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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Great and Awesome God Who Hears and Answers Prayer
Text:Daniel 9:1-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Our God Our Help in Ages Past
From Out of the Depths
We Have Not Known Thee as We Ought
I Love the Lord, for He Has Heard My Voice (stanzas 1, 2, 5, 8)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“The Great and Awesome God
                                 Hears and Answers Prayer”                                  
Daniel 9:1-27
As chapter 8 came to a close, Daniel was exhausted and ill. He had experienced a disturbing vision which the angel Gabriel had explained to him. The vision concerned the rise and fall of many kingdoms. And the vison foretold the persecution of God’s people, brought by an earthly ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. But the vision also looked ahead; it looked ahead to the final antichrist. And the perplexity and brutality of it all left Daniel absolutely exhausted. He wrote in chapter 8:27a “I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days.” 
Faced with exhausting troubles Daniel did two things: First, he searched the Scriptures. Then he poured out his soul to the Lord in prayer. By doing so he set a wonderful example for us. In all the perplexing troubles of life, how blessed we would be if we would more diligently search the Scriptures and pray!
By searching the Scriptures, Daniel tells us in verse 2, he came to realize that Jerusalem would be in captivity for seventy years. He writes, In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.”
The Scripture he is referring to is Jeremiah 25:11-12, where the Lord declares: This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.”
Although Daniel was a prophet and received dreams and visions from God, he yet searched the Scriptures. Approximately eleven years had passed since the vision of chapter 8, and during that time we can be sure that Daniel spent much time reading the Old Testament scrolls. He understood that God reveals Himself to His people through the pages of Holy Scripture. But he also realized that because God reveals His plans in Scripture, we are to pray that God’s will – that His plans – are fulfilled. We are to pray that the promises God has declared in His Word will become a reality in our lives.
The temptation for Daniel could have been to say, “I can tell that this captivity in Babylon is almost over. I can just sit back, relax and wait. The Babylonians will get the punishment they are due, and we will be able to return to Judah.” God had promised that to Jeremiah. It was in His Word. And seeing that there was an end to their captivity, seeing that the Lord would return his people to Jerusalem, Daniel could have said, “This is good. I’ll just wait a little longer and I’ll be free. We can all go back to Jerusalem, rebuild our city and get on with our lives.” But instead, Daniel prayed. In verse 3 he writes, “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
Sackcloth and ashes are not something that we are likely to use in our prayer life, but the wholehearted devotion to prayer and confession of sin, represented by sackcloth and ashes, must also mark our prayers. Consider question and answer 117 of the Heidelberg Catechism which instructs us how to pray, and much of that instruction is seen in Daniel’s prayer.
Q & A 117 - How does God want us to pray so that He will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart
to no other than the one true God,
who has revealed Himself in His Word,
asking for everything He has commanded us to ask for.
Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing,
and humble ourselves in His majestic presence.
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation:
even though we do not deserve it,
God will surely listen to our prayer
because of Christ our Lord.
That is what He promised us in His Word.
Daniel did pray from the heart to the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word. And Daniel asked for what he knew to be God’s will; he asked that God’s will would be done in allowing His people to return to Jerusalem.
Daniel also acknowledged his need and misery, hiding nothing, humbling himself in God’s majestic presence, which is what the authors of the catechism, writing centuries later, call us to do.
I’m sure you noticed how Daniel began with the confession of sin and made that confession a major part of his prayer. Verses 4 to 11 focus on confession. And did you notice this? Did you notice that not only did his prayer begin with the confession of sin, but Daniel included himself?
Daniel, like Joseph and like Enoch, is unique in that nothing evil is mentioned about him. We know the sins of Moses, David, Peter, and so many other people of God. The Bible is straight forward and honest about the sins of God’s people. But never once do we read in Scripture that Daniel sinned in any way, even though we know that he was a sinner saved by grace through faith in the Messiah, “for there is no one righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), except for the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet we understand from Scripture that Daniel lived an exemplary, holy and upright life before God.
But did you notice how often he includes himself in the confession of sin?  Look at the use of “we”
Verse 5 We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from Your commands and laws.
Verse 6 - We have not listened to Your servants the prophets…
Verse 7 - We are covered with shame—
Verse 8 – O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against You.
Verse 9 - We have rebelled against Him (God);
Verse 10 - We have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets.
Verses 11, 13, 14 and 15 also acknowledge sin, which Daniel includes himself in. And again, in verse 20 he writes, “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people… Gabriel … came to me.” Throughout the prayer, he includes himself. True, heartfelt prayer to the Lord includes the acknowledgment and confession of our sins.
I remember hearing about a pastor in a little rural town in the country many years ago. In the congregational prayer he always prayed that God would forgive the sins of New York and San Francisco. That petition was in his prayer almost every Sunday. But never once did he pray that God would forgive the sins of the people in that little, sleepy town out in the country! Daniel didn’t make that mistake. And neither should you and I. As we go to the Lord in prayer, we must include ourselves in the confession of sin.
The Guilt of Sin Removed; the Consequences Remain
The second section of Daniel’s prayer is an acknowledgment of judgment. In Verse 11 and 12 Daniel prays, Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against You. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster.”
Sometimes we seem to forget that there is a great difference between having the guilt of sin removed and the consequences of sin removed. The thief on the cross had the guilt of sin removed, but he still faced the consequences of his sin. The same is true for any criminal who believes in the Lord. The guilt is removed, but not the consequence, not the jail sentence. The drug user can be forgiven and the guilt removed, but the consequences of infection and incurable disease may still be there.
All these consequences of sin should serve as a deterrent from sin for us. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a consequence for sin. Even though Jesus paid the debt of our sin, and removed the guilt and shame from all who believe in Him alone for salvation, we still have the consequences of our sinful actions. Daniel recognized that, and so must we.
A third component of Daniel’s prayer is a plea for mercy. In verse 16 he prayed, “O Lord, in keeping with all Your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from Jerusalem, Your city, Your holy hill.” And in verse 18: “Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears Your Name. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.”
That should be the basis for all our prayer requests: We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.”  We can never approach God on our merits, for we have no merit apart from Christ. We can only approach the Father through the merits and the intercession of His Son.
Again, the catechism addresses that in Lord’s Day 45 as it teaches: “...We must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what He promised us in His Word.”  (Q&A 117)
Pleading the Promises of God
As we listen to Daniel pour out his soul to the Lord in prayer we are reminded, by way of application, that praying for God’s will to be done includes “pleading the promises” God has given us. We understand that prayer and Scripture go together, but often we tend to put the emphasis on prayer illuminating Scripture without recognizing that Scripture is the best guide for our prayers. Scripture illuminates prayer, just as prayer illuminates Scripture.
We have already seen that Daniel’s prayer sprang from an understanding of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Daniel understood that prayer puts the promises of God into action. In that way prayer is a link between God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility. 
For instance, God, in sovereign grace, promises that He will provide our daily bread. Jesus teaches us that His Father in heaven provides for the birds of the air, so will He not do so much more for us?  But Jesus also teaches us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Matthew Henry points out, “God’s promises are intended not to supersede, but to excite and encourage our prayers.” So often we have not, James 4:2 tells us, because we do not ask in prayer. God knows what we need. He promises to meet that need. But it is prayer that puts those promises of God into action.
The link between Scripture and prayer is also experienced when we pray the Scriptures back to God. In your personal devotions take a passage of Scripture and pray it back to the Lord. That is an effective way to pray with many passages of Scripture. You turn the pronouns around and focus the promises of God upon Him, with thankfulness in your heart.
As an example, take the opening verses of Psalm 23, You are my Shepherd, O LORD. Because of Your provision I lack nothing! LORD, graciously grant me rest in green pastures and quiet waters, as You have promised, for You have promised to restore my soul, O LORD. And You are the One who so graciously guides me in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake – so that Your name is glorified…” You will be blessed as you take Scripture and turn it back in grateful prayer. That, too, is part of what the Puritans called, “pleading the promises” of God.
A second application: Our prayer life reveals our relationship with the Lord. Do you remember back in Daniel 6 when the king’s court – his administrators and satraps – plotted how they could get rid of Daniel?  You remember they could find no dishonesty in Daniel’s conduct. Daniel 6:4 declares: “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”
So what did they do? They figured out that the only way they could get something against Daniel is if they could relate it to his relationship to the Lord. Daniel 6:5 records how Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’”
They convinced King Darius to proclaim the edict that any person who prayed to anyone besides the king would be thrown into a den of lions. These men were perceptive, perceptive enough to know that one’s prayer life reveals one’s relationship to the Lord. 
We know they were right, because in Daniel 6:10 we read how Daniel went home, and, as was his custom, prayed to the Lord in front of the open window facing Jerusalem. He was promptly arrested and thrown to the lions, yet preserved by God’s gracious care.
Knowing Daniel’s background, we should not be at all surprised that in the face of upsetting trials he searched the Scriptures and turned to the Lord in prayer. As we see him do that, we must ask ourselves, “What does my prayer life say about my relationship to the Lord?  Am I in tune with my Redeemer the way Daniel was?  Or perhaps does my lack of prayer, or my lukewarm prayer, show that changes are needed in my heart?  John Owen, a gifted Puritan writer in the 17th century, rightly observed, “What an individual is in secret on his knees before God, that he is. No more, no less.”
A third application is in the closing verses. They describe seventy “weeks”, or more accurately, seventy “sevens”. These closing verses of chapter 9 have been written about extensively. Some commentators have made them the focal point of Daniel’s prophecy. There are, as you might imagine, a number of interpretations of the period of time that Daniel is describing. 1
But no matter how you look at the verses they are pointing ahead to Jesus Christ. Did you notice how His identity and work of redeeming us from our sin is so clearly portrayed in verses 24 to 27? Those verses clearly point to Jesus Christ. Admittedly, sincere Christians disagree how those verses point to Christ. Some focus on how they are pointing to the decree of Cyrus that would allow the people to return to Jerusalem under Nehemiah and Ezra to rebuild the temple. Others believe there will yet be a temple built in Jerusalem with sacrifices offered there, which I believe is neither a tenable or a credible view, though it is widely held. 
But even many of those who see verse 24 as referring to the rebuilding of the temple admit that the temple, and the tabernacle that preceded it, and all the furnishings and sacrifices performed there, point to Christ. He is the Word become flesh who left the glory of heaven and tabernacled among us. (John 1:14). He has done everything verse 24 speaks about: He has put an end to transgression and sin, He has atoned for wickedness. He has brought everlasting righteousness to His people. The vision and prophecy point to Him as the final revelation from God, and He anoints – sets apart – the Most Holy Place of Heaven for all who by His grace have saving faith in Him alone.
You see, Daniel was praying for the restoration of Jerusalem, that the earthly temple would be rebuilt and would be the center of worship again. He was praying at the time of the evening sacrifice, focusing on the true worship of God. And the Lord answered His prayer with an answer that was above what Daniel could ask or imagine. In effect the Lord was saying to Daniel, “Yes, the temple will be rebuilt, but something far greater than an earthly temple is coming. My eternal Son, the Anointed One, who alone can atone for transgression, will come and tabernacle among you. He is the true temple, the only sacrifice that can take away sin, and after seventy “sevens” He will come to earth in human flesh.”
Is your faith placed in Him alone for salvation? Is He the focus of your life? Do you go to the Lord in prayer with adoration and thanksgiving as well as petitions? So may it be, today and always! Amen.
1 The word translated “weeks” in many translations literally means “seven” or a group of seven. Commentators see the groups of seven as being a reference to 490 years, not weeks. While there are different views on the exact timeframe, especially on the time of the final week (v. 27), most understand the references to the seventy sevens (or weeks) as clearly pointing to the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
When looking at formulas based on “seventy sevens” it is important not to miss the main point. The main point is that God has determined the timeframe for all of history, including the fullness of time for the birth, life, death, resurrection and return of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Sermon Outline:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God…. We do not make requests
of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy.”
                                                                                   Daniel 9:4,18c
                                 The Great and Awesome God
                                   Hears and Answers Prayer
                                               Daniel 9:1-27
I.  When faced with perplexing troubles (Dan. 8:27) Daniel did two things:
     1) He searched the Scriptures (2; Jeremiah 25:11-12)
     2) He poured out his soul to the Lord in prayer (3-19; HC Q&A
         117), which included:
            a) Confession (4-11a)
            b) Acknowledgment of deserved judgment (11b-15)
            c) A plea for mercy (16-19)
II.  Applications:
      1) Praying that God’s will be done includes “pleading the promises”
           God has given us (2; Jeremiah 25:11-12; Matthew 6:11, 25-26)
      2) Our prayer life reveals our relationship with God (3; Daniel 6:10)
      3) God answers prayer above we can ask or imagine (23-27). The
           seventy “sevens” point to Jesus and His redeeming work (24)




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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