Pray Like Daniel

Pray Like Daniel

By Ken Alvis

Who among us believes their prayer life is an A+, with no room for improvement? Clearly, we all strive to have close union with our Lord through prayer, but there are times when prayer feels stiff and distant. Fortunately, the Bible has 650 prayers that are wonderful examples that can be utilized to help us communicate with the Lord.
One of those 650 prayers occurs in the book of Daniel, in chapter 9. Daniel is now in his 80’s and was reading from the prophet Jeremiah, which prompted his prayer. Let’s look at this amazing prayer!

3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

As Daniel starts to pray, he shows us some wonderful ways to make our prayers pleasing to God. First, he concentrates and gives his full attention to the Lord. He “turned his face to the Lord God.” Often, just reading Scripture, as Daniel did, can help us focus our thoughts and push away distractions. Do you ever get distracted when you pray? If so, read Scripture before praying. This will help you focus on the Lord. Then go to the Lord in prayer.

A second characteristic is supplication. He sought the Lord by “prayer and pleas.” This kind of prayer is passionate and vulnerable. He is not going through the motions – Daniel is involved with his heart, mind, and body. Are you authentic and revealing when you pray?

Daniel shows humility through fasting and putting on sackcloth and ashes. How can we show humility in prayer? Well, if you are under the thinking that you are strong and independent, then prayer doesn’t make much sense. But when we realize how weak we are, then prayer is something we are encouraged to do often. Romans 12:12 says to “be constant in prayer.” Humility is submitting to the Lord without pride.

Finally, as we prepare to read Daniel’s prayer, notice how honest he is, how he never gives excuses. He includes himself as if he was personally responsible for Israel’s sins. As we read, notice how he includes himself with the pronoun “we.”

4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Notice Daniel’s confession of sin. He begins immediately with this. How often when we pray, do we start with our sin and then speak about it in detail to God? Daniel does, and the amazing thing is that never once in Scripture are we told that Daniel did anything wrong. I’m sure he did, he is human and a sinner, but nothing is mentioned about it in the Bible. Yet, see how Daniel identifies with the sin of his people.

7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

How can you recognize that God is not pleased with you and yet not turn from your sins and toward Him? Well, there is often nothing harder than to truly confess your sin before the Lord. God doesn’t ask us to confess our sins because He is trying to humiliate us or punish us. He wants us to be 100% real about our life because God deals with things exactly the way they really are.

That’s why we have the Bible, which is like a mirror to us. As you continue to embrace God’s Word, pretty soon you’ll see exactly what you look like, which isn’t always good, is it? This is why one of the most helpful things in your prayer life is to take a moment to face what is wrong in your life – wrong attitude, bad action, hurtful words spoken, or something else. Notice, this is where Daniel begins.

15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

Israel’s hope was only in God Himself, and this is so true today. Nothing has changed. May we humbly seek the Lord in confession, in thankfulness, and supplication.

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