A couple of weeks ago I spoke to you from Isaiah 5 and 6 in an effort to try to frame what we’re experiencing in our nation, currently, as we stand in the midst of the judgment of God as a nation that has turned its back on the truth.
And we saw the parallels between our own time and the time of Isaiah, and how that Isaiah prophesied judgment on Israel, judgment that would come from God because they had despised His Word and did not obey Him. We saw how that is certainly true in our own nation. Our nation, really given its birth for freedom to worship God and to exalt His Word, has completely turned its back on the Word of God, is guilty of the same sins that Israel was guilty of that brought them to judgment.
We also saw, in Isaiah chapter 6, our responsibility, as redeemed people in a nation in judgment, to preach the message of the gospel, to preach the message of forgiveness so that the remnant could hear and believe.
I do believe that we, as a nation, are experiencing the judgment of God; it’s outlined in Romans 1. When God’s judgment falls on a people, He turns them over to sexual sin, Romans 1 says, and then to homosexual sin, and then to a reprobate or useless mind. That is precisely what has happened in our society. We’ve embraced the sexual revolution. We have embraced the homosexual revolution. And now, our entire thinking process is warped and corrupted. This is the judgment of God - at least that judgment of God that is defined for us in Romans chapter 1. There may be more cataclysmic judgment of God yet to come.
And in discussing that, the question arose, and it’s a very good question, “How are we then to conduct ourselves with regard to the circumstances in our nation?” If it is God’s will to lay us out for judgment, if it is God’s will to do whatever He chooses to do, and His purposes cannot be thwarted, then how are we to pray, or are we to pray? How are we to deal with this issue of the decline in our nation and the judgment of God?
The best way that I know to answer that is again to look at an Old Testament parallel. It was about 150 years before the actual judgment of God that Isaiah prophesied it was coming. It was about 150 years after Isaiah’s prophecy that the Babylonians or the Chaldeans came and destroyed Judah, destroyed Jerusalem, slaughtered the Jews and carried off thousands of them captive into Babylon.
One of those that was taken captive into Babylon, in the very first deportation around the year 603 – there were three: 603, 597, and 586 was the final one in which the full holocaust occurred in Jerusalem and Judah – but in the initial deportation, one of the first people to be taken captive by the Babylonians was a young man named Daniel. And Daniel, as a young man, was taken into the Babylonian captivity and essentially lived the entire rest of his life as an alien. He lived his entire life in a foreign land, never went back to his own homeland. Even when his people went back, Daniel didn’t go back. He lived his whole life as an exile, taken captive out of his land, and brought under a Chaldean and Babylonian influences to brainwash him so that he, as a very noble young man, could be used by the Babylonians to exercise leadership over their captive people, the Jews.
So, we meet a man in the middle of the judgment – Daniel – who is living in that judgment. The judgment of the Babylonians on Israel, followed by the Chaldeans who – by the Medo-Persians, I should say, who followed the Chaldean empire. Daniel really lived in two pagan empires. The Babylonians had, of course, exerted tremendous, tremendous, devastating judgment on Israel by the hand of God, who used them to do that.
And so, we see a perfect picture of how a man deals with the sovereign judgment of God. And what we find out about Daniel is that if he was anything, he was a man of prayer. And I want you to open your Bible to the ninth chapter of Daniel. Because the question came out, “Does it do any good to pray for our nation? Does it do any good to pray for our country? Does it do any good to pray for revival? Does it do any good to pray for a restoration, to pray for righteousness to again take hold, for people to come back to the Word of God, back to the truth of the gospel, back to exalting God? Does it do any good to pray for that? Or do we just resign ourselves to a fatalistic approach, “This is it; God has set forth His judgment; we’re in the middle of it,” or do we pray?
Well, we look at Daniel. Here is a man in the middle of the judgment. We know, by the time we get to chapter 9, from the prior eight chapters, that he is an uncompromising believer in God; that he is bold as to his faith; that he is full of trust in the true and living God; that he is utterly unselfish; that he is humble; that he is resistant, if not impervious, to the world; that he is persistent; that he is incorruptible; that he is consistent; that he is trustworthy; that he is virtuous; that he is obedient; that he is worshipful; and most of all, that he is prayerful. Prayerful.
It was his persistent prayer life that landed him – where? – in a lion’s den in chapter 6. An amazing man was Daniel. An amazing man. He wouldn’t alter his prayer life, even though it meant that he could end up as a meal for ravenous lions. This is truly a man of prayer.
And in the ninth chapter, Daniel prays. We know that he prayed in the sixth chapter, but we have his greatest legacy of prayer in the ninth chapter, because here is his prayer laid out for us in great detail. It’s good to know that he did pray; it’s even better to know what he prayed. And here in the ninth chapter, we are taught that.
So, here are the essentials of praying not by precept, but by example. Here are the essentials of praying, not as a theological outline, but as a living illustration. Daniel prays, and in his prayer, the elements that should characterize our prayers are made manifest. And again, this is a man praying for his people in the middle of judgment. And so, it is particularly instructive for us, who at this day and time, in our country, are experiencing theirs judgment described so clearly in Romans chapter 1.
Most of the time, when you come to Daniel chapter 9, it’s the second half of the chapter that gets all the attention, starting in verse 24, because there is that familiar section on the 70 weeks of Daniel, that great prophetic passage that reveals to us the divine plan of God for Israel, right on down to the return of Messiah or right on down to the coming of Messiah; and even after that, the final time of tribulation prior to His return.
Most of the time, when you go to Daniel 9, you’re going to look at the prophecy at the end of the chapter. But I want to take you to the front of the chapter, which for us is very instructive and certainly equally essential.
As you come to the end of the eighth chapter, just before we get in, let’s look at verse 27, because I think it sets the stage for chapter 9, “Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days.” What had made him sick was the vision he had just seen. It wasn’t enough that Israel was in a condition of judgment already, that wasn’t enough.
And by the way, Daniel, at this time, was over 80 years of age. He has been in captivity since his teenage years. He is not in the Babylonian kingdom anymore, because the Babylonian kingdom anymore because the Babylonian kingdom has been replaced by the Medo-Persians. He is now in his second pagan kingdom. He ranks high in the palace; he is a kind of prime minister. He has ascended, because of the tremendous integrity and wisdom that he possessed, to the highest possible places. He has been used to explain two divine revelations in visions to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. He has been through Babylon’s feast and experienced the power of God in being saved from lions. He’s been through tremendous experiences.
He is a man, as I said, over 80 years of age. He’s endured a lot and experienced a lot, but he just went through something that exhausts him and makes him sick for days. And what it was was a vision of more judgment to come on Israel. It was a picture of another empire: the Greeks. And, in particular, a man by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes, who would not only abuse and persecute the people of God, but would desecrate the Holy Place in the temple.
And in the eighth chapter, the vision of more hostility, more persecution, more judgment, more trouble, more distress comes to Daniel. And even beyond that, there is a secondary fulfillment of prophecy in chapter 8 that refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek ruler, and that looks forward to the Antichrist who will lead a massive persecution of the people of Israel at the end times, just before the return of Christ to set up His kingdom. So, this is a very, very, very troubling vision that he has had. And he is exhausted by that and made sick for days.
And he says in verse 27, “Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business” – I tried to go back to work; I tried to go back to my responsibility, but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.
So, here is a man living in the midst of judgment, who has gotten a vision about more judgment in the near future, under the Greek power, and yet another vision of future judgment which is indicated in the last line of verse 26, “It pertains to many days in the future.” The translators rightly indicate that. And he is seeing nothing but trouble, nothing but judgment for Israel. Now in the near future and in the far future. Nothing really looks very encouraging to him.
And we come then to chapter 9. “In the first year of Darius” – this is the Medo-Persian king – “the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent” – the Medes and the Persians – “who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans” – so, now he gives us the timing; all of this takes place in the first year of Darius in the Medo-Persian Empire.
“In the first year” – verse 2 says – “of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolation of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”
Now, the books – the books, the scrolls. They didn’t have books as we know them; they had scrolls. But not just any books, but a collection of Old Testament books. The books, which included Jeremiah. And as he was reading the Old Testament, and reading the prophecy of Jeremiah, he no doubt came across Jeremiah 25:11 and 12, and Jeremiah 29:10. Because in those two verses of the prophecies of Jeremiah, God revealed that the judgment would last for 70 years. Seventy years.
And as Daniel was reading, he came across those passages - chapter 25, verses 11 and 12; chapter 29, verse 10 – and it struck him. It struck him that it was only to be a judgment for 70 years. And he knew that this was the word of the Lord, because it says in verse 2 that it “was revealed s the word of the Lord to Jeremiah.” The books contained the word of the Lord; so, he was reading divine revelation, and the divine revelation said, “It’s only to last for 70 years, and Daniel is 80 plus, and he was taken into captivity in the first deportation in the year 603, and the last was in 586, and it is nearly the end of the 70 years from 586. So, in his case, he’s been there more than 70 years or nearly 70 years – it’s hard to be exact, but certainly around that. If perhaps – and some would date it at 605, or if 604 or 603 or 597 or 586 – any way you cut it, it was very near the imminent end of that 70 years.
Daniel knows that the judgment was to be of 70 years, and he knows the time of the 70-years is nearly up. You might think that there wouldn’t be anything to pray for – right? What’s to pray for? God said He was going to judge, and He was going to judge for 70 years. And He’s been judging. And here we’ve been in captivity, and the 70 years is almost up. When it’s up, it’s over, because that’s what the Word of God says. What’s to pray for?
We just sort of throw ourselves into the settled apathy of the sovereignty of God and carry on with life. That’s not what Daniel does. God’s sovereignty, which Daniel certainly knew about, prophetic revelation – the word of Scripture – did not preclude prayer; it did not preclude persevering supplication. Quite the contrary. It was his reading of those passages that triggered this intense time of prayer. Because Daniel believes the Word of God, he takes up intercession for His people. And as we look at this prayer, we see the essential elements for all intercessory prayer.
Now let’s just work through some of these points. I’ll try to teach them to you tonight and then some remaining ones next Sunday night. This will give you the character of prayer in the context of God’s sovereignty and God’s judgment and God’s Word.
First of all, true prayer is in response to the Word. True prayer is in response to the Word. If you have a MacArthur Study Bible, down in the footnote on this section, you’ll find a very similar outline to what I’m going to share with you. And I’ll fill in the gaps. True prayer is in response to the Word. Basically, we pray in response to Scripture. We pray in response to Scripture. In fact, Daniel recognized that the sovereignty of God, that the promises of God, that specific prophecies, that actual timetables did not alter his responsibility or his passion for prayer; they rather excited it.
Reminds me of the apostle John who, at the end of the book of Revelation, prays. For 22 chapters, John has been receiving visions about Christ. Primarily, they referred to the return of Christ. All that John received after the third chapter had essentially to do with heaven moving toward the glorious return of Christ to take His kingdom, and all the rest of the book of Revelation told us all the details about the return of Jesus Christ. And after all those details, John closes Revelation with a prayer. And his prayer may seem to be a foolish prayer or a needless prayer, because what John says is, “Even so” – what? – “come, Lord Jesus.” So, he asks the Lord to do exactly what he just wrote 22 chapters about the Lord doing. The Word of God is what prompts us to pray. So, true prayer is in response to the Word. We pray in response to Scripture.
Daniel recognized that his prayers were working together with the purposes of God to accomplish their divine ends. Yes, Daniel saw the certainty of divine purposes. He saw the sovereignty of God, but it never hindered his prayers. He literally got on the side of God and began to intercede for what God promised to be fulfilled. He lined up his heart with God’s purposes. Prayer and the Word are inseparably linked. It should be always true that the knowledge of the Word of God draws people to pray.
I remember in Ezra 9 that, “The Word of God was read, and everyone trembled at the words of God on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering.
“At the evening offering, I arose from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe torn, and I fell on my knees. I stretched out my hands to the Lord my God; and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to Thee, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads, and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.” And here is this great prayer, this prayer of confession that comes pouring out in response to the Word of God.
You find the same thing in Nehemiah 8. We find the same thing in Nehemiah chapter 9. The Word should generate our prayer. When we know that God is in judgment on our nation, that doesn’t take us into indifference; that should catapult us into intercession, “Yes, God, fulfill Your judgment purpose, but yes, God, redeem Your remnant in the midst of it.” You always, always are drawn to prayer by understanding the purposes of God.
I find, for me personally – and people ask me this a lot, “When do you find yourself praying most consistently.”
And the answer to that question is – and none of us prays as we ought to pray; we all, I know, feel guilty about our lack of prayer, but for me, the most consistent times of prayer are when I am studying the Word of God, because it is the Word of God that works my mind toward the purposes of God, which elicit my prayers, “Yes, Lord, do this; yes, Lord, thank You for this. Lord, I see this blessing; thank You for what You’ve given us.”
You go through a great passage of Scripture, and when I’m preaching to you on a Sunday morning, you hear me giving you all of the truth that I’m giving you, understand that when I was gleaning that out of the Word and discerning that out of the Word and interpreting the Scripture, that there was in my heart a constant response to God, reacting to those truths. And our best prayer really is, I think, with an open Bible. We are given, really, the essence of what to pray for as we understand the Scripture.
If you read a Psalm and it’s full of praise, and thanks, and joy, it should elicit prayers of gratitude. If you read a text on judgment, such as Isaiah, it should elicit prayers of, “God, glorify Yourself in judgment, but at the same time, glorify Yourself in grace.”
When you read a passage about the future, you should be thanking God for his eternal promise. When you read a passage about the forgiveness of sin, you should be confessing sin and thanking God for His forgiveness. So, the Scripture literally elicits prayer.
Anybody who says that they read the Bible and they just know God’s going to do what He’s going to do, and it doesn’t cultivate prayer is approaching the Scripture in a wrong way, if not a sinful way. It is the Word that really teaches us how to pray.
If you learn from Jesus, when Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Teach us how to pray,” what did He say? “Pray like this, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come’” – and what’s the next one? – “‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” And that’s what prayer is; it is saying, “God, hallow Your name, glorify Your name. God, do Your will. Bring Your kingdom, fulfill Your purpose. It’s like saying, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” And your prayers work together with the purposes of God.
Daniel’s prayer is born out of the fact that He does understand the Word, that he does understand the sovereignty of God, that he does understand divine purpose, that he does understand promises and a limit. And because He knows he’s near that seventieth year, he’s going to pray here and say, “Lord, deliver Your people; fulfill Your promise; do what You said You were going to do.” Because his heart is swept away with divine purposes.
As a pastor – and you know me well enough to know that there are lots of things in the church that disturb me; there are things in our own church that disturb me - there are things in the church at large that disturb me, and I tell you about those things, and out of the Word of God, I try to help you understand what’s wrong in the church.
But my response to that is not to say, “Aw, well, they’re all apostates anyway; they’re all on their way to hell. So much for them.” I mean I don’t – I can’t abandon that, but I can cry out to God, “Lord, please revive Your church, restore Your church. Lord, remove the false teachers.” I can pray the imprecatory Psalms just as well as David, “Kill Your enemies, get them out of the way. Don’t allow Yourself to be dishonored.” I have every right to a holy indignation; so do you.
I don’t find myself drawn into indifference by understanding the purposes of God and the holiness of God, the plans of God, the Word of God; I know the Lord wants a chaste and pure virgin bride to present to the Father, and I know that the church today is anything but that. The so-called church - not the true church, the so-called church. And I understand that Jesus said there will be wheat and there will be tares. There will be the true, and there will be the false. But I can’t be content to just say, “Well, that’s how it is; so much for that.”
I find myself passionately involved in addressing those issues. Somehow God works the burden of my prayers and your prayers into the fulfillment of His purposes. Prayer is generated by God’s Word. That’s the first point that I want you to see.
And what happens here is as Daniel is reading and reading and reading, you come down to verse 4, “And I prayed.” I prayed when I saw what I saw. Verse 3, “I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” I mean this is not some minor event; this is a consuming prayer.
So, it is generated by God’s Word. And secondly, it is grounded in God’s will. And I’ve already alluded to that a little bit. He knew God’s will. God’s will was 70 years. A fatalist would say, “Well, that’s that; what’s to pray about?” But Daniel believed that his prayer God would use in His fulfillment.
You remember the sixth chapter of Revelation, verses 9 to 11 – you have the saints that were martyred. And the saints that were martyred are under the altar in the vision there. And they’re crying out to the Lord and saying, “How long? How long? How long before you stop this wickedness? How long before you come and review your glory? How long before you come and set up your kingdom?”
You say, “Well, they should know. It’s written in the Bible that the tribulation lasts seven years, and the second half’s three-and-a-half years. They should know how long.”
But the fact that God has stated that there’s a clear time table for that period doesn’t change the attitude of the saints who are pleading with God to be glorified pleading with God to bring an end to evil.
And so, I think the more you know about God’s will – listen carefully to this – the more you know about God’s will, the more your prayer life is enriched and focused. Because you’re lining up with God’s purposes, realizing that He has chosen your prayers to be a participating element in that fulfillment.
I mean you say, “Well, what good does it do for me to say, ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus, please return, please return’?” Somebody’s going to say, “Are you kidding? He’s told you He’s going to return.”
Like that preacher who was preaching, one of those Scottish pulpits on the second balcony, and kept saying, “I am coming soon; I am coming soon; I am coming soon,” reciting the promise of Jesus. And he couldn’t remember what his next thought was. So, he hit the pulpit so hard, he fell over and landed in the lap of an old lady in the front row. And he apologized.
And she said, “For what? You warned me five times.”
I mean you could say, “Look, He says He’s coming; He says He’s coming; He says He’s coming. What’s to pray about?”
Plenty to pray about. You’re affirming the reality of that; you’re affirming the glory of that; you’re affirming the purpose of that. It’s the knowledge of God’s will that enhances our life spiritually and allows us to pray within the purposes of God and according to His will. It’s a wonderful way to pray, to, “Lord, I know what Your purposes are; I know You want to bless Your church; I know You want to glorify Your church; I know You want to exalt Your Word; I know You want to bring salvation to Your people; I know You want to sanctify those that are Yours; I know You want to bring us to glory. O Lord, do it, and do it hastily. Lord, glorify Yourself, exalt Your truth.” You’re just – you know you are praying consistently with the will of God and that God has designed that those Spirit-prompted prayers and those Scripture-prompted prayers participate somehow in a marvelous way in the fulfillment of God’s promises.
I’m thinking of 1 Samuel chapter 12, which is an interesting illustration of this. “All the people said to Samuel” – verse 19, 1 Samuel 12 – “‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.’” On top of all the other sin, they had asked for a king. And they said, “Pray to God that we don’t die.”
“And Samuel said to the people, ‘Don’t fear. You’ve committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.’” He’s saying to them, look, if you repent and do what’s right, you’ll receive forgiveness. “‘And you must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit of deliver because they are futile. For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.’”
What he is saying is, you know, “Do what’s right; don’t do what’s wrong. Obey God. Be the servant of the Lord; do what’s right; don’t do what’s wrong. But in the end, you’re His people, and He’s not going to ultimately abandon you.”
“‘Still” – verse 23 – “‘as for me, far bet it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you’” - I know the eternal purposes of God for Israel. I know that you are His people, and He’s chosen you for an eternal people. I know that there is a future for Israel, but I’m telling you do what’s right; don’t do what’s wrong or you will suffer the consequences. In the end, however, God will never abandon His people, and yet even though I know that, I would sin if I didn’t pray for you.
Praying is generated by the Word of God. The more you know about the Bible, the more specific things you know about God’s purposes, and the more you pray consistent with His will. So, it’s generated by the Word and grounded in His will.
David said, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God,” – Psalm 40, verse 8.
Jesus said, “My met” – or My food – “is to do the will of Him that sent Me.” And that’s part of our prayer life.
Now, let me talk about it. I want to make a little disclaimer or two here. When we pray and say, “God, I want You to do Your will; I want You to do Your will,” that’s the only way we can pray. That’s the way we have been instructed. When Jesus said, “Pray like this, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’” that qualifies everything. Everything. Everything you ever pray to God is, “Do Your will.”
In some cases, according to Scripture, you will know what that will is. Daniel did. It was God’s will and purposes that after 70 years, the judgment would be over. And Daniel prayed consistent with what was revealed as God’s will. And you can know that it is God’s will to save sinners, and it is God’s will to sanctify believers. And it is God’s will to purify His church. And it is God’s will to glorify His Word and to exalt His name. And it is God’s will to bring praise to Himself. And so, you’re always praying, in that regard, consistent to His will.
There are matters about His will that we don’t know. And so, we may ask God to do this or that; move us here, move us there; give us this ministry, that ministry; work this certain work in someone’s life. And we would have to say, “I don’t know what Your will is, Lord, but do it whatever it is. Do whatever is Your will.” If you ask anything according to His will, He hears and does it. Anything that glorifies the Father, according to John 14, He will do.
But when you say that, when you say, “Your will be done,” that is not bitter resentment. That is not saying, “Aw, well, go do what You want.”
Omar Khayyam, the poet, wrote, “But helpless pieces of the game He plays” – referring to God – “Upon this chequer-board of night and days/Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays/And one by one back in the closet lays.” That was Omar Khayyam’s view of God; that God was the checker player, and people were the pieces, and He moved them where He wanted and check-mated them, threw them out.
That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about a passive resignation to a sovereign and supernatural chess player, checker player who moves us off the board at will. Neither are we talking about being passive. First, we’re not talking about bitterness that you come – you hear in the words of Khayyam. We’re not talking about passivity, where you just say – it was Julian, the Roman emperor who said - you know, at the end of his life took a handful of his own blood and threw it in the air – according to historians – and said, “You’ve conquered, O man of Galilee; You win.” It’s not that kind of sort of wearily accepting defeat. Nor is it some kind of hyper-Calvinistic theological reservation where we say, “Well, God’s bigger than all of us, and He’s going to do what He’s going to do, and that’s the end of that.”
David Wells has a very interesting statement. He writes this, “What then is the nature of petitionary prayer? It is in essence rebellion. Rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates good from evil, the declaration that evil is not a variation on good, but its antithesis.” I like that.
What David Wells is saying is that when you pray, you are in active rebellion against the sinful status quo. You never resign yourself to that. You never sort of bitterly resent that. You never sort of passively resign to that, nor do you have some theological category to stick evil in as if God just willed it that way, and that’s the way it is. Your prayers rebel. You revolt in your heart against all that is wrong because it’s against His will. Oh, His ultimate will of judgment will fall, but God is not pleased by iniquity. God is not pleased by sin; He’s not pleased by transgression; He’s not pleased by defection or apostasy.
David Wells further said, “You never want to strike a truce with what is wrong, and you rebel against it. And the first point of rebellion is in your prayers.”
I can honestly tell you I wish – I remember when I was being interviewed on NBC one time by Paul Moyer – you know, the anchorman Paul Moyer? I don’t know what network he’s on now, but at the time he was on NBC - and we were talking, and he said to me, he said, “You know, I don’t understand you” – this was on camera at an Easter broadcast. He said, “Why doesn’t somebody police your movement?” He was talking about evangelicalism. He said, “You’ve got so many kooks, and nuts, and fakes, and phonies; why doesn’t somebody police your movement?”
And I said to him, I said, “I would like to do that, but nobody will give me that authority.” I really would. I would like to just go and tell whoever runs the Christian television, the Christian radio, and the Christian bookstores who they can have. Right? And who they can’t have. And I would be broad and generous, but there are definitely some people I’d get out. I would like to do that. And I would like to say, “This, I believe, would honor God; this, I believe, would exalt Christ. This, I believe, would rightly represent the Spirit of God and the Word of God.” But I can’t do that. I do not have that authority or that power.
I’ve been reading – I was reading an entire treatment yesterday of the life and ministry of Jan Hus. I’ve been reading a lot about this. And Jan Hus – 1300s, 1400s – he burned at the stake in 1415 – burned at the stake because he told the truth. Burned at the stake because he told the truth. He said the Roman Catholic Church was corrupt, the priests were corrupt. They were selling indulgences which was forgiveness of sin for money. They were buying bishoprics and doing all this kind of stuff. And he – there were three popes at the same time, all claiming the apostolic succession. The thing was chaotic. And Jan Hus was trying to call for reform in the church, a pre-reformation reformer, and they burned him at the stake. They consumed him with fire. I mean it’s very hard for somebody to stand up and just fix everything. So, what are we left with? Prayer.
Prayer is the location of our rebellion against the way things are. What can I do about the state of my country? What can I do about the influences that come against my children from the media, from educators, and etcetera, etcetera? What can I do about the demise of the church? What – I – nobody has made me the guy in charge of it. Sometimes I wish the evangelicals had a pope. I don’t know who it would be, but somebody who got it all it all right and could deal with these issues. But so we don’t want to – we don’t want to gather an army like they did in Hus’ day and kill people. That’s not right. But the only way we can revolt is through – what? – prayer. That’s the point of our rebellion. We cannot ever come to a truce with the status quo. We can’t ever be content with the way things are.
I mean even Jesus, He’s in the garden, and He comes before the Father, and He says, “Father, let this cup” – what? – “pass from Me. Is there any possible way I can avoid having to be the sin-bearer? Is there any way I can possibly avoid this alienation from You” - that He knew was coming. And that’s the reality of when He was on the cross, He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He knew what was coming.
And it was very hard for Jesus to come to a truce with His own sin-bearing, because it was so utterly foreign to His nature. It was so utterly unimaginable. He was rebelling. You would expect Him to rebel against sin. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and now He was going to become a sin-bearer and feel the alienation of God during God’s explosion of wrath against Him for all the sins of all who would ever believe. And there was a certain rebellion in His nature that cried out against that. And it was Jesus, you remember, who two times – once at the beginning of His ministry, and once at the end of His ministry – took a whip and did – what? – cleansed the temple.
Now again, it would be nice if we had the power and authority to do that. I frankly do think we need to crank up our honest proclamation of the truth. I think it’s very, very serious today, because what’s happening today is evangelical Christianity is becoming comfortable with heretics, and they will not confront heresy, and they will not deal with it. They will not deal with the fact that Rome proclaims a false gospel. They will not deal with the fact that people are all over the place with this new natural fideism, this idea that a person can be saved by simply following their natural reason back to God, whether they’re Buddhists, or Muslims, or Confucianists, or tribal people, or whatever, who never read the Bible and never know about Christ.
The evangelical church is being forced to come to terms with this because this is the new agenda of the evangelical scholastics. And the church is seemingly unwilling to go to war at that point. And you go to war two ways. You go to war with a relentless proclamation of the truth. And the more they proclaim the lie, the more you have to proclaim the truth. And then you go to battle by interceding. You never come to terms with that. You never sign the truce. That’s what that ridiculous Catholic accord was about. That was a truce with lies. That was a truce with deception. That was a truce with damning doctrine, with a false religious system. That was coming to terms and being comfortable with the lie. We can’t make that truce; we have to rebel against that by the proclamation of the truth and by this constant intercession that calls on God to preserve His truth and to deal with error the way it should be dealt with.
I think it even comes out in the way you pray for a lost person. Hopefully you don’t come to terms with their lostness. You don’t say, “Uh, maybe they’re not elect.” I hope you don’t say that. I hope you go before the throne of God, as 1 Timothy 2 says, and pray for all of those people in authority: the president and everybody else, all the way down the people in authority, all the way down – pray for all men because God our Savior will have all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. I hope you – I hope you’re a rebel against unbelievers in the sense that you rebel against their unbelief by constant intercession on their behalf. Some of you pray – are doing that faithfully. You’re praying for the lost, and God is using your prayers in his purpose: fulfillment.
So, when you come to Daniel here in Daniel 9, you see a man who reads the Word, and in the Word he finds the plan of God laid out. That doesn’t eliminate his prayers; that excites His prayers. And then he begins to discern the will of God. And when he discerns the will of God, then he has to be constantly praying for righteousness to be exalted and sin to be abased. And so, he becomes a rebel.
You know, the – again, in the history of the church, the great men who turned the tide at crucial times were the ones who were willing to put their neck on the line. They were the ones who didn’t get comfortable with the status quo, who never made a truce with error. And, you know, I think that I’ve been reading so much of this lately; I’ve been reading all about these reformers and just continuing to read and read until I’m really beginning to understand it, because I have this sense that we’re getting to that place where it’s going to take another Reformation to extract the true church out of this chaos. And it’s going to have to be something where lines are drawn, where truth is proclaimed, unequivocating, uncompromising, and where there is really a force of praying rebels against the status quo.
I don’t like the way things are in America, but I don’t fold up my tent and steal away into the night with indifference. I have to pray rebelliously against that, that error would be replaced by truth and holiness would conquer sin.
Now, I don’t know what God’s purposes are, but because I love the truth, and I love the Lord, and I desire what is right, and I resist what is wrong, my prayers are impelled by that.
Prayer, then, is generated by God’s Word and grounded in God’s will. And thirdly – and we’ll stop with this point – it is characterized by fervency. It is characterized by fervency. Look at verse 3, “So, I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” I mean this is a serious prayer. This is intense.
He certainly we could borrow from Paul’s 1 Thessalonians comment, “Pray without ceasing.” Persistent prayer was a pattern for Daniel. His life was a life of prayer. We know that from the prior part of the book. This has not to do with that; it has not to do with the frequency of his praying, the non-ceasing element of his praying or the regularity of his praying.
This has to do with the fervency of it, that when he did it, there was a compelling passion in his heart. He wasn’t praying for things that didn’t have monumental significance; he didn’t get his prayers all tangled up in the little idiosyncrasies of everybody’s life and how people want you to pray for this and that and the other little thing that will make their life a little more comfortable or a little more fulfilling. He never got caught away in those things; he was consumed with the big things. He was consumed with righteousness, and he was consumed with the preservation of the people of God and the fulfillment of the Word of God and prophetic promise, and he saw the big picture.
But the stress here is on the attitude of fervency that he brought to his prayer life. “I set my face,” he says. That’s what he literally says in the Hebrew, “I set my face.” Resoluteness, fixed focus. And he says, “I set my face to the Lord God. Not Yahweh, not the Creator God, but Adonai, the Lord, the sovereign Master. And he said, “I focus particularly on the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplication” – intercession. The term for supplication is an entreaty for mercy. And further stressing his zeal and his humility, he fasted in sackcloth and ashes. It was a customary expression of deep concern to fast and to put on garments that drew no attention to yourself and to cover your head with ashes as an expression of your own humility and unworthiness.
And this is a very resolute man in his prayers. And from verse 4 on, he prays. When you come down to verse 20, he’s still praying, “While I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel” – listen, he started praying back here in verse 4, and he kept praying. He prays all through this prayer. He’s still praying; he’s still praying, and he’s still praying even when the answer comes.
And again, as very often in the Bible, you see fasting linked with prayer. It’s not that there’s some merit in not eating. It is that there’s a level of intensity in spiritual prayer, in this intercession, which precludes any appetite. Intense heartfelt concern eliminates any desire for food.
Biblical fasting is always connected to intense prayer. It doesn’t exist as an end in itself. The Pharisee in Luke 18 who said, “I fast twice a week,” was a fake, a phony, a fraud. His fasting was a pretense. But Hannah - 1 Samuel 1 - weeping and fasting and pleading to God for a son, showed a really burdened heart.
Esther – chapter 4, verse 16 – praying, fasting for life. Jonah goes to Nineveh, and there’s fasting and pleading for forgiveness. Fasting is connected to these great times of importunity, fervent prayer.
The fervency of prayer in the Bible is indicated a number of ways. Here’s a little list: wearing sackcloth, sitting in ashes or applying ashes to the head – that’s what Job did – shaving the head, smiting the breast, crying, applying dust to the head, tearing your clothes, sighing, groaning, loud crying, agonizing, having a broken heart, pouring out one’s heart, rending the heart, even making or offering to God sacrifices -such as Judges 20, 1 Samuel 7, Psalm 20.
So, here we have, in this verse – verse 3 – every indication of persistence, ever indication of zeal, fervency. It’s essential. “The effectual” – James 5:16 – “fervent” – what – “prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Christ was praying in the garden so fervently that he sweat blood. Jesus never resigned himself to the fallenness of the world. He knew the purposes of God; He knew the plans of God. He never made a truce with sin; He never got comfortable with some hyper-Calvinistic view of everything. He rebelled against it. He prayed with tears over the city of Jerusalem. He prayed day after day after day. He would go to the Mount of Olives, and there He would pray. And so does Daniel. And God responds to that kind of fervent prayer.
I’ll close with two illustrations to show that. Look at Luke 11. Luke 11, verses 5 through 10. Jesus, just after teaching His disciples about how to pray, wants to teach them about fervency and importunity or persistence. And in verse 5, “He said to them” – and you’ll notice just prior to that is the disciples’ prayer or the Lord’s prayer – “‘Suppose one of you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves”‘” – it’s not really a good idea to go to him at midnight and ask him for that, but you do - “‘and from inside he shall answer and say, “Do not bother me. My door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed”‘” – that tells us it’s winter; they’re all in one bed to stay warm - “‘“I can’t get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he’s his friend,”‘” – I don’t care if you’re my friend; it’s midnight, and I’m cold if I get out of bed; I’m not getting up and waking up the entire family; go away. “‘He’s not going to give you anything because he is your friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.’”
Do you know what the man is saying? Even though he won’t get because he’s your friend, if you just stay there and keep banging long enough, he’ll do it. Now, what is he teaching us? If a man won’t give you what you need, and he’s your friend, if you don’t ask him persistently, what do you think God will give you, who is truly your friend if you’re persistent with Him? That’s the point. Even a reluctant friend will cave in to your persistent, what will a loving God do?
And then look at Luke 18, the last illustration of this. He was telling them - verse 1 - a parable to show that all times they ought to pray and not lose heart. This is persistence again; you keep praying persistently according to the Word of God and the will of God. And here’s an illustration. “There was in a certain city a judge who didn’t fear God and didn’t respect man.” He’s got a problem: he doesn’t care about God, doesn’t care about people. “And there was a widow in the city, and she kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’” Here is a poor widow who’s got no man to defend her. Somebody is trying to take everything she possesses. She asks this judge to adjudicate in her defense and protect her from whoever is trying to take away her possessions.
“And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect men, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out’” – this woman is driving me crazy; got to get rid of her.
“And the Lord said” – in verse 6 - “‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily.”
The point is this, if an unrighteous judge who doesn’t care about God and doesn’t care about you will give you what you want because you continue to ask, what will God, your heavenly Father who loves you, give you if you continue to ask Him? How much more? How much more?
So, prayer – true intercession – is generated by the Word of God, grounded in the will of God, and characterized by fervency. Now I have at least four more points for next Sunday night. Okay? Let’s pray.
Lord, we do understand how important it is to know Your will and know Your Word, and to understand that that in no way diminishes our devotion to prayer, but it excites our prayer life, for we know exactly what to pray for.
When You said to Isaiah that there was a remnant there, and while most people would reject, and they would have ears but not hear, and eyes but not see, there would still be a remnant, there would still be a holy seed, there would still be a stump. And You really, by saying that, showed him how to pray – pray for that willing heart, that hearing hear and seeing eye to embrace the truth.
And in the case of Daniel, as he looks at a nation under judgment, and he realizes that the judgment is about to end, he cries out to You with tremendous fervency to fulfill Your promise, to honor Your word, to bring righteousness where there has been sin, and to bring blessing where there has been cursing.
And, Father, we want to pray in that same fashion, encouraged and energized in our prayers by the truth, by Your Word and Your will. And continue, Lord, to instruct us in this regard so that we can line up our prayers with Your holy purposes and participate in what You’re doing. What a joy that is.
We thank You for this privilege of intercession and communion even at this moment, in the name of Christ who makes it possible, amen.
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