Thursday, March 21, 2024

I Want to Pray Like That


Have you spent any time lately in the Old Testament book of Daniel? It's powerful stuff! My Bible Study group has been spending time studying Daniel, and today’s lesson has us looking at chapters 6 and 9. You will probably be familiar with chapter 6. It’s the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. And how did Daniel respond? He prayed. That’s chapter 9.

Daniel has a lot to say to us. About things that have already taken place. And about things that are yet to take place. And Daniel has much to say to us about prayer. If you read the first part of Daniel 9, you'll find Daniel praying.

In his book The Handwriting on the Wall, Dr. David Jeremiah says, "[Daniel’s] prayer is an example of what praying ought to be."  

And I think to myself, I want to pray like that.

Daniel began his prayer by saying, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments."  (Daniel 9:4 ESV)

Daniel began with praise. With adoration. With worship. Daniel knew His God. He acknowledged God as God. In notes from a previous study of Daniel, I found these words I had written in the margin:  Daniel prayed as if God is God.

I want to pray like that.

After Daniel acknowledges who God is, he goes on to the next section of his prayer, found in Daniel 9:5-15. Once he has acknowledged God, then he confesses sin, the sin of his people. He is very specific in his confession. This is a lot more than a quick "forgive us our sins" before rushing on to make a request. It's much more than a tag line at the end of a prayer: "forgive us our sins. Amen."

"We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.  We have not listened.....To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame.....because we have sinned against you."

As I read Daniel's prayer, I realize this is how I.......should be praying. As we pray for our cities and our states and our families. As we pray for our nation and our world.  

I want to pray like that.

What's wrong with our nation is not about me pointing fingers at what they have done......the politicians and the pagans and the perverts. It's not about who is or isn't President. It's about what we have done. About how we as a nation have sinned and turned aside from God's way. I'm part of the nation. You are part of the nation. We as a nation have sinned against God.

Daniel worships. Daniel confesses. Only after that does Daniel make a request.

I want to pray like that.

Daniel begs forgiveness for his people. "O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem.......O Lord, hear.  O Lord, forgive.  O Lord, pay attention and act."  (Daniel 9:16, 19 ESV)

I want to pray like that.

Daniel's prayer was not about Daniel. It was not Daniel-centered. Daniel was not a selfish pray-er.  The focus of Daniel's prayer was the Person and the character of God.

"For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy."  (Daniel 9:18 ESV)

I want to pray like that.

Daniel's prayer is a good example. It's a good model to follow. Especially when we're tempted to point fingers at others for all the problems we see around us. Or when we're focused on ourselves instead of on others. When we fall into the "life is all about me" trap.  

We're living in tough times. But so was Daniel. He and his people were in exile in a foreign land. Even so, his focus was not on circumstances, but on God. In spite of tough times, he continued to pray God-centered, rather than self-centered, prayers.

I want to pray like that.

"Lord, teach us to pray."  (Luke 11:1 ESV)

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