Thursday, April 13, 2017

Facing down our lions


So far this week, we've seen that Daniel had self-discipline and prayed regularly, and also that he was bold to hold up God's promises in prayer and ask for God to work in a situation. When he saw a gap between the current situation and what he knew God's will to be, Daniel asked God to solve the problem.
Daniel's prayer life was so important to him, that he was willing to lose his life over it.
Wow.
Is prayer that important to us? Do we have a set time each day that we meet God on our knees in prayer? Do we pray back God's promises to Him, and expect Him to resolve the problems?

Now let's look one more time at Daniel, as he is facing his lions; we can learn from him how to face our own!
Daniel was persistent. He didn't give up, but prayed until God answered. And yes, I know that brings up a question . . . we'll get to that in a minute. (Grin) God answered his prayers quickly about the lions, but in the entire book of Daniel, we find some interesting clues to his prayer life.

The return from exile didn't happen for about seventy years. Scholars tell us that Daniel prayed for sixty years before that answer came . . . do we have the persistence to pray for something for that long? I know that many of us have long-standing petitions we have taken repeatedly to the Lord, and we know of others who are in the same boat. I found this passage truly interesting, and I would like to encourage everyone to read chapter ten of Daniel.
Seriously. It will help in this study . . .
Here are a few of the verses, if you're impatient or short of time:
A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” (Daniel 10:10-14)

We see in this chapter that Daniel was praying by the river, and saw a man clothed in brilliant apparel who walked right up to him. The people who were with him at this riverside prayer gathering were frightened and left, so only Daniel was there.

Did you get what those verses seemed to say? That on the day that Daniel started praying on a certain matter, his words were heard -- and this man, who seems to be one of the angels, was sent to him with the answer. But along the way, a demonic force pounced on this angel and they fought for twenty-one days! And while they were fighting, Daniel kept praying.

Many people believe strongly in guardian angels. Many more believe in demons and demonic forces. The scholars say that the words translated here relate to angels and demons, so in my humble opinion, I have to think that it's so. Some answers only come after persistent prayer. Twenty-one days. Sixty years.
Did you know that the man known as St. Augustine was pretty wild as a youth? That his mom prayed for him for over twenty years? Then he finally came back to the teachings of his childhood, and made quite an impact for the Lord!

Here's where we come back to that question from earlier . . . how do we know? How can we tell when we should persist, and when we should believe that God is telling us "no" or "not now"? Do we struggle with this? I'm nodding, so I think some others may be nodding their heads, too!
Paul prayed three separate times for God to change something in his life -- and finally he realized that God was saying, "I'm not going to change that particular thing, Paul. But I'll give you a special measure of my grace so that you can handle it."
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (II Corinthians 12:9)
So many things in the Word seem to be on this subject . . . remember when Jesus told His disciples not to pray like pagans, who think God will hear them because they talk so much! And Jesus told us, too, that God knows what we need even before we open our mouths to ask him.

But he also said this:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8, KJV)

Sigh.
Seems like we are presented with both sides of the coin, no?
I'm thinking of the widow we studied months back -- she wouldn't give up until Jesus said He would help her daughter. And the folks who were praying for Peter's release from prison; they didn't give up, either.
Here is what I think is the key: if it is something that we are certain from His Word, that is His will, then we don't give up. If it's what God wants. Don't give up. Ever. Pray and keep praying. If you have verses that show you what God's will is, and the present situation isn't there yet, keep on praying. Keep knocking.

The Holy Spirit has to guide us. There are some things that we will pray for, good things that we believe are the will of the Lord, that won't happen. But I believe that if God hasn't told us to stop, we shouldn't stop.
That person we are praying for to be saved, or come back to their faith? Of course, that goes without saying, we never stop there. Our marriage that needs sweetening? Don't stop praying. Other situations  or decisions will need faithful study and searching of the Word. That's the only way we can discern His will. If there begins to be a tension there, a feeling from the Spirit, well, I can't tell you what it will feel like. There are no words, I don't believe. We simply must try to continually grow closer to Him, and allow Him to speak to us in our hearts, and in His Word.

How does our story of Daniel facing his lions end?
He gets thrown in with them. Kinda feel sorry for King Darius. He never really meant for this to happen, but he was weak and gullible, and allowed himself to be flattered. The Bible says he stayed up all night worrying about Daniel!
I guess all of the wicked satraps stayed up all night partying -- Yay, Daniel is gone!
The only ones who slept were the lions and Daniel!
So, here is Darius, rushing down to the lions' den, first thing in the morning. He looks in, and there's ole Dan, reading the morning edition of the Babylonian Times, in between the snoozing lions. (Grin)
God had kept him safe, and He was glorified.

Is the point of the story that nothing bad will ever happen to folks who pray and trust God? Nope. There are lots of people who face their lions and die. This story points to the New Testament -- to someone else Who was innocent and was sentenced to death. To someone else Who trusted the Father God. To someone else Who came through His trial with six wounds, unlike Daniel, who was untouched. Who was in the grave for three days, and then rose again, defeating death and sin!

As we celebrate Easter, let us remember that whatever trial we are in, we are safe. We are loved. His presence is with us, if we are trembling with fright, or deep in despair. We can pray for twenty-one days, or for sixty years if need be, because we know that we know, that God cares and that He hears us. If we call out for deliverance and it does not come right away, we can handle it. We can deal with things of this world, because He has proven His love and commitment for us at the cross.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us,who can be against us? (Romans 8:31, NIV)
Let's press on in our prayers. When there is a gap between what is, and what God wants, let's pray! And keep praying. Don't be discouraged. Look to the cross, and then to the empty tomb -- He cares for us and has made His power available to us as we face our lions!

2 comments:

Katie Isabella said...

I took the time to read each word (I always do..heheheh) and not wait till a bit later this time, as this course of study is supremely important to me as it is to all I am sure. I sure know where each thought here is coming from. It is a common thread to us all. xx

Loris said...

This recording of Daniel's praying always stirs my heart so much. To know God is listening and sending His angel to respond to him even as he was praying! I am so grateful we have a God who sees us and hears us and is faithful to us!