Daniel 032: Praying Within God’s Will

Dr. Andy Woods | Aug 13, 2017 | Daniel 9:4-19 | Daniel

Andy Woods

Praying Within God’s Will

8-13-17      Daniel 9:4-19          Lesson 32

Good morning everybody.  Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 9 and verse 4.  The title of our message this morning is Praying Within God’s Will.  Wouldn’t you like to learn how to do that, pray within His will?  A lot of times we pray, we don’t know if we’re being heard because we don’t know if we’re really in the will of God and yet this prayer that Daniel prays here in chapter 9 gives us the principles by which we can know that when we do pray we are within God’s will.

I want to thank Gabe Morris for filling in last week, I appreciate that.  I trust you enjoyed his ministry.  [clapping]  And if you’re visiting with us for the first time we are in the Book of Daniel. The message of the Book of Daniel is really about the times of the Gentiles. When these words were written in the 6th century the nation of Israel, the southern kingdom, in particular the tribe of Judah, was in a very difficult place having been removed from their homeland about 350 miles to the east to a place called Babylon.  It’s something that had happened to Israel despite 800 years prior to that they were resting comfortably in their own land, going all the way back to the time of Joshua.

But now something has happened, the nation of Israel, through the disciplinary hand of God has been removed from their land, they are in Babylonian captivity and so what is the plan of God, what is the program of God, what is the will of God during this difficult time?  Well, we wouldn’t know had God not raised up the prophet Daniel.  Daniel basically is raised up to give prophecies that would occur in history, give history in advance that would occur during this difficult time period.

Daniel is actually held out for us as an ethical role model, someone to imitate and emulate when you’re living outside your comfort zone.  How do you live for God when you’re a Christian and your professor is not?  How do you live for God on the college campus when you’re a Christian and the majority of people you find  yourself around are not Christians?  How do you live for God if you’re one of the few Christian members of your family and the rest of them think you’re a little bit crazy?  I just got back from visiting my family so some of these adjectives are on my mind.  But you know, it’s so easy to feel alone, to feel vulnerable and yet that’s how the nation of Israel felt during this time.  So Daniel is a role model; he’s showing us to consecrate yourself to God, live for God, don’t compromise and leave the results of your life to Him.

Chapter 1 as we’ve worked our way through it is basically an introduction to the book, it explains the captivity, it explains Daniel being taken into captivity as a mere teenager.  Chapters 2-7 we’ve worked through is organized in a particular literary structure that we’ve talked about in depth.  You might be assisted by pictures, that’s one way to remember the contents of the Book of Daniel, associate a picture, a key picture with each theme of the chapter. We’ve looked through all of these different pictures, haven’t we?  And finally we got to chapters 8-12 which is really a shift in the book.  Chapters 2-7 was a message to the Jews and the surrounding nations.  Chapters 8-12, the language shifts from Aramaic back to Hebrew.  And so chapters 8-12 is understood as basically a message aimed specifically at the  chosen people, the nation of Israel.  It’s highly prophetic.

We’ve worked our way through chapter 8, the vision of the ram and the goat.  And the last time we were together and I was with you we found ourselves in chapter 9 which is the famous prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.  Sadly most people are so eager to rush to the Seventy Weeks prophecy that they skip everything else in the chapter which is a tragic thing because in chapter 9, prior to the deliverance of the Seventy Weeks prophecy is one of the greatest prayers in the entire Bible.

In fact, I’m convinced that if we were to isolate some principles of prayer from this chapter and apply them to our prayer lives we would be astonished at the intensity and gravity and effectiveness of our prayer life.  Prayer is something that is vital to the growth of the Christian; the expectation of God to His children is that we would be people of prayer.  And yet how do you pray exactly?  Do we follow just a rote formula?  No, Jesus condemns that practice in Matthew 6.  [Matthew 6:7, “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”]

But He does say that there are principles to follow and Daniel 9 is one of those chapters that gives us tremendous principles of prayer.  We have studied, have we not, the setting, chapter 9 verses 1-2.  [Daniel 9:1, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— [2] in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”]

We saw the historical setting.  Daniel begins to pray as the Persian Empire is now in power, the empire that overthrew Babylon.  Daniel begins to pray this prayer about 538 B.C.  That date becomes very significant because it’s so obvious that Daniel is walking by faith in his prayer.  He’s praying about the temple.  The temple (as I’ll be showing you) wasn’t standing at this time; Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed it probably about 48 years earlier, and it wouldn’t be rebuilt for another 23 years.  So Daniel is in Babylon praying about a temple that didn’t exist, so obviously this is a man who took God at His Word and walked by faith and the promises of God regardless of what was happening in the physical and the material world all around him.

This date of 538 B.C. would essentially mean Daniel is in his early 80’s at this time.  So he is a man who has walked with the Lord in crisis as a teenager, he has walked with the Lord in crisis as a middle aged person; he is a man who is continuing to walk with the Lord in crisis into his 80’s.  And we see in this book a full biographical sketch of Daniel; we don’t just get a snapshot of him, we see his whole life.  And it really shows what a walk with God consistently throughout one’s life, throughout the seasons of one’s life actually looks like.

We have seen, verse 2, the prophetic setting, Daniel apparently has been studying his Bible; he had been studying the prophet Jeremiah, I gave you the exact verses Daniel had likely been looking at.  Jeremiah had prophesied just a little earlier, before the captivity; most of the prophecies anyway took place before the captivity took place.  And because Daniel was a student of Jeremiah he knew exactly how long the captivity would last because that detail was only given in Jeremiah’s writings.  He knew that the captivity would last seventy years.  And so Daniel could do the math, he could understand that they had been taken into captivity at a certain time, about 605 B.C.  The seventy year captivity was about to elapse, there was only three years or two years roughly left on the prophetic calendar.  He doesn’t know what the future is immediately for the nation of Israel but he begins to petition God, he begins to seek God because he understood the times, the signs of the times.  He understood the signs of the times because he was a student of the prophetic Scripture.

Most Christians today have virtually no idea what time it is on God’s calendar. They just live from problem to problem, they don’t understand the general season that we’re in and the reason for that is they don’t study the prophetic passages of Scripture.  Or perhaps they’re in a church environment where the pastor won’t talk about and equip them concerning prophetic passages.  Daniel was not like that; he was aware of prophecy and consequently he was aware what time it was on God’s calendar and he knew exactly what to pray, when to pray, and how to pray because of his awareness of the prophecies given to the prophet Jeremiah.

So consequently verses 3-19, after we move out of the setting Daniel starts to pray.  Now I am convinced that this prayer will make no sense to you unless you understand the covenant that God has made to the nation of Israel.  Daniel, all the way through this prayer is praying covenant language.  He’s praying about things that God articulated to the nation of Israel all the way back in the time of Abraham, 2000 B.C.  And he’s also praying things that God articulated through Moses given roughly 800 years earlier.  It was his knowledge of this covenantal structure that changed Daniel’s prayer life.  The principle to take from that is this: the better you understand the Bible, the better you understand the revealed Word of God as given in the Bible the better you know how to pray.

The Book of James, as we’ll be talking about today, talks about asking for things amiss.  [James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it   on your pleasures.”]  We petition God for things that are outside of His will, which God is not obligated to honor and the reason we do that is we don’t have an awareness of God’s plan and program for history.  We haven’t really given a lot of attention or time to the revealed Word of God as given in these 66 Books and so we really don’t know how to pray.

Daniel is not like that at all.  Daniel, when he prays is almost giving a Bible study, if you will, on the covenant.  Of course, the Abrahamic Covenant is the foundational covenant that God gave to the nation of Israel.  God, in Genesis 15 unconditionally promised to the nation of Israel three things: land, seed and blessing.  And those three provisions are developed elsewhere in more detail in the Scripture.  So the nation of Israel has and continues to be the owner of those three things.

But then God does something else about six centuries later, during the time of Moses.  He takes the nation of Israel out of Egypt, He takes them to a place called Mount Sinai and beginning in Exodus 19 He begins to articulate to the nation of Israel a completely different covenant called the Mosaic Covenant.  The Mosaic Covenant is very different than the covenant that God gave to Abraham, which is unconditional and unilateral.  When God begins to articulate the Mosaic Covenant He says “Now then, if will you indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples [for all the earth is Mine];”  He goes on and He says, then “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests” and so forth.  [19:6, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”]

And so it seems somewhat confusing that the Abrahamic Covenant is no strings attached but then all of a sudden you get to the Mosaic Covenant and strings are attached.  So which is it?  Well, the easiest conceptual tool that I can think of to explain these covenants is the difference between ownership and possession.  Ownership means the blessings, land, seed and blessing are forever yours but whether  you possess or enjoy your promises is a different matter; to enjoy those promises you have to comply with the Mosaic Covenant.  This is God’s program for Israel.  I could own a beach house in the Hamptons  (I don’t, by the way, I wish I did) but I’m so busy working I can’t really enter into the house and possess or enjoy what it is I own.  See that?

The nation of Israel, because of the Abrahamic Covenant is the owner, forever, of land, seed and blessing, but whether a generation enters into those blessings is contingent upon their response, not to the Abrahamic Covenant but to the covenant that God made to Moses at Mt. Sinai, called the Mosaic Covenant.  The Mosaic Covenant, if you want a fancy name for it, is what you call a suzerain vassal treaty.  I know that’s a fancy name but it was a common form of treaty in the time of Moses where the suzerain, the superior, promised to the vassal or the inferior, if you obey the covenant text then there are going to be lots and lots of blessing.  If you disobey the covenant text there’s going to be lots and lots of what?  Curses!

And so if you look at Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for example, you’re going to see articulated by Moses blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience.  And as the nation was rejecting the Mosaic Covenant God was not severing the nation of Israel forever.  After all, for God to do that He would have to violate what He promised through the Abrahamic Covenant, going back to 2,000 B.C.  But as the nation of Israel went into disobedience it deprived that generation of the blessing which they could have had.  It doesn’t cut Israel off forever but it deprives any given generation of the blessings they could have had and in fact promised them various curses.  Daniel understood this whole structure and that’s how he understood why the nation of Israel had gone into deportation.

In fact, when you go back and you look at Deuteronomy 28 just for a minute, Deuteronomy 28, given 800 years earlier, through Moses, God is very clear as to what would happen to the nation when she persisted in disobedience.  Deuteronomy 28 and notice, if you will, verses 49-50.  These curses are somewhat scary, they kind of roll up like a snowball and finally something would happen.  Verse 49 of Deuteronomy 28 says, “The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, [50] a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.”

Go over to Deuteronomy 28, look at verse 64, “Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.” God said through Moses look, here’s what’s going to happen when you dishonor the Mosaic Covenant and you move into idolatry; I will not cut  you off as a nation but I will send you into discipline.

It’s sort of like our own walk with the Lord in the church age.  Did you know that once saved always saved?  We’ve taught very aggressively the doctrine of eternal security, we spent 58 lessons going through that, isn’t that enough lessons to get the doctrine down; that’s a lot of lessons.  And if we’ve tried to communicate anything it’s this idea that you’re saved by grace and kept by God’s grace; nothing can take away your salvation if you have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ on your behalf.  But let me tell you something; you step out of line as a Christian “whom the Lord loves” the Lord what? “chastens.”  [Hebrews 12:6]  And sometimes the chastening of God can feel so severe that you feel almost as if God has cut you off.  But God can’t cut you off because of the doctrine of eternal security, once saved always saved.

It’s the exact same in the covenantal program with Israel; nothing can sever Israel!  Thank you Abrahamic Covenant!  However, the Mosaic Covenant is very clear that the nation can go through extreme discipline which has been well testified throughout their history.  I would even argue that they’re even under severe discipline even as I speak.  And even though they’re going under discipline and are in discipline God will never cut off the nation of Israel.  And this is the whole backdrop, this is the whole background, if you will, to Daniel’s prayer.  God was very clear, you continue on in rebellion against My covenant (and by did they do that, let me tell you).  It got so bad that they were even offering their own children, just prior to the deportation, into a fire to satisfy a pagan god named Molech.  You can’t get much worse than that, can you?

And so God did exactly what He said, I’m going to bring a nation from afar,  you’re going to be scattered,  you’re going to be taken into deportation, the prophet, Jeremiah, is very clear exactly how long the deportation is going to last, seventy years.  We gave  you the background of that seventy year number and why that’s significant the last time we were together.

And so Daniel understands what time it is; he understands that God can’t cut off the nation of Israel because of the Abrahamic Covenant.  He also knows that the nation has gone through extreme discipline and that time of discipline is about to end.  He is aware of all of that because of what Jeremiah said and Jeremiah and Daniel are both looking at what God promised 800 years later through Moses in the Mosaic Covenant at Mount Sinai.  That’s the whole backdrop for this prayer.  You can’t understand Daniel’s prayer unless you understand that background.  Daniel was effective in prayer because of his grasp and belief in the revealed will of God as given in the covenants that I have briefly gone over.

So the prayer can be divided into three parts, confession of sin, verses 3-10; acknowledgement of judgment, verses 11-14; request for divine mercy, verses 15-19.  Notice how Daniel begins with the confession of sin.  What he is saying here is God, we got what we deserved because we’re in deportation exactly like You told us You would put us into deportation if we disobeyed the covenant text.

Verse 3, if I remember correctly we covered last time so we pick it up at verse 4, Daniel 9.  “I   prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,”’ you’ll notice that Daniel begins this prayer with a confession of sin.  He doesn’t charge into the throne room of Grace demanding his rights; he basically acknowledges that God, You told us this would happen if we disobeyed; lo and behold it has happened and we are sorry.

In fact, you’ll notice that he makes two references here to the word “covenant,” at least one reference, “who keeps His covenant.”  What covenant is He talking about?  He’s talking about number 1, the Abrahamic Covenant, but more importantly the covenant which got them into the mess that they’re now in, the Mosaic Covenant.

1 John 5:14 says this about the Christian’s prayer life.  “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  God has no obligation to answer prayer requests that are outside of His will.  In fact, you wouldn’t want God to answer prayer requests that are outside of His will.  God, make me the richest man in the world.  Well, God says I don’t think I’m going to answer that one because I know what that wealth would do to your ego and pride so I’ll keep you in a different socioeconomic bracket than Bill Gates, for example.  And you can pray and pray and pray all you want and God’s hand is not moved at all because you’re asking for some­thing that He never promised, that is outside of His will.

So praise God that He doesn’t answer prayer requests that are outside of His will.  You wouldn’t want that.  As much as we throw tantrums and so forth, give me this, give me that, I mean, when we are raising our children or our grandchildren and they demand to eat ice cream sandwiches three square meals a day of ice cream sandwiches… I mean, does any sane parent grant that request?  No, because you know what an intake of ice cream sandwiches for a week straight will do to a person.   My wife says you’re going to end up looking like your father if you do that because I love ice cream sandwiches.  [Laughter]  So a parent doesn’t grant any type of petition or request.  Well, God is the same way.  He doesn’t just grant things just because we ask and demand and so forth.

Daniel understands the will of God because he understands the will of God because he understands the Word of God because he understands the covenantal structure of God and consequently he knows exactly how to pray.  He begins with a confession of sin.  We got what we deserved and he begins to shape his prayer according to what God has revealed in the covenant structure.

Take a look here at verse 5 as he continues to pray; “we” that’s a very important pronoun there, first person plural, “we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from His commandment and ordinances.”  [Daniel 9:5] What “commandments and ordinances”?  The commandment and the ordinances that God gave to who?  To Moses 800 years later.  I am fascinated by this pronoun “we.”  Charles Ryrie, in the Ryrie Study Bible, in the notes at the bottom says this: “Daniel associated himself with the sins of his people 32 times.”

In fact, this prayer is not terribly long, it goes from verse 3 to verse 19, and  yet Daniel uses the first person plural pronoun “we” 32 times.  If I look at Daniel’s life I don’t really see a lot of sin in it, do you?  I mean, it seems to me like the guy, at least the excerpts we’re given of his life, he’s walking with God, growing in God, being victorious in God, and yet here Daniel is identifying with the sins of his people with such solidarity that he doesn’t say they sin, they brought it on themselves, they got what’s coming to them, he says “we.”  Let me ask  you a question; in your personal prayer life is there more we in your prayers or more they, or them?  Look at your people, God, look at those Christians, look at them, look at how they act, forgetting the fact that we are part of a body, the body of Christ, just as Daniel recognized that he was part of a nation.

You know, in pastoral ministry you get a lot of people and they’ll come to you and say this: Man, I wish so and so were here today, they needed to hear that.  And my thought process is always well, what did you need to hear out of the sermon?  And even as the preacher there are things God corrects me on—what do I need to hear?  And I think a lot of times it’s all them, they, those, that, look at how they are acting, what about we, us, I, and you see this in Daniel; you see this solidarity with his own people.  WE have rebelled against Your commandments and Your ordinances; in other words, what he’s saying is we’re getting exactly what we deserve because we’ve rebelled against your Mosaic Covenant articulated 800 years earlier.

Notice, if you will, verse 6, “Moreover, we” see the repetition, “have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.”   What is this business here about prophets?  I mean, what is a prophet exactly?  Probably the tightest definition I could give you of a prophet is this: someone who is interested in covenant enforcement.  That’s who prophets were.   The prophets showed up during times of rebellion, and there were many times like that in the life of the nation, during times when the kings were going against the covenant, the priests were going against the covenant, the people were going against the covenant, the prophet shows up and he says you know what, you guys keep doing this you’re going to keep being cursed.  If you go back to the covenant… Jeremiah, the way he articulates it, he says, “Search for the ancient past,” go back to the beginning, go back to Sinai, go back to the revelation of God, go back to what God said He would do in terms of blessings and cursings.  Go back to that and walk in obedience to it and you’ll see the hand of God, not in terms of cursing but blessing.

The prophets filed what are called covenant lawsuits.  The Book of Hosea, chapter 4 and verse 1   says this: “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.”  Hosea says I’m filing “ a case.”  The fancy Hebrew word for this is rib, (pronounced rēb), it essentially means a covenant lawsuit; the prophet would show up and says you know what, wayward Israel, wayward kings, wayward people, wayward priests, here’s the problem.  Here’s why you’re crops don’t produce.  Here’s why you keep going more heavily into debt.  Here’s why you keep fighting wars and losing.  Here’s why the Assyrians are on the horizon and after them the Babyl­onians are on the horizon and after them the Romans are on the horizon, because you’re violating God’s covenant.  What was that covenant all about?  Deuteronomy 28, blessings and cursings.  You want to be blessed?  Obey the covenant.   You want to be cursed?  Keep on going the path you’re going and it’s going to culminate in your own deportation and your own captivity.

Now how were these prophets received?  Let me tell you something; if you were actually called of God as a prophet during this time period not only did you have a short career, you had a very short lifespan, because the people did not want to hear about their own disobedience.  2 Chronicles 36:16 summarizes it all just prior to the deportation.  It says, “But they continually,” notice that word “continually,” but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His truth and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.”  You go far enough in your rejection of prophetic voices of the captivity and the deportation can no longer be averted.

Jesus, in Matthew 23:34-35 summarized Old Testament prophets.  He says, “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, [35] so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

It was normal for the prophets to be persecuted because nobody wants to hear about the fact that they’re in the problems that they’re in because of their own choices.  You can’t blame it on something else.  The prophet would say blame it on yourself; look in the mirror.  And that message just doesn’t go over well then; it doesn’t go over well today does it.

A far more popular preacher would be someone that promises you immediate wealth and prosperity, that’s the church you max out in terms of attendance.  That’s how you get popular.  You don’t go around talking about sin and come back out of sin so consequences for simple choices can be averted.  But the reality of the situation is the prophet was there for the good of the people.  And yet the people didn’t understand that; didn’t accept that.

Quoting that great theologian Jack Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth.”  Every time I hear that line “You can’t handle the truth” I think of the Bible.  The prophets are there to help.  You go to the doctor you don’t want the doctor to tell you what you want to hear, necessarily, do you?  The doctor is there to tell you what you need to hear.  Now we understand that in the area of medicine; we understand that in the area of law, we understand that in the area of financial planning.  Why don’t we understand that in the area of spiritual things?

Uniformly throughout history the voices of the prophets are rejected.  I believe today that there are prophetic voices… now don’t get mad at me for saying that, what I mean by prophets today is I’m talking about preachers, people that are trying to direct the population of the United States of America back to God’s truth.  I believe God raises up people like that.  And  yet how are they treated?  Fundamentalist, narrow minded, bigoted, let’s pass some kind of hate speech law to get their voices off of social media, off of the internet, off radio, off television. What is going on?  People don’t want to hear, just like in this day, the voices of the prophets.   Yet God sends them out of love.

What prophetic voices are  you rejecting as a Christian?  What people has God put in your path to help you, whether publicly or privately?  And yet you just don’t want to hear what that person has to say so you drown them out, you change the subject.  If you’re honest with yourself and you’re honest with your walk with the Lord God sends you prophets and He sends me prophets all of the time but many times we don’t recognize them for the good that they can help us with because we don’t like the message.  The message is it’s your fault, you can’t blame your parents, you can’t use the abuse excuse.  I’m not denying the fact that people come from very, very difficult backgrounds today but the bottom line is at some point you started making choices and  you’re in the predicament you’re in largely because of your own habits and sinful choices.

The popular prophetic voices blame that on someone else. And accurate prophetic voice is look in the mirror, look at yourself.  That’s why prophets weren’t well accepted in their day any more than they’re accepted well in our day.  And in fact, when a prophetic voice is stifled sinful humanity rejoices.  Did you know that?  The Book of Revelation, chapter 11 and verse 10 talks about two prophets in the tribulation period and it talks about them being murdered in the city streets of Jerusalem and it talks about the whole world watching this happen.  It says in Revelation 11:10,  “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”  The prophets today are rejected; the prophets of ancient biblical history are rejected; the prophets of the tribulation period will be rejected.

I don’t know what you think about the late Jerry Falwell; I realize that you mention a name like that and you can have a mixed response; there’s things you like and there’s things you don’t like, but I’ll tell you something; I felt that he was a prophet of God.  I don’t agree with every little detail of his theology, all of his tactics, but he stood up at a time of national confusion and called the  United States back to God.  That’s what a prophet does.  Well how was he rewarded for that?  Well, he was painted in a incestuous relationship in an outhouse with his own mother and sold by one of those… sold all over the world the picture of him, through one of those pornographic magazines.  I don’t know if I need to give you the exact magazine.

I remember very specifically when Jerry Falwell died; there was an interview that came on with Christopher Hitchens; Christopher Hitchens was a well-known atheist.  Christopher Hitchens has since died but I remember Christopher Hitchens being jubilant over the death of Jerry Falwell.  And immediately my mind went to Revelation 11:10 which says, “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”  I even remember the interviewer interviewing Hitchens, the interviewer, not even a saved person, saying well shouldn’t you, before you express jubilation shouldn’t you at least give the family time to mourn?  I mean, isn’t everybody, even if you disagree with them, entitled to a decent burial?  And I remember Christopher Hitchens directly saying no, this man was a demagogue, this man was a bigot, this man was narrow minded.  And he started listing the sins of Jerry Falwell and as he was listing the sins of Jerry Falwell he said this: Jerry Falwell taught that Christians are going to be raptured to heaven before the tribulation period.

That’s what I teach!  That’s what you believe!  I didn’t realize we had gotten so far in our rebellion against God that teaching the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture means you can rejoice at a man’s death.  You know, God help us understand this!  And this is what Daniel is praying concerning these prophetic voices.  “Moreover, we” Daniel doesn’t say they, he says “we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.”

You know God is so longsuffering… do you realize how long Noah preached before the flood hit?  Genesis 6:3 says 120 years.  [Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’”]  That’s a long time; that’s half the length of the duration (roughly) of the United States of America.  And let me tell you something about that crowd; that was the most God-hating crowd probably that’s ever been assembled in the history of humanity, that pre-flood generation.  And here is the patience of God, the longsuffering of God through the prophetic voice of Noah.

Look at our country; look at the millions and millions of babies that have been killed in the womb through abortion.  I understand when I say something like that there are people that have been involved in abortions, I’m not trying to heap guilt on anybody, the grace of God is always available for any sin.  But look at how this has just gone on and on and on.  Look at how the Scripture has been totally thrown out of the public square for really what gets everybody’s attention today is someone has the outrage to post the Ten Commandments on a schoolhouse wall; oh, that will get the dander up  of folks, that would bring the lawsuits; here they come.  That’s what everybody is worried about.

Look at how we’ve treated God and look at how God keeps showing our nation grace after grace after grace after grace and prophetic voice after prophetic voice, and how we need to start praying the way Daniel prayed here in Daniel 9, “we have not listened” to prophetic voices.  That takes some humility to acknowledge that, doesn’t it.

Verse  7, “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You.”  Unlike You God, whose character is perfect, we have royally messed everything up.   You can look for holiness in heaven, Daniel says, but you’re not going to find it here amongst me and my people.  When was the last time you prayed that way, rather than a self-centered demanding this and that from God?

Look at the humility in this prayer, verses 8 and 9, “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.  [9] To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;” notice the repetition of “we” and unlike the perfect character of God which cannot sin, we, as your chosen people are in gross sin.  We are getting exactly what You said we would get.

Verse 10 he brings up the prophets again, “nor have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the” what?  “the prophets.”  God gave the Law, that was an act of grace.  Then God gave the prophets to remind the people of the Law which was an act of grace.  And then God gave them another prophet, and another prophet, even after they had mistreated all the previous prophets.  Is that not the longsuffering of God and the grace of God?

But you see, the problem is we think that because we’re basking in the grace of God the grace of God is unlimited.  You reach a point where your sin and rebellion is outside of God’s reach, where God actually gives people over, the end of the Book of Romans talks about it, over to what they want to do.  It’s an expression that appears about three times in Romans 1:18-32.  It’s one of the most frightening expressions I know of in the Scripture where it says “God gave them over.”  And I wonder with all of the blessings that we’ve had in this country, all of the spiritual light that we’ve had in this country, the various prophetic voices that we’ve had in this country, I’m wondering where we are on this continuum.  I’m wondering, are we at a point where God just says okay, do what you want, I’m not going to bother you any more.  God, help us understand this, may this type of thinking shape the way we pray and seek God and petition God.

Verses 11-14 you have Daniel acknowledging divine judgment.  Notice, if you will, verse 11, “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse” look at that word, you should underline that word curse, “so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of” what? “Moses” Daniel is not talking about the latest trendy teacher that had appeared on the scene and there were a lot of them.  He’s going back to the ancient paths, he’s going back to Sinai.  Jeremiah 6, seek the ancient paths, go back to the beginning, go back to the roots, go back to the foundation.  [Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus says the LORD, ‘stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”]

That’s why the 4th of July I love doing sermons on American history and most Christians have never heard information like this before, that the roots of the United States of America is to honor God and propagate His gospel. It’s not a matter of personal opinion, it’s The Mayflower Compact which predates the Constitution and predates The Declaration of Independence.  They Mayflower Compact is the beginning of everything.  And how we need to get back to those principles.  And yet we’re so busy and so deluded that we don’t even have the capacity (in some cases) to even think in a clear way about the past.  Daniel is all about the past.

Verse 12, “Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.”  Verse 13, “As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth.  [14] Therefore the LORD has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.”

How could we expect God to do anything different than honor His Word?  How could we expect God to do anything different other than honor the Mosaic Covenant.  That is God’s nature.  And when we live in flagrant violation to that covenantal structure we have brought the whole thing upon ourselves.  It is very interesting to me where he says we have not given “attention to Your truth.”   You know what the complaint today of the average Christian in the United States of America is?  The preacher preaches too long.  He commits the unpardonable sin by taking the service beyond 12:00 o’clock.  In our case a good half hour beyond 12:00 o’clock.

The appetite for the things of God, the appetite for the Word of God is almost something that’s an endangered species.  And yet this is the very problem that got the nation of Israel into this mess; they would not give attention to divine truth and consequently they were unaware of this calamity that had come upon them.  They should have been aware of the whole thing.  Moses spelled out 800 years in advance exactly what would happen.  Deuteronomy 28:15-68 spells it out as clear as it can be spelled out.  If you want a parallel passage Leviticus 26:14-46.

When was the last time you sat down and read those two chapters together?  You read Leviticus 26 beginning to end and then you read Deuteronomy 28 from beginning to end?  Do you know how much information you would grasp concerning the plight of Israel and why God worked in Old Testament times and today works the same way, just by understanding those chapters?  It is amazing the light that will come into our minds when we give attention to the basics which are the fundamentals.

This prayer is all about the  law of Moses; this prayer is all about the curse.  What curse?  Deuteronomy 28 is the curse.  Leviticus 26 is the curse.  Yes, there are some articulated blessings in the beginning of both chapters but the majority of those chapters deal with the curse.  This prayer is all about disobedience and why we’re getting what we deserve.  He confesses sin, he acknowledges verses 11-14 that we’re getting exactly what God said we would get.  And then fortunately, aren’t you glad, the prayer doesn’t end there?  Verses 15-19 is the request for mercy, God help, help us!  We don’t deserve it but be gracious to us one more time.

Verse 15, “You know, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have acted wickedly.”  Now  he’s not going back just to Mount Sinai, he’s going back to before Mount Sinai.  He is reminding God, in a certain sense, of God’s own faithfulness.  You’re the God that took us out of Egypt after 400 years of bondage.  Exodus 2:24 says this: “So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His” what? “covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  That’s why the captivity and the release from Egyptian bondage happened, because of the covenant of God.  And now Daniel is saying God, one more time, not on the basis of any merit we have but on the basis of Your grace.

When you pray do you think about the faithfulness of God?  Do you remember the times when everything was stacked against you, you had nobody to help you but God.  And what did God do in your life?  He showed up!  Isn’t that interesting, that God shows up when nobody else will?  And what does God want us to do in those times?  He wants us to remember those times.  This is where the discipline of journaling or writing in a diary, or taking a photograph or whatever the case may be is so helpful, because in your crisis you can remember what God did.  You can remember how He helped you.  You can remember how He blessed you.  If the details are foggy then you see it in written form, you see the date, you say WOW, you know, God is the same yesterday, today and forever, is He not.  [Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”]

And if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, if God helped me out of grace way back then what will stop Him from helping me now?  And this is what Daniel is doing.  This is the value of history.

Skipping down to verse 18,  (and don’t worry, we’ll be doing verses 15, 16 and 17 but not today.  Verse 18, “O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own,” WOW, “but on account of Your great compassion.”  What a principle that is, verse 18, approaching God, not on the basis of any merit we have but on the basis of His provision of grace; for Israel’s outworking’s it was the covenant. Daniel didn’t say hey God, I’m a prophet, You’re obligated to listen to me and after all, I’m in the process of writing one of Your books.

He totally approaches God on the basis of the provision God had made for Daniel.  That’s how we’re to pray.  We don’t go charging into the throne room of grace on the basis that somehow you know God, after all, I am the pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church and I did get some degrees at Dallas Seminary, so here’s what I have to say.  That’s not how we pray.

Hebrews 10:19-20 says, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, [20] by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.”  How do you enter the throne room of God?  His blood.  How do you enter into the Holy of Holies?  Via prayer, “through His veil, which is His flesh,” well, what if there was no bloodshed?  What if His body didn’t suffer on our behalf.  You’d have no basis to approach God; neither would I.  And when we pray we need to acknowledge this; we’re not standing here because we somehow deserve it because of denominational affiliation or loyalty or whatever.  We’re there because God has granted us provision to go into His presence.  This is all over Daniel’s prayer.  And yet so many times we have become so accustomed to the grace of God (and thank the Lord for all of it) the mercy of God that somehow we think God is obligated to hear us, forgetting the fact that we wouldn’t have any standing before God had it not been for His grace.

And by the way, have you noticed what he’s praying here for?  Verse 16, he’s praying for Jerusalem, he mentions the word “Jerusalem” twice (and by the way, Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem). Verse 17 he is praying for the sanctuary or the temple which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.  Verse 19 he is praying for the people of Israel that are in captivity.  I don’t see a lot of me, me, me, my, my, my, me, me, my, my type prayer.  I see a lot of praying the priorities of God.  He’s praying the things that are on God’s heart.  He’s praying the things that are on God’s mind.  What is God concerned about?  Jerusalem, the sanctuary or the temple and the people of Israel.  What is Daniel praying about?  The priorities of God.

It’s so convicting to read this and to compare my prayer life to this.  So many times I’m not praying about my lost neighbor that’s on their way to hell that God loves so much that He sent His Son to die for.  I’m praying for comfort, I’m praying for ease, I’m praying for something narcissistic.  And so many times our prayer lives do not reflect divine priorities.  And one of the things that’s so interesting about this to me is Daniel prays for Jerusalem, verse 16, the temple, verse 17, the people of Israel, verse 19, and how does his prayer get answered?  The Seventy Weeks Prophecy, delivered by the angel Gabriel, verses 20-23 you have the Seventy Weeks Prophecy; verses 24-27 you know what that prophecy is about?  Just take a wild guess.  Number 1, the city of Jerusalem.  Number 2, the temple.  Number 3, the people of Israel.  In fact, when you start praying divine priorities that’s when  you start getting answers to prayer.  In fact, what it says here, we haven’t gotten to it yet, it says “while I was praying,” at the beginning of my prayer an angel showed up and answered those three priorities.

Listen, you start praying the priorities of God and you start seeing rapid answers to prayer.  You pray outside the will of God, you pray for things that are fleshly, selfish, the Book of James says you ask amiss.  It’s just amazing to me how this 6th century prayer functions as such a light to our prayers, telling us exactly how to pray.  And may God help us to understand this.

You could be here today and you’ve never actually entered into the provision of God.  You don’t understand your access to God; your access to God is based on what we call the gospel; we call it the gospel because it is good news.  We call it good news because Jesus did all the work through His sacrificial death and His bodily resurrection from the dead.  He did everything to bridge the gap between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.  He came into the world to live a life in my place I couldn’t live.  He came into this world to die a death on a cross for my sins which I could never pay.  That’s called the gospel—good news.  And then He says to lost humanity do you want this gospel?  And we say to God what do I have to do?  And God says what do you have to do?  I did everything!

There’s nothing for you to do other than receive it as a free gift. You receive a free gift from God by trusting or believing in what He has promised.  That is the single condition which unites us sinful human beings to a holy God and the Spirit of God has come into the world to convict the world of their need to do this.  That’s what the Spirit does.  He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement.  And so no doubt one of the things that’s happening right now as I’m speaking people are under conviction.  How do I know that?  Because that’s what the Spirit does, that’s His job description.  And if you find yourself under conviction then our exhortation to you at Sugar Land Bible Church is to respond to the convicting ministry of Jesus Christ by trusting in His provision.  Trust is another word for believe.  You receive what He has done.  It’s not necessary for you to walk an aisle to do it, join the church to do it, give money to do it.  It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where He places you under conviction and  you respond to that the best you know how.  And if the Spirit of God is convicting then please understand that today the Bible says is the day of salvation.  The best you know how respond to what Jesus has done.  It’s a matter of privacy between  you and the Lord.  If it’s something that you want more information on I’m available after the service to talk.  Shall we pray.

Father, we are grateful for this ancient prayer, how it corrects many times the shallowness of our own prayer lives, but Your Word Father just doesn’t correct us, it moves us in the right direction.  Make us people of prayer this week as we seek to implement the guidelines of prayer that you’ve so accurately and faithfully given us here in Daniel chapter 9.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said Amen.