Learning from Daniel to Pray the Prayer That God Hears

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.—Dan. 9:3 (Read Daniel 9:1–13)

It is almost seventy years since Daniel came to Babylon. Now a high official in the government, he is reading Scripture one day and discovers in Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Babylonian exile would last seventy years, after which God’s people would “return to this place—Jerusalem” (25:8–11; 29:10–14). It dawns on him that God’s promises are about to be fulfilled! With evident excitement, he turns to “prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (v. 3), and in the process he leaves to us one of the great prayers of recorded history. He prays to claim the promises of God, which can only be claimed in prayer, followed by obedient action. True prayer has five parts to it, two of which we consider today, and the other three tomorrow.

True prayer begins with an apprehending adoration of God (v. 4).  Daniel expresses the privilege and pleasure of a believing relationship with God—who is “the Lord my God.” He apprehends God personally. A. W. Tozer observes that to “most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but he remained personally unknown to the individual.” Daniel recognizes three particular facts in his opening address to God:

  • Who God is in himself: the “great and awesome God,” i.e., who is sovereign over all things and to be worshiped from the heart.
  • Who God is to his people: he who “keeps his covenant and mercy,” i.e., who acts in sovereign grace to those who love him.
  • What God requires of us: that we “love Him, and keep his commandments,” knowing that anything less is sheer hypocrisy.

When we pray, we are on holy ground, like Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:5), and, like Moses, we must enter God’s presence reverently.

True prayer continues with confession of sin (vv. 5–13). Daniel emphasizes two essential elements of a sincere and genuine confession:

Daniel confesses sin in specific terms. There is nothing here of the easy, generalized “we all sin in thought, word, and deed” approach so popular today. This confesses nothing and is no better than a means of evading any real facing up to our particular personal sin. Undefined sin is unconfessed sin. And admitting “mistakes” is not repentance, nor is “moving on” reformation. Confession requires self-conviction.

Daniel confesses sin corporately for the whole people of God. This is inevitable when anyone leads a group in prayer, whether in a pulpit at a church meeting or at home in family worship. One person speaks audibly, but all participate: “We have sinned and committed iniquity” (v. 5). Daniel cites three main categories of the church’s sin:

  • Disobedience to God’s specific known commands (vv. 5, 7–9).
  • Disdain for God’s messengers and their messages (vv. 6, 10–11).
  • Denial of God’s warnings and discipline (vv. 12–13).

Daniel is here justifying God’s judgments upon his own people for their turning away from him. In Paul’s words to the Galatians, this says to them and to the world, “God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7).

This is “the sort of prayer that God hears,” says Stuart Olyott. Daniel teaches us how to pray for ourselves and for our church. He teaches us that no one truly prays until he approaches the Lord in believing, heart-felt reverence. No one will truly confess their sin until they are convicted of it in their heart of hearts. Will you look your sins in the face, like Daniel? Cry to Christ, for he will receive you—it is his promise (see Matt. 11:28ff.). May we all pray with such transparent faith, heartfelt devotion, and godly discipleship!

Prayers-Bible-KeddieTaken from Gordon Keddie’s recently published devotional book, The Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life (Crown and Covenant, 2017). I picked up the Kindle version free a few months ago and have been using it at the end of the day. It has been a wonderful blessing and given me instruction in and inspiration for a better prayer life.

This is the devotional for July 8, which is titled “Prayer That God Hears” (divided into two parts, of which this is the first part).