Summary: Using Daniel’s prayer as a pattern we can learn about the spirit of prayer God requires
THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
Last week we looked at how we can misuse prayer through wrong motives and wrong attitudes. Today I want to spend sometime looking at the spirit of prayer or to put it another way ‘praying biblically.’
PREPARATION FOR PRAYER.
Turn with me to Daniel 9 verses 4-19. We are going to use this prayer of Daniel as a blueprint for our own prayers. The context for this prayer of Daniel is outlined in verses 1-3 of the same chapter. Daniel, along with the people of Israel, is in exile in Babylon. It is almost 70 years since the exile had begun and Daniel states that he has been moved to pray whilst reading Jeremiah (verse1-3). When I read those first three verses I was immediately struck by the spiritual preparation that Daniel made before he sought God in prayer. He had fasted, he had mourned the plight of his people, he had put on sackcloth (a sign of mourning) and he was meditating/studying the Word of God, Jeremiah 29v10-12. I was challenged about how often I race into prayer without any preparation. How often I am in a hurry and the result is often jumbled words, no thought and no heart preparation. Not Daniel. He prepared himself to enter into the presence of God in prayer. Verse 3 reveals a reverence for prayer. Not only a reverence but an understanding of what he is about to do, namely to intercede for his people before God. Daniel did not take this task lightly or wantonly. So I believe for each of us this morning there is the first characteristic of the spirit of prayer – PREPARATION. Isn’t it amazing how long it can take some people to prepare to go out somewhere? Isn’t it amazing when teenagers suddenly become aware of their image and suddenly all sorts of products appear in the bathroom? We prepare for so many things. We take time with our appearance etc but yet we neglect to prepare for prayer. What does it reveal about our hearts and our attitude to prayer when we fail to prepare. Daniel prepared his heart by studying the Word of God, by looking around him at his people and mourning their plight. So we must prepare our hearts for prayer – with the Word of God and also by spending some time looking around us and weighing in light of Scripture what we need to pray for our people.
REMEMBER GOD IS AWESOME AND FAITHFUL.
Daniel begins his prayer by focusing on the nature and character of God. The ascription used by Daniel, ‘great and awesome God,’ is almost word for word the one used by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1.5) and may have been a common liturgical ascription in prayer. Daniel begins by focusing his heart on the majesty and sovereignty of God. He draws near to God in prayer but is mindful of whose presence he is entering in prayer. He never wants to forget the awesome majesty and power of Almighty God. Although prayer speaks of intimacy of God it does not, nor should it ever, speak of familiarity with God. There is respect, reverence and fear in this opening sentence. There is also a declaration of adoration in this opening sentence. But I want you to note also how this is counterbalanced with the phrase ‘who keeps his covenant of love.’ Daniel asserts God’s steadfast and faithful love. He is here appealing to God’s faithful promise in the covenant with His people. The people, as we will see in verse 5 following, have been faithless but God must remain faithful to His covenant and it is to this that Daniel appeals repeatedly. Daniel appeals to God’s name right at the beginning of his prayer. Turn with me to Exodus 34 verses 5-6 READ. God’s name is revealed as ‘faithful and steadfast love.’ The faithfulness and steadfast love of God is in stark contrast to the fickle and disloyal character of the people. But it is to the character of God that Daniel appeals in prayer. He begins by reminding his heart, reminding himself and those who will read this prayer, that God is awesome. That God is majestic sovereign and that God is also bound by His Word and His covenant promises to His people, even when the people have broken that covenant. Friends I want to say to you this morning that the only way for Daniel to know this was through the study of God’s Word and through personal experience of the faithfulness of God. Through the reading of the Law (the Torah) Daniel knew all about the covenant between God and Israel. Through personal experience he knew about the faithlessness of the people of God and its consequences. But he also knew of the faithfulness of God in the deliverance of his three friends from the fiery furnace and of himself from the lion’s den. So when he comes to prayer he states God’s awesomeness and appeals to God’s faithful love in keeping the covenant.