Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Facing down our lions

We've said before that it makes no difference how experienced we are at praying. We don't need eloquence, nor do we need to adhere to a set pattern. A sincere heart, fully aware of its own sin and the mercy of a loving God is more important than whether we use flowery language or not.

I believe that Daniel can give us some help, though, if we want our prayers to please our Lord and to be effective and holy. Let's look at his prayer, as he faced the possibility of joining the lions in their den.
We find one of his prayers in chapter 9, and I think it must be similar to what he prayed as the satraps watched to see if he kept up his usual prayer habits:
 “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. 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 9:17-19)

Daniel was in a situation that he didn't want to be in. He believed that God would feel the same way about it, and he believed that God would want to change the situation.
When we are facing our own lions, we must believe the same things.

The first thing we can see about Daniel's prayer is that he came at it with a spirit of repentance. He was humble. He could have been defiant! "Hey, I've been doing things right, here! Why have you allowed me to get in this pickle?"
Instead, he was letting God know that he was not defiant. He showed his regret for the sins of his people, and was contrite.
Humility is the fear of the Lord;    its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:“In repentance and rest is your salvation,    in quietness and trust is your strength. (Isaiah 30:15a)

Daniel also showed in his prayer that he placed his hope in God's mercy. After all, we aren't worthy to demand things of a holy God. Let's not even go there. He hears and answers us because of His great love and mercy toward us.
Have mercy on me, O God,    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion    blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity    and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,    and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; (Psalm 51:1-4)

But here is something that perhaps we miss if we are not careful. Daniel also showed an awareness of the promises of God. And he uses this in his prayer. It's almost as if he is reminding God of His promises!
Let's look at a promise that God made in Deuteronomy:
When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
(The portion of verse three that says "restore your fortunes" in the NIV is translated "bring you back from captivity" in the KJV.) It's almost like Daniel is pleading with God, "Please pay attention to me, for this is what you told your people years ago!" Daniel knew his Old Testament. Well, it wasn't the Old Testament back then, but you get my drift. (Grin) He knew those words from the past, and he held them up to God. Those words made it clear to Daniel that there was a gap, a difference, in his present situation and the way that God would want it to be.
And that is where effective prayer can begin. If we are facing lions, and we recognize a situation that we know God would want to be different, that's a good start. If we see that there's a difference between our situation and what we know is His will, then we pray about that. We add the light beam of our faith to the beam of His will, and we get that laser beam we spoke of before!

But that necessitates our having knowledge of His Word! How well do we know the Book? That is how we know His will. Our prayers can be more effective if they are based on the promises He has made to us. If we want His help, we must know His promises.

Have we read the passages in the Bible that outline His plan for our marriage? Do we see a gap between what His promise for our marriage is, and what we live every day? Pray those verses, and ask His help in creating that blessed marriage that is His will for us.

Do we see a difference between what our church should be, and what it is in real life? Read His Word and pray for the church, and be a part of making that fellowship what He wants it to be.
Is there a gap in our attitudes toward others, whether Christian or unbeliever, our own ethnicity or someone different? He has instructed us on our words and behavior, and He wants unity among the believers. He wants all to hear the gospel. Pray those verses and ask for His strength as we try to change first ourselves, and then our world.

What lions are we facing? Do we know the Word well enough to find the help we need, and then to utilize that in our sincere and fervent prayers?

We can claim His promises and face down those lions. Our God shuts the mouths of lions!

More tomorrow . . .