How to Pray Biblically

Daniel 9

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2018

One of the main reasons our prayers are not answered is that we do not pray biblically.  If you pray for the wrong thing, your prayer will not get answered.  Some say that the only thing you need to have to pray is faith and if you have faith you can move mountains.  Jesus said so but if you pray for the wrong thing, it will not matter how much faith you have.  You could have buckets of faith and it would not do you any good.

If you pray to the wrong person, your prayer will not get answered. Some Catholics pray to saints.  Some pray five times a day (Muslims) but it does not do any good if you pray to the wrong God.

If you do not pray from your heart, your prayer will not get answered.  Some Christians treat prayer like magic, as if there were magical power in the words.  If you just say the right words, your prayer will be answered.  We teach children to “say their prayers” but saying a prayer is different from really praying.

Today, we are going to look at how to pray biblically from Daniel 9.  The chapter has two parts. This chapter contains an incredible PRAYER and an incredible ANSWER to prayer.  The prayer received a quick answer and the answer came from the angel Gabriel.  The answer contains one of the greatest prophecies in the OT, which we will look at next week.

This chapter not only contains one of the great PROPHECIES of the Bible, it contains one of the great PRAYERS of the bible.  Daniel 9 ranks with two other great prayer chapters (Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9).  Before we look at Daniel’s incredible PROPHECY, we need to look at Daniel’s incredible PRAYER.

We usually hear about the prophecy from this chapter.  We rarely hear about the prayer.  When Bible students think of Daniel 9, the think of the famous  seventy-sevens prophecy, which we will look at next week.  That prophecy is important, but it is just the last four verses of the chapter.  Most of the chapter deals with Daniel’s prayer.  In fact, two-thirds of it deals with Daniel’s prayer.

If you do not get anything else from the Book of Daniel, this book can teach you how to pray.  Many Christians struggle with prayer.  This section is very practical.  Next week, we will look at a section that has an incredibly prophecy but today we are going to get practical. Daniel was a prayer warrior.

When he was in his eighties, he prayed three times a day in a specific place in a specific posture facing a specific direction.  We saw that in Daniel 6.  He wasn’t too old to do that, and he wasn’t too busy to do that, even though he had an important job.  He worked for the government.  Few Christians today pray three times a day on their knees like Daniel did.

In this chapter, we get to see the actual words of one of Daniel’s prayers.  We get to read one of his actual prayers.  We get to listen in on an old man’s devotions.  D.L. Moody, after his first visit to England, being asked upon his return to America, “Did you hear Charles Spurgeon preach?” replied, “Yes, but better still, I heard him pray.”

We want to look at this prayer of Daniel.  It is a model prayer.  This prayer was powerful.  It changed the course of history.  It got answered quickly.  As soon as he started speaking, the angel Gabriel was on his way to answer it (Daniel 9:20-21).

Eight Principles of Prayer

Let’s look at the Daniel Prayer.  It is an unusual prayer.  It is not like many prayers today.  Today, we will look at seven principles of prayer from this chapter that are still relevant today.

Principle One – Bible study should lead to prayer

This chapter does not start with prayer.  It starts with bible study.  In fact, it was Daniel’s Bible study that prompted him to pray in the first place.  Daniel prayed in response to the word of God.  It was generated by prayer.  He prayed in response to the teaching of Scripture. Biblical prayer is a response to the Word of God.  We pray before we study the Bible but should pray after we study as well.  Daniel prayed over what he studied.

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. (Daniel 9:1-2 NIV)

There are two extremes in the church.  Some are great prayer warriors.  They love to pray.  They are good at it.  They pray for hours but they are not bible students.  Some spend hours studying the Bible but don’t do a whole lot of praying.  Their prayer life is virtually non-existent.  We should do both.  In fact, Bible study should lead to prayer.

Daniel did both.  He prayed.  He not only prayed daily.  He prayed three times a day, but he also studied the Bible, as we will see.  He was a serious student of Scripture (Daniel 9:2).  He was a Bible student.  Now his Bible looked a lot different than our Bible.   It was a scroll not a book.  Books did not exist in his day.  Everything was written on scrolls.  He had to unroll a scroll to do his devotions.

His Bible was written in Hebrew.  He did not read an English Bible.  His Bible was a lot smaller than ours.  It did not have all of the books that we have in it.  He did not have the completed canon.  He had the books of Moses.

All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. (Daniel 9:11 NIV)

Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. (Daniel 9:13 NIV)

He also had the Book of Jeremiah, because he said, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years” (Daniel 9:2 NIV)

Daniel’s Bible Study

That is interesting.  It tells us something about Daniel.  Daniel was not only a prophet.  He was a student of prophecy.  He was a genuine prophet, but he also read and studied what the other prophets wrote.  He did not learn everything by dreams and visions.  He did not learn everything from the angel Gabriel.  He did not learn everything by direct revelation.  He learned some things from bible study.  He learned some things from books.  He learned some things from research.  He read the Book of Jeremiah.  Someone who wrote the Bible read the Bible.

It also tells us something about Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was a contemporary of Daniel.  Daniel already recognized Jeremiah’s writings as Scripture.  It did not take four hundred years and some church council to decide which books were in the Bible.  The Book of Jeremiah was IMMEDIATELY accepted as Scripture after it was written.  One Bible book alludes to another Bible book as authoritative.  Daniel took what Jeremiah said literally.  What did Jeremiah say?

8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin.

10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon SEVENTY YEARS. “But when the SEVENTY YEARS are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. (Jeremiah 25:8-12 NIV)

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. 10 This is what the Lord says: “When SEVENTY YEARS are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:4-12 NIV)

Daniel did not just read Jeremiah.  He read it.  He meditated on it.  He reflected on it and he applied it to current events in his day.  He read the Bible with one hand and the newspaper in the other hand.  Jeremiah said that the Jews would be in captivity for seventy years and Daniel did the math. Daniel came to Babylon in 605 BC.

It is now 538 BC (the first year of Darius). It is about 67 years since he has been in Babylon and he knew the seventy-year captivity only had a few more years left.  That led him to pray.  He prayed that God would fulfill his promise and send the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple and God did it.

I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition (Daniel 9:2-3 NIV)

Principle Two – We should claim God’s promises when we pray

Daniel does not pray blindly.  He prays based on the promises of God.  John MacArthur says that Daniel’s prayer was generated by the Word of God and grounded in the will of God.[1]  We should pray God’s Word back to him.  There are over 3000 promises in Scripture.  This will completely change your view of prayer.  One of the greatest secrets to getting answers to your prayers is praying the promises of God.

Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7 NIV).  Our prayers get answered when our hearts and minds are filled with Scripture, and our prayer requests align with God’s will.

How to Pray the Promises of God

Let’s apply this principle to our own lives.  How do we pray God’s promises today?  There are seven specific steps to the process.

1) LEARN the promises. Read the Bible to find out what they are

2) MEDITATE on the promises.  Think about what they mean.

3) BELIEVE the promises.  If you do not believe them, they will not do you any good.

4) MEMORIZE the promises.  Hide these promises in your heart.

5) PERSONALIZE the promises.  Apply these promises to yourself.

6) VERBALIZE the promises to yourself daily.  Quote them.

7) PRAY the promises. Pray the Word of God. Claim them.

That leads to an interesting question. Why do we need to pray if God is sovereign?  If everything is already predestined, why pray?  Why do we have to pray for something that God has promised us?

Prayer and the Sovereignty of God

We should pray because God commands it. The NT ends with a prayer for the Second Coming (Revelation 22:20) but this was a conditional promise.  God said that He would restore the Jews to their land only IF they repented and turned to him.  He says this in Jeremiah and other times in the OT.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14 NIV)

“‘But IF they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—THEN when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them.

I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’” (Leviticus 20:40-46 NIV)

36 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; 37 and IF they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’

38 and IF they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; 39 THEN from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you. (II Chronicles 6:36-39 NIV)

Principle Three – Biblical prayer involves complete brokenness

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3 NIV)

True prayer involves complete humility before God.  When Daniel prayed, he went before God with brokenness and humility.  He goes before God on his knees, face to the ground.  His posture reflected humility and so did his clothing and appearance.  He wore rough clothing (sackcloth) and got himself all dirty with ashes.

In addition, he went without food.  He fasted.  That was not commanded for Daniel.  Jews only had to fast one day year, but all of this showed that Daniel was completely humble and meant business with God. This was not an on-the-go prayer that we try to squeeze into our day when we are really busy.

It was not a prayer that we do when we are in our car driving to work.  It was not a silent prayer.  It was not a short prayer, a one-liner.  This was a serious prayer.  It was a broken prayer.  It involved changing his diet, clothing, appearance and posture.

Of course, when we pray, God looks at our heart.  He does not look at our posture or what kind of clothes we wear but, in Daniel’s case, his clothing and posture and diet reflected his heart attitude.

If my people, who are called by my name, WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Principle Four – Biblical prayer involves confession of sins

We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. Daniel 9:5-8 NIV)

One of the reasons are prayers are not answered is because of unconfessed sin.  Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherish iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”  Most of this prayer is confession of sins (Daniel 9:5-15).  The request does not come until the end of the prayer.

Daniel does NOT deny the sins of the nation.  He does NOT excuse or justify them.  He confesses them.  He doesn’t let anyone off the hook (e.g., kings, princes).  He uses every possible word to describe the sin of the nation.  He calls it wickedness, rebellion, sin, wrong doing, transgression, disobedience, unfaithfulness, etc.

Principle Five – Biblical prayer involves real petition

“Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. (Daniel 9:15-18 NIV)

Prayer is not just petition.  You can pray and thank God.  You can pray and praise God, but this principle is important because today many people no longer believe in petitions.  They believe in command prayer.  Christians who believe in this philosophy do not make petitions.  They just command and declare it. They just decree and declare it.  They base it on Romans 4:17 which talks about “calling those things which are not as though they are.”

If you are sick, command the sickness to leave and declare healing.  If you are not married, just issue a decree and a husband will be found. If you are poor and need money, issue another decree and money will be found in your bank account.  If you are childless, make another command and you will have twins.[2]

The problem with that view is that Romans 4:17 is talking about God.  He is the one who calls things which are not as though they are.  We do not.  He is the Creator.  He calls things into existence which do not exist.  Daniel did not do this in our chapter.  He did not just decree and declare the Jews back in their land and the Temple rebuilt.  He made petitions and supplications to God.

Principle Six – Biblical prayer is other-oriented

Daniel does not pray for himself here.  It is not wrong to do that, but Daniel prays NOTHING for himself. He does not pray for a new house.  He does not pray for a new car.  He does not pray for a new job.  He does not pray for a wife.  He does not pray for wealth.  He does not pray for health.  He was in his eighties.  He lived before the time of modern medicine and probably had some health issues, but this was not a prayer for physical health.

This was a prayer for the needs of other people.  It is called an intercessory prayer. Those prayers focus more on the needs of other people and less on you.  It is pleading with God for someone is great need.  Jesus did that kind of prayer when he was on earth.  In fact, He still prays for us.  He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). What does that mean?  Who does he pray to, since He is God?  Who did he pray to on earth?  He prayed to the Father.

Daniel prayed for his nation.  It was a wicked, backslidden nation.  He confessed the sins of the nation.  That is something we need to do today.  The church needs intercessors.  We need the ministry of intercession in the church today, but our nation also needs intercessors.  It is America’s greatest need.

Principle Seven – Biblical prayer is God-centered

Many prayers today are not God-centered.  Many are man-centered and self-centered.  This one was God-centered.  This prayer was rooted in God’s Word.  It reveals God’s character.  Many prayers reveal little about God.  This one says a lot about God.  Note the following statements in Daniel’s prayer.

Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments (Daniel 9:4)

Lord, you are righteous (Daniel 9:7)

The Lord our God is righteous in everything he does (Daniel 9:14)

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving (Daniel 9:7)

This prayer is ROOTED in God’s Word, REVEALS God’s character and REQUESTS for God to be glorified.  Jesus’ prayers focused on this.  He prayed, “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1 NIV).  It is also what Daniel focused on.

Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city THAT BEARS YOUR NAME. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! FOR YOUR SAKE, my God, do not delay, BECAUSE YOUR CITY AND YOUR PEOPLE BEAR YOUR NAME.” (Daniel 9:18-19 NIV)

Principle Eight– Biblical prayer produces results

This prayer gets answered, as Gary Owen pointed out in our class.  We will see that next week, as we study the end of the chapter.

[1] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-12/a-prayer-of-brokenness

[2] https://www.zambianobserver.com/the-rise-of-the-false-teaching-from-decree-and-declare-movement-among-evangelicals/

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