Daniel 9:1-19 Daniel Sermon #13 May 8, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Title: “Praying to Reach God’s Heart”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Our country is falling apart because it is under the righteous judgment of God. We slaughter children in the womb, who are made in God’s image. We have distorted the God-ordained institution of marriage and twisted the clear God-given identities of male and female. We removed God from the center of the universe by attributing to “nature” the ability to create something out of nothing and life from non-life. And at the same time our churches have compromised God’s truth, have sought comfort and convenience over following Jesus as Lord, and have been swayed by a culture that values entertainment over evangelism, material things over missions, and dollars over discipleship.
We are in very bad shape, and therefore all these sins should push us to cry out to God. Amen?
But how should we pray for our nation? How should we pray for our own church, and for the church in America, given that we are under God’s judgment? How do we pray in order to reach God’s heart?
Daniel chapter nine is the place to go. For just as the other chapters in Daniel have helped us to know how we should live in a very wicked society, so Daniel 9 helps us to pray to God, in times when we are sinful and rebellious. Let’s read Daniel 9:1-19.
How then should we pray for our church, and for the churches of America, so that He hears and acts? How do we pray to reach God’s heart, so that He is inclined to take action? Four ways:
- Let God’s Word Fire Up and Permeate Your Prayers
What kickstarts Daniel’s prayer? It’s God’s Word, right? V. 2- when Daniel reads the Word of the Lord given to the prophet Jeremiah, that Jerusalem’s desolation would last 70 years, he responds (v. 3) by turning his face to the Lord God, and pleading with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
It was the inspired and infallible Word of God that empowered Daniel to get on his knees and cry out to the Lord in the first place, and then it was truths about God from His Word that pervaded the content of Daniel’s prayer throughout it.
Let me ask you a few questions:
How many of you sometimes find it hard to get started praying?
How many of you sometimes struggle with knowing what to say in prayer?
How many of you sometimes feel that your prayers are mostly a shopping list you bring to God?
We all wish our prayer life was more robust and energized, right?
Well let’s learn from Daniel chapter 9 that God’s Word can both empower our prayers to get them started and His Word should pervade and saturate our prayers, so that they are God-centered and that they reach God’s heart.
A. First, God’s Word can Fire Up Your Prayers
Many of the key prayers in the Bible are responses to God’s initiative. The pattern is that God reveals Himself to us, in part, so that we would communicate back to Him, in prayer.
John White, in his book Daring to Draw Near, notes that “Daniel’s prayer arose out of the tension between God’s written truth and the sinful world he saw.” That is, Daniel saw the gap between the promise of God in Jeremiah and the reality of the exiles’ situation in Babylon, and that tension or gap drove him to prayer.
If we sense the tension between God’s Word and our world, it will drive us to more fervent and believing prayer. For example, the tension between who God’s Word says we are in Christ and the reality of how we live. Does such a disconnect motivate you to plead with God in prayer, “Lord, convict me of my hypocrisy. Show me who I am in your Son. Revive me!”
Or perhaps you know the tension between the Psalmist proclaiming “Oh how I love your Word, O Lord,” and your own lukewarm attitude at times to reading your Bibles. Does such a gap drive you to cry out in prayer, “Lord, give me a renewed hunger and thirst for You and Your Life-Giving Word?” Or “Lord, your Word says that you desire that all people repent and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, yet a number of my loved ones are not believers in Jesus!”
B. Second, God’s Word should permeate your prayers
John Piper notes that “Those whose prayers are most saturated with Scripture are generally most fervent and most effective in prayer. And where the mind isn’t brimming with the Bible, the heart is not generally brimming with prayer… Jesus was pointing to it in John 15:7 when he said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” When he says, “If my words abide in you . . . ,” he means, “If my words saturate your mind . . . if my words shape your way of thinking . . . if my words are memorized and just as likely to come to your mind as advertising jingles . . . then you will pray so as to heal the desolations of the church.” So the first way to pray for the church is to go to the Book. Saturate your mind with the Bible. Pray God’s Word back to Him, and your prayer life will grow in its God-centeredness; it will reach God’s heart and incline Him to take action.
2. Let God’s Holiness Drive Your Confession of Sin
Daniel sorrowfully acknowledges at least 20 times the guilt, sin, disobedience, and rebellion of his people. And this confession is not simply rattling off a list of transgressions, like I use to do when as a Catholic I went to confess my sins to the priests. No. This is heart-felt admission of very personal and deep offenses against a Holy God, against a God who loves us.
Brothers and sisters, to confess our sins before God means that we feel broken, remorseful and guilty before God Himself!
Now think about this: do you hate your sins because they have made your life miserable, or because your sin has offended the Holy God and brought reproach on his name? I acknowledge that often when I confess my sins, I feel bad because of what that sin has done to me. We call this a self-centered confession and repentance. But when Daniel confesses his sins and the sins of his people, he is driven by how those sins are seen and felt by God. It is biblical confession; a God-centered repentance. As John Piper says, “The issue is not admitting that we have made our life miserable. The issue is admitting that there is something much worse than our misery, namely, the offended holiness and glory of God.”
Let the holiness of God drive you to a God-centered confession of your sin.
3. Throw Yourself on God’s Mercy
What does Daniel do next? He throws himself and his people upon the infinite mercies of God
- 9 “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving”
Vv. 18-19 “Because of your great mercy… Listen… Forgive…. Hear and Act… do not delay.”
Look at v. 15: “And now, O Lord our God, who didst bring thy people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand…” Daniel knew that the reason God saved Israel from Egypt was not because Israel was so good, but because He was so merciful and forgiving.
One of the best ways to pray for sinful church is to remember God’s past mercies, and be encouraged that God never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If God saved a rebellious people once at the Red Sea, he can save his people again. Therefore we should pray for Christ’s church by remembering His past mercies and His past triumphs of grace. Titus 3:5 “He saved us, not because of works of righteousness, but because of His mercy.” Think of the father in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, showing abundant mercy upon his underserving son.
Let me use three analogies to help you feel the weight of what Daniel is confessing to, as well as how he is pleading for God’s mercy, on behalf of his people:
It’s like a husband who has been unfaithful to a wonderful wife asking for his wife’s forgiveness. Picture a husband who has deliberately committed adultery again and again and now he is on his knees, weeping, begging for his wife to forgive him, though she has every right to divorce him and let him suffer the consequences. You and I are that adulterous spouse, before a loving and faithful marriage partner, bitterly owning up to all of our unfaithfulness.
It’s like a 20 year old daughter who has been living in rebellion against her parents for years, coming back home to confess her defiant attitude and her acts of disobedience. She’s owning up to all the hurt she’s caused her mom and dad, and through her tears, she’s pleading with them to forgive her and to take her back.
Or it’s like a man who has been a traitor to his country, such as Benedict Arnold, who has caused his nation much harm, now kneeling before the king or the president of the country, acknowledging his faithless, double-crossing actions, conceding that he deserves the death penalty, but placing himself in the hands of this ruler, who is both just and merciful.
And in each of these illustrations, the one that has been unfaithful and rebellious, in appealing to the person they have sinned against, adds this: “If you, in your mercy, see fit to pardon me, it will cause others to honor and exalt you; it will bring glory to you, because of this incredible mercy you have shown. This is what we must do: throw ourselves on God’s mercy, so that He will make much of His mercy, for His glory. Which leads into the fourth point…
4. We Should Appeal to God’s Zeal for His Own Glory
Daniel not only appeals to God for His mercy; he also appeals to God’s zeal for the glory of His name, his reputation, for God’s own glory is the burning center of the universe! Look:
- 4 “Who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commands”
- 14 “The Lord our God is righteous in everything he does”
- 15 “Who made a Name for yourself that endure to this day”
- 17 “For your sake, O Lord” and v. 18 “The city that bears your Name.”
- 19 “For your sake… because your city and your people bear your Name.”
Daniel appealed to God’s zeal for the glory of his own name, and that must be at the heart of our prayers as well. Most of you know that Lynn and I have two adorable grandsons. When they come to me, and they want to reach my heart to move me to do something, how do they do it? They don’t call me “Lou.” They don’t address me as “Mr. Prontnicki.” No. But when they call me “Dziadziu” (the Polish name for grandfather), then they have reached my heart. Then I will be moved to action on their behalf. How much more with God, when we pray to exalt His glory, and reach His heart!
Think of it: we, the people of God, are known by His name. And God has an infinite zeal for his own name. He will not let it be reproached and mocked indefinitely. Piper says that “God is committed to defending His own honor and glory. God is committed with explosive passion to the glory of his name and the truth of his reputation.” Therefore our prayers for our church and for our nation are ultimately not about us or America, but about God and His glory. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory.” (Psalm 115:1)
And so we should pray:
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, save us. For your name’s sake, revive our church. For your glory heal our country, O Lord.”
“Lord, move us from being a self-centered church to becoming a God-centered church!”
“Transform our hearts so that our prayers will be saturated with Your Word and Your glory!”
“Show us how we have sinned against You so that we throw ourselves on Your mercy!”
“Revive us, O Lord, and work your good pleasure and purposes in us and in our nation, for your sake and for your name. Hear us and act, we pray, amen.”