One of our primary and most important tasks in any kind of decision or dilemma is to define reality (Haggai 1:5-6). While this is hard enough to do in life, many of us find it even harder to apply in our prayer life. In the midst of a confusing time, Daniel – of Lion’s Den fame – teaches us some spiritual realities around us as we pray.
Here’s the context. The city is in captivity and on its way to ruin. The future in the balance, the people have been struggling for many years and Daniel, the one who listens to and speaks for God, is a little worried. One of his predecessors, Jeremiah, had shared that the captivity that the people of Israel would be in would last for only seventy year (Jeremiah 25:9-13). This is a long time for those living it, but through the lens of history it is not as long! Daniel had sensed that God was indicating to him that the sanctuary and the people would in fact be trampled for 2300 years (Daniel 8:14). This discrepancy not only perplexed Daniel, but deeply concerned him. 2300 years is a long time!
In the midst of his concern and because of his fear that this oppression could continue much longer than anyone anticipated, with potentially devastating consequences for everyone, Daniel faces a reality check. The starkness of the reality he is facing causes him to passionately go to God in prayer. In the midst of confusion his prayer brings clarity. From his prayer we can learn much about how we should pray.
Reality Number 1: Ultimately, we have no choice but to seek God in prayer. (Daniel 9:3)
“Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”
What else was he going to do? Daniel had no other place to turn with the size of the dilemma he was facing other than to go to God in prayer. Note not just his plea, but also his posture. He turns his face to the Lord – physically looking only to God. He begins fasting – submitting his physical state to God. He puts on the sackcloth and ashes – letting his physical appearance mirror the deep grief and turmoil of his soul. He is serious about going to God in prayer because it’s his only real option.
Reality Number 2: He acknowledges God’s goodness despite what is happening and could happen (Dan 9:4)
“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.”
God is great. He is awesome. He is faithful. And… His love is steadfast. Her Daniel is affirming not only God’s greatness and His incredible ability to keep His promise despite rebellious violation. Why’s this important? Because we need to let the real character of God – which is pure and unadulterated – provide a foundation, and thus a hope, in our prayers. If God is really who He says He is then we are able to pray with much more passion and confidence.
Reality Number 3: Righteousness belongs to God. (Dan 9:7)
“To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness”
What God chooses and what God does is always right. God only knows how to do the right things and is incapable of doing wrong things. Whether you can find a way out or not, God’s way is always the right way. It must be forever etched in our minds that God equals good. It’s almost like God is drawing a line in the sand in any conflict. He stands on one side – with righteousness always belong to Hm, and then on the other side…
Reality Number 4: Shame belongs to us. (Dan 9:8)
“To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.”
We stand – with shame belonging to us. We’re the ones who are so often wrong. We are the ones who know full well what unrighteousness looks like. We know of a wrong personally that God only knows from looking at us. Because God is righteous he can be completely vulnerable. Because we are sinful we replace vulnerability with shame. To pray into reality means that we must understand our shame to the same level that we understand God’s righteousness. The reality is that our station as we enter prayer is as shameful people.
Reality Number 5: God bridges the gap between His righteousness and our shame (Dan 9:18)
“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.”
But by God’s grace, as we exit our times of prayer we leave forgiven. Daniel prays “Incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolation and the city called by your name. We do not present our pleas to you because of our righteousness, but because of your mercy”. The incredible news for us in prayer is that as God’s character allows Him only to be righteous; it also only allows Him to be merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment every time (James 2:13). This reality of living in the kingdom is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It is a reality in any and every situation that God has bucket loads of mercy to pour onto every situation.
As you pray, let these prayers of Daniel be the foundation, the hope and the crystal clear reality of your prayer life.