Sapphire Sky

December 28, 2016

Do We Pray?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 1:09 am

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We live in a fallen, broken world that can overwhelm us. The pressures and the hurt that we see every day can often make us lose sight of our great and glorious God.

Many of us struggle to just make it through each day. Too many times, the people near us only make things worse.

Yet, through all of our struggles and our difficulties, we often forget how God tells us to respond. Indeed, this is one of the most neglected parts of our life: we need to be praying for each other!

The formal word is intercession. It is much more than simply coming to God with a list of requests. Intercession is coming to God on behalf of others. Jesus promises to be praying for us in the same way (Hebrews 7:25).

We do not pray for each other in order that their lives become better or more appealing to us. Instead, we need to be praying for each other until we understand God’s perspective toward them. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray.”1

As we are given insight into another’s life, it is easy for us to use this insight as an opportunity to feel grateful, superior, compassionate, or simply to try to figure them out. Instead, we should take these opportunities to specifically pray for them. We need to pray that God will use these events to bring us closer to Himself, and that we may show God’s greatness.

I am challenged by the example of Daniel as he prayed for his people. Daniel records an event in his life when he saw that the time for his people’s punishment was almost over. He then records (in Daniel 9:1-19) his reaction and his prayer.

 

Daniel prepared for prayer

“Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

Daniel approached God with fasting and mourning. We say that we are serious with God, yet how often do we put aside our personal comforts in order to seriously seek Him?

 

Daniel took personal responsibility for the people’s failures

Ezekiel 14 lists Daniel as one of the most righteous men in history, yet Daniel here takes personal responsibility for all of the failures of his people. He includes himself with all of their failures and wickedness:

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession” (Daniel 9:4)

we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:5-6)

 

Daniel saw their failure in contrast to God’s greatness

God is faithful, but they have rebelled:

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.” (Daniel 9:4-5)

God warned them, but they refused to listen:

“We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:6)

God is righteous, but they deserve public humiliation:

“To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.” (Daniel 9:7-8)

God is mercy and forgiveness, but they have rebelled and disobeyed Him:

“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.” (Daniel 9:9-10)

 

Daniel agreed that they are receiving the punishment they deserve

They all knew that God’s law promised severe punishment for those who disobey, yet they refused to listen:

“All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.” (Daniel 9:11)

God is only fulfilling what He promised (in Deuteronomy 28):

He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity.” (Daniel 9:12)

 

Daniel confessed that they are still not listening, even when they are punished

Even after God punished them, they still refuse to come to God:

“As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth.” (Daniel 9:13)

 

Daniel pleads to God because of His greatness

There is nothing good from them, nor are they deserving of any favor from God. Yet because of God’s greatness, Daniel pleads for His favor and forgiveness.

Knowing God’s righteousness, Daniel asks Him to turn away His anger from Jerusalem:

O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us.“ (Daniel 9:16)

Because of God’s mercy, Daniel asks Him to show favor on His temple:

“Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.” (Daniel 9:17)

Because of God’s great mercy, Daniel asks Him to restore His city:

“O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.” (Daniel 9:18)

Because of God’s reputation (for the sake of His name), Daniel asks Him to hear and to forgive His people:

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:19)

 

How does this apply to us?

We are not in Daniel’s captive nation of Israel, yet we have all turned away from God’s perfect way. We often focus on how others have failed us, but we have all failed to obey God.

We all deserve a terrible punishment for turning away from God.  Even when God punishes us, we still refuse to listen to Him. It is only by His mercy that He has given us any favor (see Romans 5:6-8).

We need to pray for each other with this perspective. We need to seek the mind of Christ so that He would draw the others closer to Himself.

“We cannot dissociate ourselves from other Christians. We have to take our place with them, bow our heads in the presence of God, and own that we have sinned. If we could but remember this always, it would cure us of railing against the people of God who have less light than we have, or than we fancy that we have.” – H.A. Ironside6

“Are [circumstances] badgering us out of the presence of God and leaving us no time for worship? Then let us call a halt, and get into such living relationship with God that our relationship to others may be maintained on the line of intercession whereby God works His marvels.” – Oswald Chambers2

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:13-16

 

Previous post: The Ram and The Goat


Daniel 9:1-19

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”


 

Daniel 9:1-2
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

The Persian army has recently conquered Babylon, and Daniel is now serving the newly appointed regent, Darius (See Daniel 5-6). Daniel read Jeremiah’s prophecy and observed that God had promised 70 years of captivity in Babylon (see Jeremiah 25:11-13 and Jeremiah 29:10). To be specific, God promised that the city of Jerusalem would be desolate for seventy years. Daniel has lived in Babylon since he was taken captive as a young teenager and he realizes that seventy years are almost completed.

We do not know how much insight Daniel had of the specific timeline from Jeremiah’s prophecy, but he must have realized that the time of desolation was soon coming to an end. Yet as the time for completion draws near, Daniel has a much greater concern: God has punished his people, yet they have not come back to him. The Israelites have not repented of their evil deeds and turned back to God.

The first year of Darius was probably 539 B.C, so Daniel would have been in Babylon for about 65 years since he was captured in 604 B.C. (see here).4

This also concurrent with Cyrus becoming emperor over the land, and would have been shortly around Cyrus’ decree to allow the Jews to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1, 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Isaiah 45:1-13).

God had promised His people that if they refused to obey Him, they would be scattered among the nations (Leviticus 26). Yet He also promised to hear them when they confessed their sins and returned to Him.

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
Leviticus 26:40-42

Note that Daniel believed that the captivity would be for the literal 70 years that was prophesied through Jeremiah.

“The exile of the Jews in Babylon was no accident; it was a divine appointment, and they would not be released until the very time that God had ordained.” – Wiersbe3

 

Daniel 9:3-6
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Daniels concern for his people and for his city brings him to his knees before God. This is no casual prayer, but Daniel comes to God with fasting and the attire of the mourner (sackcloth and ashes).

Daniel prays on behalf of his people, taking responsibility for all of their sins, their failures, and their shortcomings. Daniel was personally a righteous man, but nowhere during this prayer does he lift himself up above the rest of his people.

Daniel’s entire prayer contrasts God’s greatness, perfection, and faithfulness with the total failure of the people. He is a great and awesome God. He keeps his covenant and his steadfast love with those who love Him.

The people have failed. Daniel covers every type of failure:

They sinned. They missed the mark of God’s perfect standard and are guilty.

They have done wrong. They have literally “gone off the straight path”, to follow their own desires.

They acted wickedly. They violated God’s laws.

They rebelled. They fought against God’s perfect leadership.

They turned aside from God’s commandments and rules. They knew the way of life, yet they deliberately went the other way.

They repeatedly ignored the warnings from the prophets. The prophets warned them but they would not consider nor give ear to their warnings. The prophets warned their kings, their forefathers, and all the people of the land.

“The only basis for Daniel’s approach to God was his earnest desire for God to glorify himself by displaying the riches of his mercy and grace in pardoning and restoring his guilty but repentant people to their land in fulfillment of his promise in Jeremiah 25 and 29.”5

“Too often we rush into God’s presence and ask for things, without first pausing to worship Him.” – Wiersbe4

 

Daniel 9:7-8
To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.

God’s people have been unfaithful to Him and they deserve their public humiliation. God is righteous and he scattered them across the nations because of their sin against Him.

 

Daniel 9:9-11
To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.

God is full of mercy and forgiveness, but they have rebelled against Him. They disregarded and failed to keep God’s laws, refusing to obey His voice. Therefore, they have received all of the curses and penalties from that same law. They sinned against Him.

 

Daniel 9:12-14
He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

God has kept His covenant, whereby he promised severe punishment on those who rebelled against His law. Therefore, He brought this great calamity on His faithless people, and allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and carry them off to captivity.

Deuteronomy 28 promises success if the people obey God and failure and defeat if they disobey Him.

God kept His promise and punished His people, yet they refused to repent and seek God even after being taken captive!

 

Daniel 9:15
And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

To summarize, they have sinned against the Almighty God, the one who brought His people out of Egypt. They have done wickedly!

“Why would He bring His people out of Egypt and then allow them to waste away in Babylon? Daniel knew that God had purposes for Israel to fulfill, and so he reminded God of His past mercies.“ – Wiersbe3

 

Daniel 9:16-18a
“O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name.

Finally, Daniel makes his request to God. He pleads for mercy on the city of Jerusalem and for the destroyed temple (the sanctuary). He asks God to turn His anger away from the city and to restore the temple.

The city of Jerusalem has been called by God’s own name, yet it is now desolate. He has punished His people, who represent Him, but now they live in shame and dishonor among the heathen nations. Daniel’s concern is that the name of God is honored, therefore, he appeals to God to restore His people and His sanctuary.

Daniel uses poetic imagery for requesting God’s favor: “make your face shine”, “incline your ear and hear”, “open your eyes and see”.

 

Daniel 9:18b-19
For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

“In Daniel’s mind the worst thing about Jerusalem’s fall is that the pagans would conclude that it was because of Yahweh’s inability to protect his people against the gods of Babylon.”5

In conclusion, Daniel confesses that the people do not deserve God’s blessing, but he appeals to God’s great mercy. Please hear them and forgive! Restore His people and His city which are called on His name. Daniel asks God to display His glory by restoring His people and His city of Jerusalem.


 

[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, (Discovery House Publishers, 1935), March 30, page 64

[2] Chambers, April 1, page 66

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament (David C. Cook, 2007), Daniel 9, pages 1375-1380

[4] We do not know the exact dates for when the official 70 years (as prophesied by Jeremiah) began. There are two likely possibilities, both of which are consistent with Scripture:3

  • If we consider that the captivity began when Nebuchadnezzar first attacked Jerusalem and took captives, in 606-605 B.C., then the 70 years would be completed in 536 B.C., shortly after Daniel’s prayer (which was in 539 B.C.).
  • The other possibility which is believed by most Bible scholars is that the desolation of Jerusalem began in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the temple. Therefore, the ending point would be in 515 B.C., when the temple was built and dedicated.

[5] Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 7 (Zondervan, 1985), Daniel 9, pages 106-121

[6] H.A. Ironside, Lecture 9, THE SEVENTY WEEKS, Daniel 9

 

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2 Comments »

  1. […] But Daniel was also a man of prayer. He prayed every day, even if it was against the law (see here). He prayed earnestly for his people, taking responsibility for their failures, and imploring God for forgiveness (see here). […]

    Pingback by The Coming King | Sapphire Sky — January 28, 2017 @ 9:48 pm


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