Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When was the last time you pulled a Daniel?

Photo courtesy of Rassing
Gabriel, who I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. Daniel 9:21b.

The book of Daniel has to be one of the most fascinating in the entire Bible. Not only does it contain some of the most memorable stories (Shadrack, Meshack and Abed-nego; Daniel in the lion's den) but it also holds some of the most spellbinding visions and mind-blowing prophecies. I can't remember if it was a commentary, study note or a Bible study, but someone pointed out to me that Daniel is one of the few people (if not the only person) about whom nothing negative is said in the Bible. We all know that King David was hailed as "a man after God's own heart," but then there was that thing with Bathsheba. Moses was perhaps the greatest leader that Israel ever knew, but he also second guessed God from time to time. Peter was called the rock and is credited with some of the greatest statements in the Gospels, but he also denied Jesus three times. Daniel on the other hand seems to have no Achilles heel. Yet, in spite of his exemplary character, he is also a man of extreme humility before God.

Daniel chapter 9 contains the text of one of the prophets most incredible prayers for God's people. I believe that this prayer is a wonderful model for a prayer that God honors and also a beautiful prayer that must precede true, authentic revival. Now, more than ever, we need this kind of prayer in our nation. Here it is in it's entirety from the New American Standard Bible (accessed from www.biblegateway.com).

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,we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, 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.
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. Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 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 prophets. 11 Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 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. 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.
15 “And now, 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 been wicked.16 O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 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, but on account of Your great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.

There is so much going on in this prayer that I could, and indeed might, spend several posts "unpacking" it. However, after reading through that prayer the narrative shifts and Daniel is visited by the angel Gabriel. He has some very important material to cover with Daniel but what struck me was the phrase noted at the beginning of this post, "in my extreme weariness..." Daniel tells us that this weariness hits him at the time of the evening sacrifice which would have been about 3 pm. Now, I have to admit that 3 pm is smack dab in the middle of prime afternoon nap time but I think Daniel's weariness comes from a different source. I think Daniel is weary because he has been praying his heart out. That brought a question to my mind, one that I think is worth sharing;

When was the last time you prayed to the point of weariness? 

Prayer is one of the central spiritual disciplines throughout God's Word and Christian history. If you look in the book of Acts it seems that everything the disciples did was only done after some considerable prayer time. Even Jesus Himself, the God-Man, spent a huge amount of time in prayer. If we read the story of the Garden of Gethsemane it is clear that Jesus prayed not only to the point of weariness, but to the point of physical distress. I don't know about you, but my casual time spent at the Throne is looking less and less significant in light of these examples.

I wonder if our concept of prayer has not been polluted over the centuries of easy spiritual living in America. No longer is time spent on our knees seen as doing battle with the principalities and forces of darkness, or pleading for the life of God's people, or humbly admitting our wrongdoing and seeking the forgiveness and lovingkindness of a powerful yet compassionate God. Rather it is a cute way in which we try to get things that we want from a God who can give them, or a way in which was check a spiritual "box" a few times a week (sort of like going to church). 

Make no mistake about it, I am not pointing a finger at anyone that I am not pointing at myself on this issue. However, I think it is time we truly begin to pray. I mean, really PRAY. Pray to the point of exhaustion and then when we think we can't do it any more, pray some more and then collapse at the foot of the Throne casting ourselves on the mercy and power of God Almighty. It is interesting to note that the order was given to Gabriel to go to Daniel as soon as he began to pray. Why the delay then? Why did Gabriel, at God's command, wait until Daniel was exhausted? I admit that I don't have a solid answer for that, but what if there was something for Daniel to get out of the extended prayer time? What if there is more for us to learn during the process of prayer that would not be immediately evident should the answer be given right when we start? Maybe, just maybe, God wants us to spend time on our knees in the "prayer closet." What are those lessons? That is between you and God and they're certainly not going to come from reading one blog post, but can only be discerned through the act and discipline of prayer. So, let us weary ourselves with prayer and see just what God has for us during the journey.

Godspeed,
Christian

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