Summary: Prayer than makes a difference with God is prayer that first makes a difference in me
One morning during our vacation this summer, Mary and I went on a snorkel cruise. When we first got on the sailboat that morning we had a safety briefing during which time the entire crew was introduced. Among the crew was a young man named Jonah, and for a moment I thought that perhaps we should get off that catamaran, because the last time a bunch of people went sailing with a guy name Jonah, the seas got rather rough and they were about to die until they finally threw him overboard.
Those other men on the boat with Jonah that day weren’t doing anything wrong. They just happened to go to work one day when a prophet who was fleeing from God got on their boat. It wasn’t their fault that their lives were in danger. It was Jonah’s fault.
To some extent we all experience something similar in our lives where we suffer the consequences of someone else’s sin. Maybe you’re in a marriage where you’re doing your best to follow God but your spouse has rejected or rebelled against God and you have to bear the consequences of that. Maybe you’re doing the very best you can in your job to work for the Lord and not for men and you’re a model employee. But because you work for a boss who wants nothing to do with God, you’re ridiculed or even persecuted for your faith and you hate going to work every day. For some of you kids, you have probably missed recess at school sometimes because a few kids in your class aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing even though you haven’t done anything wrong.
As we saw last week, the same can be true for a nation. When God brings His judgment on a nation because they rebel against Him, the righteous often suffer right along with the wicked. And that ought to concern every one of us here this morning because we live in a country that increasingly forsakes God every day.
So the question that we’re going to deal with this morning is this:
How do I pray when it’s “not my fault”?
In order to answer that question, we’re going to look at a prayer of the prophet Daniel. Hopefully you’ll remember from last week that Daniel was taken captive and brought to Babylon during Nebuchadnezzar’s first campaign into Jerusalem in 605 BC when he is only a teenager. And most of us are probably at least somewhat familiar with his life there in Babylon. At a minimum, we at least know he was thrown into the lion’s den for his refusal to quit praying to God.
But when it comes to studying the book of Daniel, I generally find that most people are primarily interested in his prophecies that shed some important light on future events in the history of the Jews – and for good reason. Many of those prophecies were fulfilled exactly over the next 600 years of so, including one that predicted the exact date of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just a few days before His crucifixion. I know I’ve always been fascinated by a study of those prophecies.
So I’m afraid that a lot of times the passage that we’re going to study this morning becomes nothing more than just some background information that gets us to the “meat” at the end of the chapter. But, as I hope we’ll see this morning, this passage probably has a lot more relevance to our lives, and especially to our prayer lives, than the more sensational prophecy that Daniel is given in response to his prayer.
Pastor John MacArthur calls Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 “the single greatest model of prayer in the Old Testament” and compares it in importance to Jesus’ model prayer – what we usually refer to as the “Lord’s Prayer” - in Matthew 6. I’m confident you’ll see why as we study that prayer this morning.
[Read Daniel 9:1-3]
Daniel’s prayer takes place in the first year of the reign of Darius, which would put it around 538 BC. Just as Daniel had prophesied earlier, the Medes and Persians have now replaced Babylon as the major power in the region. Daniel is now an old man – probably in his 80’s. Somehow, he is given access to Jeremiah’s prophecy that we find in Jeremiah 29, one that indicates the captivity is going to last 70 years. When he reads that, Daniel realizes that the exile is going to end in just a few years.
But he looks around him and sees that the people of Judah have become very comfortable in Babylon. For the most part, nobody could really tell them apart from the rest of the culture. They had adopted the customs of the land. Many of them had opened their own businesses and conducted commerce there. And most of them took part in the pagan worship that was a part of that culture. Discerning that the people are in no condition to return to Jerusalem and to the Lord, he fervently prays to God on behalf of his people.