“We simply don’t have the luxury of playing nice with prayer. Not if we want things to change. Not if we want to be free – from whatever’s keeping us held down and held back.” (Shirer, Priscilla. Fervent. p 3)
How many of us can say with confidence that we know, understand, AND practice fervent prayer? I’ve learned a lot about prayer in recent years. I understand it because I’ve experienced deep, committed prayer with wise and dedicated women who have crossed my path. I’ve seen the results first-hand. But even now I still struggle to maintain a consistent practice of it.
I know…really know…the power of prayer and its ability to usher in God’s powerful presence, so why in the world would I let it drop? Satan. I don’t like giving his name much airtime, but let’s call a spade a spade. Prayer is the single most effective offensive weapon we have in our arsenal, and he knows it. Divide and conquer. Separate the believer from her power source. Stop her from praying.
We find Daniel in chapter nine reading God’s word as spoken to Jeremiah, meditating on it, when the Spirit of conviction and revelation comes upon him and drives him to his knees. The revelation: Judah’s captivity in Babylon would last a numbered 70 years, and they were very close to completing that timeline. The conviction: Judah abandoned God, refused to listen to any of the prophets, and deserved every part of their punishment. A man dedicated to prayer already, it’s not surprising that he would pray again. And not just pray, but he fasted with burlap and ashes.
You don’t even get the sense that Daniel has really finished praying, that he’s been going at it all day, when Gabriel shows up at the time of the evening sacrifice. He’s there because a command was given in heaven. Wow. That’s powerful.
Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision. (Daniel 9:23 NLT)
Gabriel then lays out a timeline of sorts for all the events described in his visions earlier. These 70 weeks, as described in many of the Bible translations and versions, or 70 sets of 7 in others, seems to equate to years. In other words, there will be 70 sets of seven years for the time of rebellion to come to an end. These specifications have been useful for many spirited debates among scholars and theologians throughout the years, but we can be assured arguments between believers are not what God intended here. Seek what God wants you to see.
Here’s what I see in this text. I see the bulk of it focused on prayer, and I see Daniel’s prayer as not only a prayer of repentance, but one of restoration. He wants to see Israel return to the Promised Land and be fully restored as a nation. His prayer that day resulted in an immediate command from heaven, releasing a revelation. God revealed many more details of his plan for the Jews. Israel would return, rebuild, and prepare the way for Messiah.
A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Daniel 9:24 NLT)
Could Daniel have fully appreciated how expansive God’s plan for redemption really was? Daniel’s prayer claimed the very fiber of God’s heart and will for redemption, and God acted upon it immediately. God’s answer to that prayer went well beyond restoration for Israel and offered redemption for the entire world.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20 NLT)
When we pray in God’s will, when we boldly claim the Word of God and allow it to penetrate the deep recesses of our heart, heaven responds. Let’s begin to unpack this with a question: What does it really mean to pray in God’s will?
JUST DO IT
First, I believe there is no inherently wrong way to pray. I don’t think God is sitting up in heaven, judging our prayers by how we talk to him, or in what order we present things to him, did we include our thanks and praise before our petitions? He just wants us to come to him. He wants us to enjoy his presence. Biblical instruction that talks about prayer and thanksgiving are not rules so that we might appease God, but rather guidance to prepare us to be with him.
For all three of my children I began a practice of prayer after every round of discipline and correction when they were little. As they got a little older, I would require each of them to pray it on their own. Of course I could tell when they were insincere just so they could be released from “time out,” but I didn’t mind. My hope was that the discipline of prayer itself would eventually spark sincerity in the future.
If you really don’t believe you’re actually talking to God, or that he even hears you, and your words become rote, insincere, hung in the atmosphere until all that’s left is the spittle from your breath, then start here, because one could argue that even these aren’t worthless and could lead to sincerity in the future. Just do it.
For many of us however, we’ve done the repetitive (and can I be honest? boring) prayers. We’ve saved them for our bedtime routine because they put us to sleep faster than anything else. Right? But I believe we’re ready for a change, to really step into game changing prayers like those of Daniel. We want to understand how to make his realities our realities. We want to move mountains into oceans and trigger commands in heaven.
WHAT IS NOT PRAYING IN GOD’S WILL
It is NOT giving up on the prayer before it’s even uttered…
So there’s this little section of scripture in the Apostle James’ letter that talks about the dangers of self-confidence.
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog- it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15 NLT)
In this text James is warning about self-confidence and arrogance, not spirit confidence. There is a difference. Praying in God’s will is NOT praying from self, it’s praying in the Spirit. Have we unknowingly written-off our prayer as unanswerable, not going to happen, even before it’s fully left our lips? Our heart leaves the prayer if we do, and then our heart then leaves God’s presence. Kind of defeats the purpose of prayer.
Like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, “He’s probably not going to answer that one anyway. Probably not in his will.” James would not want us to pray like that, tagging on a hopeless, “if it’s your will, Lord,” to our prayers. He says later in chapter five to pray earnestly, lay hands, and anoint with oil. That’s not a hopeless sounding prayer to me.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b NLT)
(Add Righteousness to your prayers!)
It is NOT tagging God’s name to a list of prayers that look like good prayers for God’s will…
There are a lot of great, and lofty, and noble things that we can pray for and pursue. Much of which can be equally selfish if we haven’t received confirmation from God to pursue them. So much of the good things we’d like to see happen may not actually be in our best interest. I have been known to pray against a prayer request, because I sensed what they were asking was not what God had for them at that stage in life.
Much to my surprise, I had to learn this too when none of my dreams, plans, and prayer approvals were working out early on. I learned that God really doesn’t need me working out all the details to my plans and getting his prayer approval. He’s already got those details worked out. His big picture didn’t need my well-planned flow charts after all.
He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; he does not value the power of a man. The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love. (Psalms 147:10-11 HCSB)
(Add fearing Him and hope in his faithful love to your prayers!)
WHAT IS PRAYING IN GOD’S WILL
It IS searching for, and understanding God’s will for your life…
During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the Lord, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. (Daniel 9:2 NLT)
Daniel was studying the scriptures, deep in God’s word, and dare I say deep in worship. During this time in God’s word, he saw the promise of 70 years of captivity for Israel. Imagine the excitement to understand it was almost over and to claim God’s will.
The vast majority of God’s will and promises will be found in scripture. Meditating on the word of God in an effort to know him will reveal his will, and this is where bold prayers begin!
(Add reading God’s word to your prayers!)
It IS claiming God’s promises and the inherent authority therein for our lives and for others…
Daniel saw the promise and straightaway claims it fervently. He’s certainly not remiss in confessing the sins that brought about their captivity in the first place. And he includes himself. Much of his prayer reflects it. Neglecting these opportunities to repent, weakens our stance and claims of promise. Imagine if Daniel prayed for the promise of returning to Jerusalem, but minimized the wrongdoing. When I see my kids do that, I see the need to extend their punishment.
But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. (Daniel 9:5 NLT)
Yet Daniel remains bold.
O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. (Daniel 9:15 NLT)
When we find a promise in God’s word, Paul refers to as our sword for battling Satan. (Eph 6:17) It cuts through all the lies he tells to keep us down and feeling defeated. Paul also tells us we’re already seated in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6) and that we are already strong in God’s mighty power (Eph 6:10). It means we can claim the authority of God’s power when praying his word. When we pray his will, God acts.
(Add promises and faithful confession and repentance to your prayers!)
It IS searching for an understanding of God’s bigger picture of redemption …
There are certainly nuances to God’s will that he may or may not make available. Our lack of knowledge shouldn’t resign us to pitiful prayers; we continue to boldly pray with what we know. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Sprit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26-27 NLT emphasis added)
When Gabriel came to Daniel to reveal the timeline for Messiah and the final rebellion, that was awesome and I’m thankful for that. Unfortunately, I end up with about 1,000 more questions than if I hadn’t read it in the first place. It’s really only a fragment of the full plan, and a rather confusing one at that. Understanding how our prayers fit into God’s overall picture is admittedly overwhelming. Knowing this, God typically only reveals snippets of his big picture, because like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, we can’t always handle the truth.
So, like the CIA, God fills us in on a need-to-know basis. But not knowing everything still shouldn’t change our bold prayers. We’ve got big issues in our world. Murder, violence, people fleeing for their lives, terror threatening our way of life all over the world. We need to be bold in our prayers.
Based on the prophecies we read the last two weeks, it seems as though the world could get worse until the time of rebellion if finished. If that’s where we are right now, in a place where it will get worse before it gets better, how do we pray bold prayers in God’s will? That’s a tough one. Ultimately only we can answer that for ourselves through the Holy Spirit, because he very likely has a unique prayer plan for each of us, as a Body working together.
(ask God to reveal your portion of the Big Picture so that you might effectively pray!)
PRAYERS THAT AREN’T NECESSARILY PROMISES
We’ve said that praying in God’s will means, in part, claiming God’s promises as Daniel did. We’ve also talked at length throughout the course of this study in Daniel, that we aren’t promised physical safety. We aren’t promised an easy life without persecution, in fact Jesus points out that the world will hate us for identifying with Him. Should we not then pray for safety and protection?
Even though these things are likely or maybe even guaranteed, it doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t pray against them. And it doesn’t mean that we aren’t praying in God’s will if we do. They are burdens, like any other, and Jesus wants to carry them. So pray, hand them over, and trust God, and God knows, it just might be his will.
There was a man named Jabez …. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NLT)
Abide in Christ, stand firm in his Word, pray fervently with authority and boldness, trigger commands in Heaven!
SCRIPTURES TO CONSIDER
Prayers boldly focused on the Kingdom.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33 HCSB)
Prayers for his presence.
Being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Prayers for shelter and safety, however God may define that for us.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalms 61:2-4 NKJV)
Prayers for firmness and a steady faith.
I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken. (Psalms 62:1-2 HCSB)