heart," and that verse, that terminology goes back to terminology in Deuteronomy 30, that after they are taken out of the land, when they are returned to the land they must be searching for God with their whole heart. So this is a promise, and verses 12-13 tell us that this is a potential.
Verses 10-11 is actuality, that is the partial return from Babylon, but verses 12-13 are a potential and that potential is dependent upon positive volition on the part of Israel, to turn to God and then He would restore them from all the nations. That includes the northern kingdom that was sent out in 721 BC and the southern kingdom that's sent out in discipline in 586 BC. So this is a potential and it is dependent upon them searching for God "with all their heart," and that's a quote from the Palestinian Covenant in Deuteronomy 31:1-10. So the potential of a complete return is there, for Daniel in 538 BC, there is an actual potential that if the entire nation returns to God and seeks God with their whole heart, that God will bring all the Jews, not just the dispersion from the southern kingdom of Judah that took place in 586 BC but also those that went out in the dispersion of the northern kingdom when they were overrun by Assyria in 721 BC. God will bring them all back.
There is a real potential here at this point of millennial blessing and the coming of Messiah and getting the land that was promised in the Palestinian Covenant. That is the potential. And so Daniel is going to recognize that and he is going to focus on that potential, that variable in his prayer. Now it's easy for us, like a good Monday morning quarterback, to figure out what went wrong the day before, and when the right play should have been called. Well, Daniel, we look back at what went on with Daniel in 538 BC and it's easy for us to see that well, the Jews did not search for God with all their heart. So we must recognize that Jeremiah 29:12-13 is just as real a potential for Israel today as it was in 538 BC. God still holds that promise out, this is an unfulfilled promise that God has made to Israel that will, one day, be fulfilled. When they seek for Him with their whole heart, and the whole nation turns to Him and seeks Him in prayer, then at that time, according to the promise of Deuteronomy 30, it's at that time that God's going to give them the land that He promised, the full land that God promised them back in the Abrahamic Covenant and the Palestinian Covenant.
So in Daniel 9 Daniel is going to put together all of these passages and he is going to, on the basis of his study of the Word, going to put together one of the most fantastic prayers in all of Scripture, and by studying this prayer we can learn a lot about our own prayer life and be challenged in our own prayer life. So Daniel puts together the information from Jeremiah 29:12-13, information from Deuteronomy 30:2-3; information from Leviticus 26 and he knows that God has a future plan for Israel, that future means that they're going to be in the land and that He eventually will bring all of the Jews back, there will be a national revival and they will have the land that God promised them.
I want you to think about this because you've got the same information Daniel had. This puts us as believers in an incredible position. Think about the confidence we have. We know, number one, that the earth is not going to self-destruct in a nuclear war. We know, number two, that Israel is not going to be pushed in the sea. Just think about this, if you had a President in the White House who really understood this and had the nerve to push it to the limit, he could out bluff any nation with a nuclear threat in the world because he knows it's not going to self-destruct, he knows God's in control, he knows God has a plan and man can't foil that plan. That gives us tremendous confidence; we can look at what's going on around us, we can look at all the terrorist activities and we can say well, there may be a lot of chaos and calamity in our own lives, there's no guarantee that there's going to be stability or security ever, but we can relax knowing that God's in charge and that His plan is going to work out.
And not only that, but just as Daniel was able to put together these passages of Scripture and have tremendous confidence, it almost seems to us as we look at this, I want you to notice, it almost seems to us the way most of us want to handle prayer, that Daniel is out of line and arrogant when he prays to God. That's because of the confidence he has from God's Word. We're going to see that that's not true for just Daniel, that was true for David, that was true for many other Old Testament saints, they had a certain boldness and confidence almost bordering on insubordination, when they went to God in prayer sometimes, because they understood God's Word and they were holding God accountable to His promises. And that's the same thing that we can do as believers. We're to come boldly before the throne of grace and have confidence before Him, according to Hebrews. And that is true because we know the Word and because we have the doctrine in our soul and we understand these principles, we can do this same kind of arguing with God, and I don't use arguing like you use it when you're home with your wife or your husband. I'm using arguing in the sense of a trial lawyer before a judge making a case for a certain position. We can establish that same kind of position before God but it takes time and Daniel took time to do this. And we're going to see how that impacts things.
Starting in Daniel 9:3 we're going to look at Daniel's prayer and demonstrate the point that great men of the Bible did not have this kind of bale out fatalism when it came to their prayer life that characterizes so many Christians. We get this idea, well, okay God, You said no, I'm just going to give up and quit praying, I'm not going to mention it again because it didn't happen right away, or we just have some bullet prayer to God on the way to work one day and nothing happens so we just give up and say oh well, God will do whatever He wants to do and we use Jesus statement in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done" as just some sort of catch-all-bale-out to have wimpy prayers and never actually challenge the grace of God in our lives and part of grace orientation means that we are going to challenge God to be true to His Word, and we're not afraid of calling upon His grace in our lives.
A great story that I heard recently, I was sitting around talking with Jim Meyers when I was over in Kiev and he was telling the story about how years ago when they needed some room down at Berachah Church in Houston, that they were getting rid of the library, and they had probably a couple thousand books in the church library, and they were going to get rid of them because they needed to use that space for office space. And he happened to be at the church at the time, this was in the early 70s and Pastor Thieme asked him if he would like any of those books, and to take all the books you want. And Jim looked at me and he said, you know Robby, I just wasn't grace oriented enough to take every one of them. See, we're afraid, you know, somebody comes up to us and says here, I've got $20,000, take whatever you need, we'll $100 or $200 maybe. If you take all of it you're grace oriented. If you take $100 you may be able to spell grace; if you take $1,000 you might be able to spell grace two days in a row.
But that's what grace orientation is and when that is applied to prayer that's exactly what Daniel is doing here, he's going to the throne of Grace and he's saying God, You promised this, look at what You said in Your word, You said that if we seek you with our whole heart, and as a representative of the nation, I'm coming before You, I'm confessing the sins of the nation, I am challenging You and I am calling upon You on the basis of this promise to take us all home right now and give us the land. And he's saying be true to Your word, give us every bit that You've promised us right now. He's not afraid to call upon God to give him everything God promised to give him. Now most of us are too wimpy in prayer, we think somehow this is insubordinate, this is out of line, we're not doing what God wants us to do and we're not respecting His authority and that's garbage. When God says "no" and He means it, as He does with Daniel, that's when you stop. Just like after Paul prayed to God three times to remove the thorn in the flesh, then Paul finally quit, but only after God explained to him why He had to leave that throne in the flesh there is because He was teaching Paul something about humility and God's grace; we're back to grace orientation, that God's grace was going to be greater than any difficulty Paul experienced in life.
So Daniel is going to pray here because he's grace oriented and he's going to call upon God to do everything that God had promised the Jews in these Old Testament passages. Now I want to give you a couple of examples, 6 passages of powerful prayers in the Old Testament. Let's look first at Psalm 13:1-2. The psalmist says, "How long, O LORD? Wilt Thou forget me forever?" The psalmist is going through suffering; this is what's called a lament Psalm; when we went through this I said there were about five different kinds of Psalms. There's lament Psalms, there's praise Psalms, there's thanksgiving Psalms, there's individual lament Psalms, communal lament Psalms, and this is a lament Psalm and a lament Psalm is when the psalmist is going through some sort of adversity or crisis and he's calling upon God to answer him. And you watch the viewpoint of the psalmist shift as he focuses on his trials at the beginning of the Psalm and then halfway through he usually shifts and begins to focus on the character of God, and by the end of the Psalm he's praising God, whether He's actually delivered him or not, he realizes God's essence is greater than his trials and his own difficulties.
So here we see the psalmist coming to God and he says Lord, how long do I have to go through this adversity? Now this is divinely inspired under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. David is not afraid, he's not saying oh Lord, I know I really shouldn't do this, I know I shouldn't whine and I'm not upset, but he's got boldness and courage to go before the throne, the throne of grace, because he understands his relationship with God. At the core of this is the kind of thinking that I am made in God's image, I am made to have a relationship with God, because of what Jesus Christ has done for me on the cross I am on speaking terms with my Creator, I can come boldly, in fact, I am commanded to boldly go into the throne of grace and to have confidence in front of the sovereign God of the universe and make my request. I'm not going to go in there and just kind of hang my head and shuffle my feet and look at my toes and just kind of kick the dirt and oh gee, Lord, you know, well, maybe it'd be nice if…I just don't want to bother you with this…and that's how most people pray. We don't have any guts in our prayer life because we don't understand grace.
So the psalmist says, "How long, O LORD?" You get into some of the lament Psalms and it's almost like the psalmist gets in an argument with God, and says God, You've promised this, this is what's happening, how can You let it happen; this is Your character, this is what You promised, stick with Your promise. [Tape turns] …borderlines on arrogant insubordination but it doesn't quite cross the line because the psalmist is in humility relying on what God has already promised and said. You can't do this if you don't know any doctrine; if you don't know the Word and you don't know any doctrine, you don't know the promises that God's made, if you try this you're just going to be arrogant and out of line and get drop-kicked out of the throne room of God. But if you know doctrine this gives us courage to do this.
We've gone through some of these passages in the New Testament as well, and this is why, just to give you a brief explanation ahead of time, this is why Daniel fasts; he doesn't fast because that's going to impress God. He fasts because in the ancient world they didn't have a microwave, they couldn't run down and buy TV dinners, they couldn't run by Burger King on the way home and get something to eat. Preparing food, eating food, cleaning up after a meal was a lengthy time consuming affair and he's so busy trying to understand God's will and craft a solid petition before God that he doesn't want to be distracted by the time constraints of eating. That's why they fasted in the ancient world. Sometimes you just really caught up in a job, something you're doing, you're working on something down in the basement, you're working on some project around the house, you're just so consumed with your task that you look up and oh, I just worked right past lunch. That's what fasting was, they were so consumed with the task at hand because it was important that they weren't going to be distracted by the time it would take to go have lunch or go have dinner because they were too busy studying the Word. So that's what's happening.
Now in Psalm 13 the psalmist goes on to say in verse 2, "How long shall I take counsel in my soul," he's really saying Lord, how long are You going to go on not answering my prayer, and David is specifically asking God to intervene in these historical events. He says, "How long shall I take counsel in my soul," how long am I going to be sorrowful all day long because of these events? You're not handling things like you should Lord, "How long is my enemy going to be exalted over me?" You can just think of him praying this one day when he's feeling down and discouraged after Saul has been chasing him around the wilderness of Judah for several weeks, trying to take his life, that David is saying Lord, You promised me that I would be king over Judah, You promises that I would be king, You anointed me, how long is this going to go on, I'm just miserable, I'm tired of sleeping on the ground, I'm tired of my clothes being dirty all the time, I'm tired of waking up with lice in my hair, I'm tired of the mosquitoes and the gnats and the ticks, I'm tired of having to go to the latrine out here day in and day out and never having a bath, never having a shower, how long is this going to go on? Come on, You promised.
See, that's the kind of an argument you have in these verses. There's another one in Psalm 44:23, the psalmist says, "Wake up, Lord." How many times have you been praying for something in your life that has been all consuming and you think God's asleep at the switch, that you have these crises going on all around you and you've been praying and praying and praying and praying and white-knuckling it driving to and from work as you pray to God to solve your problem, and you think Lord, are you listening, wake up. That's what the psalmist said, "Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever." Now he's not being insubordinate, this is the kind of prayer that you can engage in if you have a personal relationship with the Creator God of the universe and understand doctrine.
A third passage, Psalm 74:3, the psalmist uses an imperative of request here, "Turn Thy footsteps toward the perpetual ruins," he's talking about the temple here, this was written during a time when the temple has been under attack and he's calling upon God to take a good look at the temple, how it's been just ignored because of all the false prophets and the apostasy in the land, and he's calling upon God, wake up where've You been, Your temple is a mess, Your temple is in ruins, "Turn Thy footsteps toward the perpetual ruins, the enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary."
And then again in that same Psalm, Psalm 74:11 he says, "Why dost Thou withdraw Thy hand," now remember in the ancient world they tended to wear robes, they didn't have a pair of Levis with a pocket, they didn't have an overcoat with a pocket so if they were going to rest they would put their hand inside their robe, instead of having their hand out and active, if you were going to pull it back you'd just pull it back and stick it inside your robe, so that's what he is saying, God has withdrawn his hand, He's no longer actively involved in history. He says, why have You withdrawn Thy hand, "even Thy right hand? From within Thy bosom, destroy them!" Even though Your hand is not in place, you know, like those pictures you see of Napoleon with his hand inside his coat, even though Your hand is inside Your bosom, destroy them Lord. He's calling upon God to wipe out the enemy.
Again in Psalm 142:4 he calls upon God to wake up and pay attention to the details, he says, "Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me," now this is a soldier praying here and it's in the context of thinking about battle and using a battle imagery. And when soldiers would go into battle in the ancient world they wore their shield on their left arm and so they were protected on their left side by their own shield and the guy to their right would protect him with his shield, so you'd be next to each other and you were protecting yourself and the guy to your left with your shield and you would behind the guy's shield to your right, but he's saying look to the right and see there's nobody there, I'm exposed on my right flank Lord, nobody is protecting me. You're the one who's supposed to be protecting me and nobody's caring, You're not even caring, wake up, get with the program, solve the problems in my life. So you see that there is a strong sense of confidence there, calling upon God to intercede and get involved in the life of the person praying.
One other example is in 2 Samuel 12:14-15, this is in the context of David's prayer that the child that was born to Bathsheba would not die. "However, because by this deed," this is the announcement of divine discipline by God, this is through the prophet Nathan that the child would die, Nathan said, "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely divine institution.  So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick." Then verse 16, "David therefore inquired of God for the child;" that means he went to an intense period of prayer for the child, "and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground," he's fasting, he is imploring God to save the life of the child, he's arguing with God through prayer all night long to not take the life of the child.
See, even though God has announced exactly what He's going to do, the man of God recognizes he still has some room to fudge. Daniel is trying to take advantage of this; he's trying to pierce that fudge factor and to see if he can convince God to change His mind. So "David inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.  And the elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them." He is just passionately intensely praying to God and arguing with Him.
Then look at what happens in 2 Samuel 12:18, "Then it happened on the seventh day," so for seven days this has been going on, David won't eat, David won't do anything, he won't leave, He won't sleep, He's arguing intensively before the Supreme Court of heaven to reverse the decision. "Then it happened on the seventh day that the chilled died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead," of course, this guy's been acting like a nut for a week, he won't eat, he won't sleep, he's in there arguing with God, what's going to happen now if we go tell him the child is dead. "…for they said, Behold, while the child was still alive we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm?"
But look at what David does. 2 Samuel 12:19, what happens is that David comes back, David cleans himself up, takes a shower, goes out, has a feast, and they're all confused, they don't know what's going on, how in the world can you do that and David answers very simply and says the reason he did that is while the child was alive he had a chance to change God's mind, but once the child died he couldn't change God's mind so he accepted the ruling of the Supreme Court of heaven, relaxed, took a shower, went out and could enjoy himself again because he knew that he had done all he could to reverse God's decision. So in verses 20-22 God cleans up his act and basically says that his son was dying he could change God's mind but after that he couldn't do anything to change God's mind so why whine about it.
See, there's a time to pray and there's a time not to pray and sometimes we don't have the courage to pray when we can. Well, Daniel had the courage to pray in Daniel 9 and if we lay it out, the first 14 verses form a lament confession, this is like a lament Psalm but this is a lament confession, when in the first few verses, from 3-10, Daniel is going to outline and confess Israel's sin. And then in verses 11-14 he is going to emphasize God's holiness, God's righteousness and His justice. And this is an important principle because we ought to recognize that at times when we are confessing our sins, we don't have to do this every time, this isn't some sort of ritual, but when we remind ourselves in the midst of confession of God's holiness, then it prevents us from blaming God for our sin and our failures. See, that's what happens sometimes; people start confessing their sin, they realize… you know, they start focusing on their circumstances and the next thing you know they're blaming God, well, you know, this is my sin nature, You made me the way I am, and so it's really not that bad, it's really not a sin. You know, some people actually do that but it's all part of arrogance and self-justification. But when we focus on the holiness of God that keeps an absolute objective standard out there and we recognize that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And we continue to sin even as believers and God still, in His grace, forgives us. Then in Daniel 9:15-19 we have Daniel's petition, and then we have the answer given to him starting in verse 20.
In Daniel 9:3 we read: "So I gave my attention to the LORD God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." So the first part of it Daniel is saying I gave my attention, I made it a priority, literally what he's…it's an idiom here in the Hebrew, it's the qal perfect of the verb nachan, meaning to give, plus the verb for face, "I gave my face to the Lord," it's an idiom meaning that I've turned my attention, I've turned my face completely to the Lord, I gave my undivided attention to Him to the exclusion of everything else in life. I'm not going to worry about food, I'm not going to worry about sleep, it's the same kind of attitude that David had. I'm going to make this prayer the highest priority in my life right now.
Application here, it's important to pray without ceasing; that's 1 Thessalonians 5:19, we need to pray without ceasing, we need to have bullet prayers all day long, but there are times in life when we need to have more significance in our prayer life. We need to think about what we're praying, we need to study the Word, we need to formulate a Biblical prayer and then we need to take it before God. And so when Daniel says here that "I gave my attention the LORD God to seek Him in prayer" it's not simply the act of the petition but he's talking about the entire process of studying the Word to figure out what his basis was in his prayer before he went to the Lord in prayer. If you read through the prayer it didn't take long. But he had to know what he was praying for, he had to understand the Word, he had to formulate his argument before he went to the Lord and that took time. So this involves all of the Bible study that precedes the actually prayer itself.
Then he says, "I gave my attention to the LORD God, to seek Him by prayer," and this is the Hebrew word, baqash, which means to seek, to seek intensively, and this is the same word that was used in Jeremiah 29:12 and it's the same word that's used in Deuteronomy 30 when God says "if you seek Me with your whole heart," and what we'll see here is that this whole section is saturated, and Daniel's prayer is saturated with vocabulary from Deuteronomy and from Jeremiah. And that tells us that because his prayer is so saturated with a Scriptural vocabulary that his soul has been saturated with doctrine. This isn't just some flippant idiomatic prayer to God but he is using words that are deeply rooted in the promises and the revelation of God in both Deuteronomy and in Jeremiah.
So the principle there is that powerful prayers are saturated with Biblical vocabulary. Why? Because God likes us to remind Him of what He has promised and what He has said; He wants us to argue with Him on the basis of His own revelation and that is exactly what Daniel does here. For example, in verse 6 Daniel is using the words of Jeremiah. He's using Jeremiah's vocabulary, some passages you can look up are Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 25:4; Jeremiah 29:19; Jeremiah 35:15; Jeremiah 44:4; Jeremiah 44:21. Daniel is going to use this background to call upon the Lord and to pray to him. This is what he says in Jeremiah 29:12, God said then you will call upon Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you and you will seek Me and find Me, so Daniel is applying this and saying God, I'm seeking you, return us to the land, I'm calling you to be true to Your word.
So we'll see how God answers that and the remainder of the principles on powerful praying next time.