In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you…The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant…O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 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. 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.
– Daniel 9:1-7
How should we pray? Daniel began his day in the Scriptures. You cannot know how to pray until you know God’s will. The way to know God’s will is to read His Word. When you study God’s word you begin to understand God’s will, and then, you know how to pray. 1 John 5:14-15 states, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. And if we know He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. Daniel learned from reading Jeremiah that the Jews who had been deported to Babylon would be held in captivity for 70 years, and then, God was going to bring them back to their homeland. Now, Daniel knew God’s will and so he came before God with great boldness and prayed with great confidence.
Here is how Daniel prayed. First, Daniel praised God for who He is. In praising God for who He is, Daniel was also reminding God of what He can and will do. Daniel praised God for His greatness, faithfulness, love, mercy and forgiveness. Daniel’s prayer began with praise, but then he moved to confession. He confessed his sins as well as the sins of his people. Then Daniel moved to petition. Notice in Daniel’s requests he asked for God to be glorified, not Israel, and certainly, not himself. So often, our prayers are just selfish requests that have to do with our own personal honor. Daniel is showing us a different way to pray. Pray in such a way that when God answers your prayer, it brings Him glory and honor. And always appeal to God, not because you think you deserve something, but because of His mercy. The most powerful weapon that you possess is prayer. Prayer moves the Hand that moves the world.
One of the mightiest men of prayer was George Mueller of Bristol, England, who in the last 60 years of his life cared for more than 10,000 orphans. He obtained the English equivalent of $7,200,000.00 during the 19th century by prayer alone. But George Mueller never prayed for a thing just because he wanted it, or even because he felt it was greatly needed for God’s work. When it was laid upon his heart to pray for anything, he would search the Scriptures to find some promise that covered the situation. Sometimes he would search the scriptures for days before he presented his petition to God. And then, when he found the promise, with his open Bible before him, and his finger upon that promise, he would plead that promise, and so he received what he asked. He always prayed with an open Bible before him.
Nancy Spiegelberg said, “Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better, I’d have come running with a bucket.”
We come to know God and His will by spending time in His Word, and then, we can come running to him with a bucket.