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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:A Godly Pattern of Prayer
Text:LD 45 Daniel 9.1-19 (LD 45 Q&A 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

 Godly Pattern of Prayer

Daniel 9.1-19; LD 45 (Q&A 117-119)


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, author and theologian Sinclair Ferguson said, “Prayer is an expression of what we know about God and what we know about ourselves.”


In other words, every time we go to God in prayer, we are making a personal testimony; we are making a profession of faith – no matter how small or great our knowledge or faith might be.


And one thing is certain, our prayers will never be able to rise above the personal knowledge we have of God from his Word. Nor will our prayers ever be able to plumb the depths of the riches of God’s grace and mercy beyond what we have personally experienced in our hearts and souls.


This assumes then, that our prayer life will grow, and it will deepen as we learn more about God and as we experience His grace. To say it a different way: we have to learn to pray. Luke 11:1 tells us that when Christ’s disciples asked him how to pray, they said – Lord, teach us how to pray as John the Baptist taught his disciples.


So even those who were the closest to Christ had to learn how to pray – and it’s almost certainly the case that whenever they heard Jesus pray, they sensed that their prayers were lacking. And so, Jesus not only taught them by example, but he gave them a Godly pattern of prayer (in what we call the Lord’s Prayer).


But as we’re going to see this morning, this “pattern of prayer” is not a rote formula, it is not a form prayer that we simply repeat over and over again. No. True prayer contains certain elements that are necessary, that must be present – as Q. 117 puts it: so that God will listen to us when we pray. God doesn’t want mere words – as flowery and eloquent as they may be.


I have a book of Puritan Prayers entitled “The Valley of Vision” that contains some of the most beautiful prayers ever written. But if an unbeliever read those prayers, it does not mean that suddenly God would unlock the gates of heaven and pout out all blessings on that person. The same would be true of me if I just read those prayers for the sake of literature.

No. In order for prayers to be heard by God, they must meet the criteria present in Daniel 9, and explained in Lord’s Day 45, Answer 117. Here we see a Godly Pattern for Prayer. We learn that:


1. True Prayer is Faithful to God’s Word

2. True Prayer Flows from a Humble Heart

3. True Prayer Trusts in God to Hear and Answer


1. True Prayer is Faithful to God’s Word

People of God, last week as we considered Q and A 116, (Why do we need to pray?) we looked at Hebrews 5:7 which said that During the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.


Clearly Jesus was a man of prayer. The same was true of Daniel. In fact, if you are familiar with the story of Daniel, then you know that there were wicked rulers in Babylon who hated Daniel, and they were aware of his prayer life (that he prayed to his God three times a day, morning noon and night) and they hatched a plan to use that against him and have him killed.  


Their plot failed, of course, but that passage showed us that Daniel prayed to God even when he knew that it could cost him his life. The prayer Daniel offers up in Daniel 9 is the longest recorded prayer in the entire Bible.


But I want to ask you, did you notice what spurred Daniel to pray this particular prayer, at this particular time? As it turns out, Daniel was reading the Word of God as it was revealed to the prophet Jeremiah. Daniel was reading his Bible.


I want to pause here to highlight the fact that that the reading of God’s Word, and the lifting up of our prayers to God, go hand-in-hand. Perhaps you wonder at times why your pastor and elders and parents emphasize personal devotions, reading the Word and praying. Is this just a tradition? Is it just a way to guilt us into reading our Bible and praying? Where do we get this idea?  


Here you can see for yourself a firsthand example, a clear pattern, that the reading of God’s Word goes hand-in-hand with our response of prayer. God speaks to us from His Word, and then we reply to God by lifting up our prayers and petitions to God in prayer.


And what exactly was Daniel reading from the prophet Jeremiah? He was reading from chapter 25 (vv. 11-12), where the Lord made known to Jeremiah that the time of Judah’s captivity was 70 years. After that, God would bring judgment upon the Babylonian kingdom and set his people free.  


Daniel would live to see that day. Daniel 1:21 tells us that he was still alive when the Babylonian empire fell to the Persians. It was under King Cyrus of Persia, who would issue the decree that God’s people were permitted to go back to Judah to rebuild the temple and the city walls. And so, Daniel realizes that the day is drawing near. The end of the exile is at hand.  


Another interesting aspect of this passage is that Daniel is reading the book of Jeremiah the prophet. Daniel himself was a mighty prophet of the Lord. God used him to speak to the Babylonian kings, to interpret dreams, and in the second half of the book of Daniel, there are many other prophesies that he makes. Yet, here he is, a prophet of the Lord, reading from Jermiah.


Matthew Henry provides some great insight into this in his commentary. He wrote: Though Daniel was himself a great prophet and one that was well acquainted with the visions of God, yet he was a diligent student of the Scriptures and thought it no disparagement to him to consult Jeremiah's prophecies. He was a great politician and prime minister of state to one of the greatest monarchs on earth and yet could find both heart and time to converse with the word of God. The greatest and best men in the world must not think themselves above their Bibles.


You see, the reading and studying of Scriptures is everyone’s business – no matter who we are. Psalm 119: 105 says, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Later in verse 142 it says: Your law is the truth. And then Jesus himself, in John 17:17 prayed for his people saying: Father sanctify them in the truth, Your Word is truth.   


Daniel was one of the wisest men to ever live; and even though he was a Jewish exile, he rose to prominence in Babylon (in a similar way that Jospeh had done in Egypt). Daniel was also one of the most distinguished and powerful men in the whole kingdom of Babylon. Yet, for all his wisdom and success and power, he continued to turn to God’s Word and to lift up prayers to God.


If that’s true of Daniel, as capable, wise and successful as he was, how much more shouldn’t this be true of us? Are we wiser than Daniel? Do we have more important work than Daniel? Are we busier than Daniel? I know we often complain that our lives are so hectic, we’re running around all day, we have no time to spare, sometimes we say we have no time to do devotions.


As one who has made those same comments, I find what Martin Luther said to be especially applicable: We’re too busy NOT to pray. We’re too busy NOT to seek out truth from God’s Word. Oswald Chambers wrote, “Remember, no one has time to pray; we have to take time from other things that are valuable in order to understand how necessary prayer is.”         


We have to convince ourselves that Bible reading and prayer is a priority, it is a healthy habit, a spiritual discipline. And it is not an end in itself – rather those personal daily devotions are merely preparatory, they are merely an appetizer, a prelude to something far greater – to corporate worship, to what we are doing now. Our individual daily worship always leads to Sunday worship.


There’s one final thing I want to make about these opening verses in Daniel 9. I mentioned earlier that upon reading his passage from Jeremiah, Daniel is made aware that the 70 -year exile is almost over. God’s people were going home! One might think that after reading this Daniel would be jumping for joy, he’d be running out in the streets to start the parade.


But instead, he prays. And notice, even though God has already prophesied that this was going to happen, Daniel still prays for God to do as he has said, to keep his covenant of love, to fulfill his promise that he has spoken in the Word. Why is that? What is he doing?


This reinforces what we heard last week Sunday, that God is a sovereign God who ordains and sustains all things. Yet he is also a God who brings about his will through means, and prayer is one of the means God uses to bring His will into reality in our lives. In that way, God’s people humbly and obediently pray God’s will, God’s promises into our daily reality. Just like God told Elijah that the 3-year drought was ending, and then he prayed 7 times for it to end, so Daniel is simply praying: “Lord God, have mercy upon your sinful people and as you have promised, bring your exiled people home.”


So that is first: we see that true prayer is faithful to God’s Word. We noted that as: 

  • Daniel read God’s Word, which prompted him to pray;
  • Daniel was not too important, too powerful or too busy to read God’s Word and pray;
  • Daniel simply prayed for God to accomplish that which He had promised to do.      


2. True Prayer Flows from a Humble Heart

Secondly, we consider that True prayer flows from a humble heart. The catechism asks: how does God want us to pray so that He will listen to us. The second part of A. 117 says: we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God's majestic presence. 


It is impossible to read any part of Daniel’s prayer without being struck by the depth and degree of his humility and contrition. Daniel begins by highlighting the hardheartedness of Israel – from the kings to the princes and to everyone living in the land: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.”  


Notice, Daniel prays in corporate fashion. Just as Christ taught his disciples to pray using the plural – Father give ‘us’ today our daily bread; forgive ‘us’ our debts; and lead ‘us’ not into temptation. Certainly, there are times when we offer up prayers for ourselves, but as children of the heavenly Father, we are called to make intercession for each other, just as Jesus did for us.


This applies when we plead for God’s grace and forgiveness. We do that individually, but also corporately, because we realize that our sins are also counted among the sins of God’s people. We are all sinners; we have a sinful nature, we possess a rebellious spirit. Although we are called God’s covenant people, we do not lay claim to that title as though we deserve it; as though we have somehow earned it. We are sinners who have transgressed God’s holy law.


By the way, this is also how we pray as Christians living in a sinful nation. Even though we may not have had an abortion or approve of the practice, yet we still are citizens of a wicked nation that practices abortion. We realize that God would be right to bring his just and righteous judgment against our nation. And so, we make intercession on behalf of our nation. We pray for God to have mercy on “us”, to withhold his judgment against “us”, that God, in his grace and power, would be patient with “us” and turn the hearts of our leaders, and fellow citizens back to himself!  


That is how Daniel prays here. It’s ironic, because time and again he proved his holiness devotion to God. And he would have been very young when Judah was taken into captivity, so the sins of rebellion and idolatry that he mentions would have been committed by kings and princes before his time. Yet he still sees himself as part of the whole community of God, as a part of the covenant people who have sinned and rebelled and are deserving of the judgment of God.  


Going on: (vs 7ff.), Daniel reiterates that God is a righteous God – not because God doesn’t know this or has forgotten this, but it’s because we need to be mindful of this. We need to remember the majesty and holiness of the God we are addressing in our prayers. But having said that, Daniel also mentions that God is merciful and forgiving (vs. 9), recognizing that if it were not for this, they would have already been swallowed up and consumed by God’s anger and wrath.


So, again and again Daniel confesses the utter sinfulness of God’s people, that they have broken covenant, they deserved this exile. And he testifies to the righteousness of God in bringing all this disaster upon them.


And then, in verse 16, Daniel implores God to turn away his anger and wrath from Jerusalem, from His city, from His holy hill because their sins have made Jerusalem an object of scorn. So, take note of that. The supreme goal and motive behind Daniel’s prayer and pleading is not selfish. He doesn’t say: please God, just end this, please bring an end to our misery for we have had enough.  No. His motive is the glory of God. Daniel prays for God to uphold His great name and reputation among the people. “Do this Lord, end this exile, so that your city, your holy hill, your people who are called by your name, may once more be the apple of your eye, and a shining light among all nations; so that the nations may know that you are God!


And then look at vv. 18-19: We do not make these requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy! O Lord listen! O Lord forgive! O Lord hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your name!


God’s glory is to be at the heart, the core of our every petition. Lord heal me, if it is to bring glory to your name. Lord spare my life and deliver me from all my fears and foes and troubles, so that I may live on and spread your glory and fame and sing the praises of your great and awesome name!   


So, what we learn here is that true prayer does not too quickly gloss over or ignore the reality and the ugliness of our sins or our sinful state. Instead, it openly acknowledges it. So, before we ask anything from God, or before we dare to think that we deserve better from God, we openly confess the truth about our sin and misery – that if God were to give us what we deserve, it would be hell. It would be eternal judgment.


But then we praise God, we magnify God that for the sake of His great name, to glorify His great ad holy name, God showed us grace and mercy in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, and Christ took upon himself the judgment that we deserved, turning away the wrath of God that was against us – all so that we could be saved.


God did that not because of who we are -- but because of who HE IS – He is faithful to keep his promises; faithful to save; faithful to bring glory to himself through the salvation of undeserving sinners like us. All praise and glory to be God!


3. True Prayer Trusts in God to Hear and Answer

We cannot go into this in detail, but in the verses which follow Daniel’s prayer, the angel Gabriel came to him “in swift flight” at the time of the evening sacrifice – which for Daniel meant that it was while he was praying. He told Daniel, I have come now to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given…


This passage is one of those very precious passages (like the book of Revelation) in that it pulls back the veil and allows us to see the inner workings of heaven as it were; it shows us how our prayers on earth are received and heard and responded to in heaven.


In this case, Gabriel tells Daniel that his prayers were heard, and an answer is coming. But here’s the thing: the answer that God would give would go way beyond that time and place. If you peak ahead to verse 25 and 26 Gabriel mentions the coming of the Anointed One – the Messiah.


See, what Gabriel is revealing to Daniel and to us, is that the reason God is bringing his people back from exile, from Babylon to Judah is to set the stage, to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. That is where God is going with this; God’s plan of salvation stands behind everything! It’s all part of something bigger, something more grand and glorious. Jesus is coming! 


See, God’s plans are much bigger than our plans. We see only in the moment, and our prayers tend to be somewhat myopic or nearsighted. So often, we can’t see beyond the current crisis; we are fixated on the problems here and now. We want relief, we want a solution, we want healing, or an end to our pain, or to be saved/spared from some great terror or trial.


And while God is fully aware of all of our needs, and while God does hear and answer our prayers, we must also realize that God does so not only with a view toward what we need now, but he always answers with a view toward what will ultimately be to our own good AND to the utmost of His glory, to advance the cause of His kingdom.


Sometimes, that means that God’s people will not be delivered; they are not healed; they will not be saved from the coming destruction. That doesn’t mean that God was not listening. It only means that this is what is best for us; this is all part of God’s bigger plan as it leads to the return of Christ, and the consummation of His kingdom. So, no matter what, we may be encouraged to know that our God does hear and answer our prayers -- for our good, and for the glory of His name. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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