LESSON TWO * PART 1
PRAYER: PROPHECY: OLD TESTAMENT
Now get your Bibles and turn to Daniel Chapter 6, I'm going to digress from the prophetic aspect for just one lesson, and we are going to talk about prayer. I think if there has ever been a time when the Christian community needs to come back to the basic tenet of prayer, it's the day in which we live. And we will take it from the setting in Daniel. Because we like to do everything as much as we can according to the Scriptures. In Daniel Chapter 6, we find that the decree has now gone out, by virtue of the king, because of those who hated Daniel, and knew his prayer habits. Unknown to the king, they get him to sign a decree that everyone has to pray and bow their knee only to the King of the Medes and Persians. That puts Daniel on the outside doesn't it? So let's pick it up in verse 10:
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed (the decree) he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God,..."
Here is the secret I think of prayer. And he did what? He gave thanks. A lot of times we think of prayer as only asking. But what God demands first is a heart of thanksgiving. And if we can pray with thanksgiving, then we can rest assured that we are on Scriptural grounds. Now I would like for you to come on over then to Chapter 9 where again we pick up this man Daniel using the power of prayer. Now get the setting. Here's this young Jew in captivity, out of his homeland and clear out in a pagan land, strange and far from home. And yet he can give thanks. But now look at his prayer on behalf of his people Israel. As he prays in verse 4 and then goes on to say in verse 5:
"We have sinned, and have committed iniquity (he is speaking about himself and his people, the Nation of Israel, and of course that is why they are in captivity because of their rebellion.), and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: "
I won't read his whole prayer; I trust that you will do that in your spare time. But now let's come down to verse 18 as his prayer is winding down. And he is praying his heart out on behalf of his own nation. I decided to take this half hour in prayer, again, because I think that all of us are alarmed at what is going on in our country. We are alarmed about the spiritual rebelliousness, there is no interest, and really there is only one answer to it. And that is that God's people are going to have to get back on their knees.
If every born again child of God in America, would spend 10 to 20 or 30 minutes a day on their knees (couples together, or as individuals if they could do that), I know that things would start happening in our favor instead of going against us. We realize that you know what is going on. The enemy is getting to the place where they can almost push us out the side door. And they are just simply trying to make us inoperative as believers in The Book. Unless I'm convinced that the believing community gets back on their knees. And it's not all that hard. It's a habit like anything else. We will be looking at that as we go on through the lesson. So now verse 18:
"O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations (Daniel is praying on behalf of his own people Israel and the City of Jerusalem.), and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses (not because they deserve it, but why?), but for thy great mercies."
Now it is the same way for us today. We can never go before God and ask for anything because we deserve it. Everything that we get, every breath that we breathe, every heartbeat is because of the Grace of God. And so Daniel, even back here under Law, when they have no knowledge of what we call the Grace of God, yet he is calling upon the very Grace of God. Now verse 19.
"O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God:..."
Can't you hear the heart cry of this young man? He is not just uttering words. He is not just spinning a prayer wheel. He's not just counting beads. This man is pouring out his heart. And remember it's the same God you and I pray to today. We are under a whole different economy, granted, and we will go to the New Testament now and see what a difference that does make. Let's go to the Book of Philippians and come to Chapter 4. Again there is such a difference in some of these commands to pray. But here in Paul's letter to the Church, we have something that is so practical. I think I have helped people over tough spots more often by taking them to these two verses than anything else, during the time of trial and sorrow. Because here are verses that every believer can tie into. Now remember that all of this is the privilege of the believer. That is who Paul is writing to. Paul doesn't write to the unbeliever. Never! As he writes to the believer, he speaks to the unbeliever. But he writes to us the believer. And he says in verse 6:
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Let's break that tremendous verse down. "Be careful for nothing; (now the word "careful" is translated out of a Greek word that really means to be anxious, or I like to put it in even plainer language: worry about nothing. Now we can have concerns. I think there is a big difference between worrying and having concerns. Each of us have our concerns. And that is not necessarily worry. So be able to differentiate the difference. To actually sit and be a worry wart, God forbids it. You've heard the old saying, "Why worry when you can pray." Well that is so true. God doesn't want us to worry); but (instead of worrying)in every thing (what does everything mean? It means everything.
There is nothing that God has canceled out, and said,"Don't bother Me with it." I've had people tell me, "Les I can't go to God with my little problems, He doesn't want to be bothered." Yes, He does. He wants to be bothered, if that's the word you want to use) by prayer and supplication (the same word Daniel used. But what's the next two words?) with thanksgiving (I don't think it does any good to go before God and ask and ask and ask. I don't think He will pay any attention. But if we asked with thanksgiving, with that attitude of realizing that He doesn't have to do what you are asking Him for. He's going to answer you prayer according to His Grace, and Mercy. It took a long time for me to learn that. That as you pray you thank him first. Thank him for what He is going to do with your particular request. And that is exactly what Paul is referring to. And we will also see in Thessalonians that He says basically the same thing. That as we pray we do it with that heartfelt attitude of thanksgiving) let you requests be made known unto God.
You mean God doesn't know? Why sure He does. But what does He want? He wants you and I to communicate. He wants us to let Him know from our hearts what we desire and what we need.
Someone once asked me and it made me think for about a week before I could come up with an answer: "God is Sovereign, and God knows about everything, and His will is going to be accomplished anyway, why pray?" Have you ever thought of that? Why pray? I don't know if I answered correctly or not, but the answer I gave the young man was this. I said, "Look in the foreknowledge of God. He knows everything that is going to be prayed for." Have you ever thought of it like that before? Everything is based on His foreknowledge. And so He can answer prayers and it will still fit in His Sovereign will, because He knows ahead of time that you were going to ask for it. Consequently, it becomes part and parcel of His will, but He couldn't have done it had you not asked. Because His foreknowledge would have said "They are not going to ask for it anyway" That might confuse you for now, but mull that over in the days to come. That as we pray, we don't change God's mind. You can't change a Sovereign God's mind. But He's already planned everything according to the fact that you were going to pray for it.
There is another great truth that I need to bring out in this verse. In this verse we have all three of God's answers evident. You may say that you don't see any answers in here. I'm not talking about some audible voice. But when you pray, just ask yourself what kind of an answer do I expect?. Bring it into your everyday life. If a child asks a parent for something, what kind of an answer do they normally expect? Yes, no, or maybe. I can remember when I was a young lad, and I wasn't big enough to hold up one or two wheels yet. But when I asked for that new bike what do you suppose that answer was? When you get a little older. Later. Put that into this verse when we come before God with anything and everything.
Naturally we shouldn't be silly in our requests. Don't waste yours or God's time on things that you know are unnecessary. But when you come into the presence of God asking and petitioning with thanksgiving, for legitimate things, you can expect a "yes," "no," or "maybe later." Just think about that. Maybe you have a loved one that is desperately ill. You have every right in the world to come before the throne of Grace on behalf of that loved one. God may answer "yes." We have had it happen to our class at people's request, and it is just thrilling, when all of a sudden their requests are answered. It happened again the other day. A lady asked us to pray for her mother in Indiana who had just been diagnosed with cancer. Of course we prayed, that was about four weeks ago. The other night she informed me that they had done exploratory surgery on her mother and found no cancer whatsoever. That wasn't just my prayer, but that's the concerted prayers of everyone she had probably shared it with. That was an immediate "yes" answer. God may have chosen to leave her with her cancer and the answer would have been "no." She may have just gone on and become terminally ill. On the other hand, God may have said, "Now just be patient, down the road we will make her better." And that's a possibility also. It is the same way in any other request you can make. But the next verse puts the cap on this whole concept of coming before the throne of Grace with anything and everything. Even though God may say "no." And it may leave us in limbo. Look what the next verse says:
"And the peace (not with God, but the peace of God. You made peace with God the day you took His offer of salvation. That is reconciliation. Reconciliation is when you the sinner who was separated from God, was reconciled to God through the work of the Cross. Then you made peace with God. There is no longer that enmity. You're no longer an outcast. You're now His child. As you walk the Christian life, you can have an outpouring of the peace of God. It never leaves us, but I think we can have more at sometimes than others. It is the same with the filling of the Spirit. Here we are promised that as we pray, leaving everything in the Throne Room of Heaven, we can live every day knowing that the peace) of God, which passeth all understanding (it is beyond human concept to have this peace of God. And only the believer understands what that is. When you have that peace of God that passeth all understanding it ), shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Even though we may go through adverse circumstances our mental health can be kept in a balance, with the fact that God has given us the assurance of His peace. So whether God says "yes," "no," or "maybe later," we come away with a complete tranquility knowing it's in His care and that He is going to provide anything and everything that we need. Just take that with you. Whenever a crisis comes into your life, you run to these two verses and you literally claim them. And say, "Now God this is what you promised, that I can come to you with anything and everything and I'm going to thank you for what you are going to do. But whether you answer yes or no or maybe I know that I have that peace of God that passeth all understanding." What more could we ask for? As I said before, we're living in a day when I think our nation needs our prayers as never before. So I would like to take you over to I Thessalonians Chapter 5. The Apostle Paul again is writing to believers up in Greece. And they have been under intense persecution. The persecution had been so great, that they honestly thought they were in the Tribulation. Drop down to verse 16. Now imagine if you were under persecution and pressure, and then someone writes to you with what we find in this verse:
I Thessalonians 5:16,17
"Rejoice evermore," That doesn't sound right does it? Yet Paul right on target. These Thessalonian believers had this assurance, that again their God was with them. That no one could touch them without His knowing it. So Paul could rightfully write, "Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing."
When you are under persecution, that would be pretty easy to do. But see the problem here in our beloved America, is that we have all got it so good most of the time, we don't really have a need, we think, to get on our knees and spend that 10-30 minutes a day that I think God expects of every believer. He expects and wants us to communicate with Him. That takes habit. Some of you are already doing it. I've had several of you tell me this. Just imagine if every believer in America would do that. Young and old. Families.
I remember when I was a kid (and most of you do too), we used to have what we called the "Old Family Altar." Dad would read a few verses out of the Bible and they would have a circle of prayer. That was usually before we got on that very early school bus. But you don't hear that anymore. But listen, God hasn't changed. His promises are the same. And when He says, "Pray without ceasing," that's what He means. And when He says, "In everything bring Me your supplications. Bring Me the desires of your heart and bring Me your praise and thanksgiving." He still means it. He hasn't changed. II Thessalonians Chapter 2 gives another reason why we as believers should be praying extra hard. Because if you know anything about prophesy (and we'll be going back to that in our next program), we know that, or at least we are quite sure that, we are in the final hours and days of this age. We know that the whole world's system is getting ready for the man of sin; the man Anti-christ. But God has left the responsibility, the timing aspect on track so that he doesn't come on the scene before it's time to. I think He leaves it with you and I as born again believers. II Thessalonians 2:3, and I've just told you that the Thessalonians were going through such terrible persecution that they thought that they were in the Tribulation. Paul says in verse 3:
II Thessalonians 2:3
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (in other words, the beginning of the Tribulation and the coming in of the Anti-christ.) shall not come unless there come a falling away first (an apostasy or also a departure of the saints. In other words, the Anti-christ is not going to appear before the Church is gone.), and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition:
II Thessalonians 2:4
"Who opposeth (this is Paul's description from the Old Testament's description of the man, Anti-christ) and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God (we are going to see in the next few weeks how he is going to do that), shewing himself that he is God."
II Thessalonians 2:5
"(Paul says) Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?"
This is my reason for teaching as much prophesy as I do. If Paul thought prophesy was important in his day to those new believers fresh out of paganism, then how much more important it is for us to teach it, and to know it as we are approaching the hour.
II Thessalonians 2:6
"And now ye know what withholdeth (or restraineth like a dam in the river) that he (the Anti-christ) might be revealed in his time (in other words, not ahead of time. There is a restraining power on the earth tonight, that is making sure that the man, Anti-christ, does not come on the scene until it is God's time.)."
II Thessalonians 2:7
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work (it's been on the scene from day one): only he who now letteth will let, until he (that is, the hindrance) is taken out of the way."
Now, who is the "He?" It's the Holy Spirit. And where's the Holy Spirit? Indwelling the believer. So it's the believer that is the restraining power through the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Whereby we hold back this flood of iniquities that is coming on the world, in order to introduce the man of sin, the man Anti-christ. So it is up to us to stand in the gap, to hold it back. And I think the first place we have to start is on our knees in the prayer closet beseeching God.