A couple of weeks ago, I was preaching my Sunday morning message when I was overcome by an ‘attack’ of kidney stones. It was most unpleasant and I was unable to finish my message that morning. I’m posting the part that I left un-preached here as I believe it was a rather important part of the message.–DG
The Prayers We Pray & End; Daniel 9:24
Daniel saw the Covenant colors the sun and rain have woven against the blue sky. Prayer informed by Scripture will see just such reality. Because here is what I think this is really about: Daniel was unselfish. Daniel was not praying about his own predicament. Daniel was not praying about his own situation or even that of his fellow people: they were all sinners and could do nothing but pray. Daniel was praying to God about God.
Daniel was praying about God’s final vindication, and I think, perhaps, Daniel got more than he bargained for. Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the final vindication would take place at the end, but the end involved a little more than the return of a few thousand exiles to Jerusalem. The end was a comprehensive plan that involved the complete eradication of sin, unrighteousness, opposition to God’s Kingdom, opposition to God, the final defeat of sin, the final sweeping away of transgression and the final exaltation of Truth, Righteousness and Holiness. I think once Gabriel laid these things out for Daniel in verse 24, once Daniel caught a glimpse of what was really going on in God’s plan—for that is what God showed him, not just the end of 70 years of exile, but in fact, a picture of God’s plan clear through to the end—once Daniel saw this, nothing else really mattered–thus, we hear no complaints from Daniel. God has the final word on the answers He gives to the prayers we pray.You see these things in verse 24, these six imperatives, are all things that are in violation of God and His Will, and thus we learn about the nature of the restoration God revealed to Daniel, in answer to Daniel’s prayer, would take place. God the Righteous will set things right. God’s final answer to Daniel, God’s final answer to the World is the complete crushing and defeat of sin. But how? By returning exiles to Jerusalem? Hardly. Scripture shows there is only one way for these things to be brought about: The Cross. PT Forsyth wrote, “The Cross of Christ is God’s last judgment on all sin, for its destruction by a realm of infinite grace and love. It is the last resource of the Almighty Holiness; and His last resource is the end of all things—which is now always at hand in a kingdom both coming and come.” (183)Ronald Wallace too writes: “We have therefore to ask whether there are any cogent reasons why we should not simply acknowledge that this passage describes much more fittingly what happened through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We must remember above all, that this passage does not belong merely to a single book about whose origins scholars disagree. It belongs to a book incorporated within a whole body of Holy Scripture in which all vision and prophet (verse 24) has its seal set on it, not by the suffering of Onias or by the exploits of the Maccabees, but by Jesus Christ…The ordinary Christian cannot possibly read all these phrases without also seriously asking: Does this not refer to what happened during the life and death of Jesus himself? The church has for centuries take this view, and one notable commentator calls this especially a ‘Christ-saturated passage.’”165-166In other words: “Daniel I’m not just going to fix broken Israel, I’m going to redeem the entire world. I’m not just going to deal with your sin and Israel’s sin, but I’m going to deal with the entire enterprise of sin in the world. I’m not just going to bring you back to your land, I’m going to bring the entire world back to My Land.” History and Scripture have born this out that only in Christ has sin been finally and forever crushed beneath the heal and hand of God. John wrote, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the entire world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV).If Daniel did anything ‘wrong’ it’s that his prayer was too small. God corrects this by expanding Daniel’s vision, by expanding his understanding of what He is doing. When Daniel’s understanding was corrected, his prayers could take on new shape.
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Daniel was praying that God remember His own Word, Daniel was praying unselfishly that God would do what God is going to do regardless of how we feel or think. Daniel, in short, is concerned here that God’s will be done, that His Kingdom come. This is the nature of prayer that is informed by Scripture. I suppose it is true that we get what we pray for.
What are you praying for? Perhaps right now your prayers are too small because you have not fully understood or appreciated what God is doing, because you have not had your vision expanded by God’s Revelation. What consumes the most of your time in your prayer closet? Are you still praying for some vague expression of ‘peace’ in this world? Because peace will not come without violence and judgment in the cross and the wrath of a Holy God who hates the sin that causes un-peace.
Are you still praying for health for yourself or your family or friends? Put that health in the context of God’s plan for this world: Maybe that sickness is designed to bring about Glory for God. Maybe sickness or illness is not really the problem.
Are you still praying for shiny new things? End that prayer. Don’t pray for wealth and happiness and good luck on the lottery. Instead hunker down in the prayer closet and pray the violent prayers of the Psalms or of the Revelation or the Prophets. Don’t allow your prayers to be self-centered, egotistical and anthropocentric. Pray out of the depth of emotion for the Will and Kingdom of God to come upon this earth. Pray for God’s final vindication of Christ to be revealed!
I think we spend too much time in church praying for simple things like: God help America to be a better place to live. God help our leaders. God help. How about we start praying some things strange to our sensibilities like: God overthrow Your Enemies, Not America’s Enemies, but God’s. Or: God, Send Your Messiah to the Earth and usher in Your Kingdom and all Your glory! Or: God, Turn the Church upside down and shake out all of the filth, all the lukewarm (th), all the false prophets and false doctrine. Lord, purify your church because Judgment begins with the House of God. Lord, may your Word spread rapidly in our community! Lord, prepare in us a clean heart. Lord, search us and know if there is any anxious way in us and purge us of our uncleanliness. Lord, Forgive us our Sin for you are merciful and Forgiving. Lord, shake us.
I think it is time in the church for prayers that are properly informed by Scripture to be prayed. It’s time for real prayers to be offered. It’s time for Holy Hands to be uplifted by Men who understand What responsibility God has given them to lead by example, and that He has called Men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer (1 Tim 2:9) and to lead by prayer. It is time for the Church to stop fooling around worrying about the American Stock Exchange and to start worrying about whether or not we are in keeping with God’s will and to start praying that Where He is We May also Be. It’s Time to confess and repent and fast and posture ourselves properly before a righteous and holy God. It’s time for the men of the Church, like Daniel, to search the Scripture and know and understand what God wants us to pray. Enough simple prayers. Enough nonsense prayers. Enough prayers for better days and sunshine. Enough prayers that are meaningless and mundane. Let’s pray prayers that shake heaven so that heaven will shake us. Let’s get serious about prayer that announces to the Lord of Hosts: We Welcome Your Intervention.
And let us prepare ourselves now for the answers God gives so that we will not be shaken with fear, but moved to seek God even more earnestly. Let us not tarry. God have mercy! Let us not tarry any longer! Let us pray prayers that the world can interpret in only one way: Here is a group of people who are praying for the soon return of Christ, for the Exaltation of Christ, for the Vindication of Christ. What are they doing? What do they know?