Lift your midweek with a time of Bible study and reflection.
For the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at various aspects of prayer. No matter whether we are practicing social distancing, sheltering in place, or even quarantined, we can always pray. This week, we’ll look at how it’s always a good time to pray (Daniel 6:6-10).
Previous week’s studies:
- God Answers Prayer (Acts 12:12-17)
- It’s Always a Good Time to Pray (Daniel 6:6-10)
- The Far-Reaching Effect of Prayer (1 Chronicles 22:13)
- Why Do We Need to Pray (Leviticus 18:25)
- Prayer Matters (Mark 1:35-38)
- You’re Invited (Luke 11:5-13)
- Pray with Faith the Moves Mountains (Mark 11:22-24)
This Week’s Study
Why Should God Listen? (Daniel 9:17-19)
I built a crystal radio. In the age of mp3 players and Ipads, that’s not very impressive, but I was pretty proud of myself. For those of you who have never had that particular pleasure, a crystal radio is built from an electronic crystal. It requires no power – just a tuner, a grounding wire, an antenna, and earphones and before you know it you’re listening to the radio.
One problem – crystal radios are notoriously weak. Since there is no power except the actual radio waves, the radio only picks up the strongest stations, which in my case was one news talk station. After the initial euphoria of making something that worked subsided, I realized that whoever the guy was talking on the news station didn’t have anything particularly interesting to say. So I quit listening.
Which begs the question, why should God listen to our prayers? Have you ever thought about that? He already knows what’s going on, so we are not informing him of anything. Besides, He is God. He is under no obligation to listen to or answer our prayers. We have failed him, gone our own way, rebelled against him
Why should God listen to us?
That was a question of which Daniel was painfully aware. Daniel 9 records his prayer, asking God to forgive him and the nation. He ends with a plea that God would hear his prayer, and he acknowledges the only reason God would listen.
Daniel 9:17–19 (NIV84) 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O 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 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.
The focus of Daniel’s prayer should teach us an important lesson about our prayers as well.
Prayer should be focused on God, not us.
1. We need God.
It’s not the other way around. We are not entitled to gain God’s ear. Daniel was painfully aware of this truth. He pleads for God to hear his prayer. He recognizes the situation he and the nation are in. They were completely dependent upon God for deliverance. Jerusalem had been destroyed. The temple had been leveled. Daniel and most of the leading citizens of Judah had been taken into exile, and they had brought all of this devastation on themselves.
Daniel notes all of this as he concludes his prayer, but he does not focus on just his desperate need for God.
These were “your servants,” “your sanctuary,” the City that bears “your name.” They did not come to God out of their righteousness, but Daniel prays, because of “your great mercy.”
Notice the request? Daniel notes the devastation but addresses their greatest need. They needed God.
And so do we.
It would be a little like a lifeguard who sees someone drowning in the ocean calling out for help. He grabs his rescue gear and swims out to the victim who is just about to go under. As the lifeguard reaches him and starts to slip him into a flotation vest, the drowning man says to him, “Hey, would you mind bringing me a burger and fries. And I wouldn’t mind a shake with that, chocolate if they have it. Just rush that right on out here – I’m kind of hungry.”
Obviously, that’s not what would happen. First of all, a lifeguard is not going to waste time rushing to the nearest Burger King if he sees someone drowning. Seconds matter in that situation. There is no time to lose. Rescue them now, or they die.
But in the same way, the person drowning is not going to be worried about what they are going to eat for dinner. They will have one thing on their mind – they need someone to pull them out of the water. In fact, that’s going to be the only thing on their mind. They’ll grab a burger later; right now, bring me that life vest.
Daniel realized he and his people were drowning spiritually. The physical signs were there – the devastation of Jerusalem and the temple, their exile into Babylon. But Daniel knew these were only the symptoms. What they needed most was God.
We have to come to that place in our life, where we realize our greatest need is God. Without Him, we have nothing. Without Him, nothing else matters. Prayer is our acknowledgment of our greatest need – we need God.
1. What are the greatest needs in your life?
2. How do those needs compare to your need for God?
2. That’s why God should be the focus of our prayer.
We often don’t think of prayer that way. Prayer is our opportunity to bring our requests to God, to express our needs to him. And it is. God invites us to come to him with our needs and the needs of others. Daniel does that in his prayer. Chapter 9 records his prayer for himself and his people.
But Daniel also realized their greatest need was not the restoration of Jerusalem or deliverance from exile or even the rebuilding of the temple. Their greatest need was God, so Daniel focuses his prayer on God.
Daniel 9:19 (NIV84) O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.
For your sake, … because your city and your people bear your name. And in verse17 and 18, Daniel had noted that the reason for the prayer was not that they deserved God to answer.
Daniel was clear: We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (v 18). The focus of Daniel’s prayer was not on the devastation around him or his concern for the future. The focus was on the mercy of God. Daniel’s prayer was not that God would fix the mess Judah had made so that he and the rest of the nation could be comfortable; Daniel’s prayer was the God be glorified.
That’s a whole new way to think about prayer.
I’ve seen cars that have been in a wreck and been repaired. They look nice; many of them, if you didn’t have a trained eye you wouldn’t be able to tell they had been in a wreck. But if you look close, you can see that the paint doesn’t quite match, the dent is still visible, there’s a crack here and there in the finish.
I’ve also seen cars that have been restored. They are pristine, like they just rolled off the showroom floor. All original parts, all restored to their original shine. Just visit a car show sometime, and you’ll see the difference quickly.
The difference is the focus. One car is fixed because that’s their job. The other car is fixed because that’s their passion.
What if our passion became glorifying God? What if we didn’t do things out of religious ritual or habit, but we did things because we were focused on Christ?
What if we came to worship not just to listen to the music and message, but to truly lift up the name of Jesus? What if we went to work not just as a job, but as an opportunity to serve Christ?
And what if we prayed not just to tell God what he needs to do, but instead the focus of our prayer was that God receives praise? How would that change the way we pray? It would not mean that we would not bring our requests to God – Daniel brought very specific requests to God to restore the nation. But the focus wasn’t on the nation of Judah. The focus was on God being glorified.
Think about that next time you pray, next time you go to school, next time you go to work, next time you head out to the ball game. What if the focus of everything we do was to give God glory?
1. What is your passion in life?
2. How can you make your passion be about the glory of God?