Scripture Text: Daniel 9:20-23
An Answer to Prayer (Sermon Text)
Last week, we looked at Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine. The chapter includes a prophetic revelation that was an answer to Daniel’s prayer, but the vast majority of the chapter is actually Daniel’s prayer. While we should not say that every prayer we pray ought to be exactly like Daniel’s, I think his prayer shows us some important things about prayer. Daniel’s prayer should compel us to consider how we pray. Like Daniel, do we pray fervently to God with a determined heart? Do our prayers mostly consist of asking God for something, or do they mostly consist of us really fellowshipping with the Lord? Do we mostly pray with the intent of getting to know God better? Should we? That we pray is good. What we pray is important. How we pray is also important? Daniel prayed for a specific reason and for a specific result, and God answered Daniel’s prayer in a specific way. We will see three things about God answering Daniel’s prayer, things that I believe apply to us as well, and then we will spend some time just exploring the discipline of prayer. Next week, Lord willing, we will see the revelation God gave to Daniel in response to his prayer. For now, let us look at how God answered this prayer.
God Answers Prayer When We Confess Sin
Last week, we noticed that there was an order to Daniel’s prayer. Daniel first praised God. He then spent most of the prayer confessing his and his people’s sin. He then acknowledged God’s justice and righteousness in punishing His people. Lastly, after Daniel had praised God and confessed his sin, Daniel then asked God for forgiveness and petitioned God to restore Jerusalem. In general, the order of the prayer was praise, confession, and petition. The vast majority of Daniel’s prayer, about two-thirds, was a confession of sin. In fact, confession of sin seems to be the primary motivation for Daniel’s prayer. I will venture a guess that most of us do not really like to confess our sins. Confession exposes ourselves. It makes us feel bad. And yet, it is only when we get real with God, because He already knows our heart and our sin, that we really grow closer to Him. Confession of sin brings a response from God. Look at the next verse.
Daniel 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God,
Daniel spent most of his time in this prayer confessing sin and asking for God’s forgiveness. Notice how quickly God answered Daniel’s prayer. Before Daniel finished his prayer, God sent him an answer. Perhaps this was in response to Daniel’s request to God that He not delay (Daniel 9:19). Wouldn’t we all like for God to answer our prayers that quickly? God is concerned about His children, and He hears and answers their prayers. He may not answer our prayers as quickly as we like or in the way we like, but He answers them. In this situation, God responded quickly to Daniel. We should note, sinlessness is not a condition for answered prayer. If you believe you are without sin, then you may not receive an answer from God! But, if you are like Daniel and the rest of humanity, sinners saved by the grace of God, then God hears the prayer of confession and He responds to it. Daniel was one of God’s most faithful servants, and yet he still needed to confess his sin to God. In fact, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote about the need for God’s people to confess their sins to one another. Look at the following verse.
James 5:15–16 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
This passage reveals that our prayers ought to exude faithfulness, that we believe God will answer. It also reveals that even the believer who has been saved by grace needs to confess sin. Confessing sin to one another is something the church ought to do. God answers and heals when we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.
God Answers Prayer To Give Us More Than We Ask
There is something else in this passage that tells us about God answering Daniel’s prayer. It may even apply to our prayers from time to time. Sometimes, God not only answers what ask, but He gives so much more. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 9:21–22 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.”
Again, we are reminded that God answered Daniel’s prayer before he said “Amen”. God sent His angel, Gabriel, to bring the answer to Daniel’s prayer. Gabriel is called a “man” probably because he looked like a human. Gabriel seems to have also appeared in bodily form to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19), and to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26–27). Perhaps, Gabriel was God’s chief messenger for communicating with His people. Gabriel’s arrival proves that God had heard Daniel’s prayer and God had honored Daniel’s request. While many translators say that Gabriel came to Daniel “in swift flight”, which might make sense given God’s prompt reply to Daniel’s prayer, the text could also be understood as “in extreme weariness”. If this is so, it would apply to Daniel’s extreme weariness. This would also make sense because Daniel had been fervently praying and fasting. He would have been utterly exhausted after praying so fervently. Are we ever exhausted from prayer? Should we?
Gabriel told Daniel that he had come “to give insight” and “understanding” concerning his request. The angel revealed more information to Daniel, which we will explore next week, showing that God often answers more than what we ask. Daniel only asked God for the restoration of Jerusalem and His Temple (v. 20). God answered Daniel with a promise that not only would Jerusalem be restored, but the promised Messiah would appear in the distant future with the glorious benefits of atonement and everlasting righteousness (vss. 24, 25). God, in His great kindness to His children, often far exceeds their prayers in the answers He sends them. Solomon asked for wisdom, and God in addition gave him power and riches beyond those of any other monarch. God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Perhaps, we sometimes expect too little from God. Maybe our prayers could often use a greater expectation.
God Answers Prayer Because He Loves Us
Another reason God answers our prayers is because He loves us very much. You would not remain silent or withhold communication, especially an answer to some deep felt need, if you truly loved someone. So it is with God. He hears our prayers and He answers our prayers because He loves us. Look at the following verse.
Daniel 9:23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
Daniel’s pleas for mercy had been heard by God, and one of God’s mightiest angels, Gabriel, had come with an answer because Daniel was “greatly loved”. This word actually means “highly esteemed”, which describes someone who is considered precious. Thus Daniel was considered to be a “very precious treasure” to God, as are all of God’s children. God loves His children greatly. He sent His very own Son to save us and to bring us into fellowship with Him. Through Jesus, we are called children of God.
1 John 3:1a See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Like Daniel, we are greatly loved. Because God loves us so, God answers our prayers.
How Should We Pray?
God gives us examples of prayer throughout scripture. For instance, in Daniel’s prayer, Daniel praised God and made a request to God based on the prophecy of Jeremiah that he had read. However, the bulk of the prayer was Daniel pouring out his heart in repentance of sin, both his sin and the sin of the nation. I may have suggested before that the way Daniel prayed is the way every prayer ought to be. I do not think, however, that is correct. In fact, if you look through the psalms, which most of them are prayers, there are many which are not confessions of sin or that follow the same pattern of prayer. That does not mean that there is not a general pattern to prayer. Our Lord Jesus gave us a model of prayer, one that was requested by His disciples. Look below.
Matthew 6:9–13 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Jesus gave us a very prescriptive formula for prayer. These are not the actual words we ought to pray every time we pray, but this is a helpful model for the kind of prayer we ought to pray. We ought to praise God. We ought to want His will to happen and His kingdom to come. We ought to ask God for what we need. We certainly ought to ask for His forgiveness of our sin, yes, even if we have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And, we ought to ask God to lead us away from temptation and sin. These are things we ought to pray. The first thing we see in Daniel’s prayer and in Jesus’ model for prayer is praise. Before anything is requested, there is praise of God. Do we do that? Do we first praise God before asking for something? My concern for myself and for us is not whether we pray just like Daniel or just like Jesus every time we pray. Our prayers ought to be first and foremost honest communication with the Lord, otherwise they are vain ramblings. My concern, however, is this: Do we mostly pray to receive something from God, or do we mostly pray to have communion and fellowship with Him?
Do not focus on whether there is a formula for every prayer you pray, and instead, ask yourself if you ever pray in the way Daniel did or in the way Jesus taught? Examine how you mostly pray and what you mostly pray. Do you mainly pray to receive something from God or do you mainly pray because you have a relationship with Him? As a comparison, consider your relationship with your spouse. If you mostly spent time telling your spouse what you wanted from him or her or complaining to your spouse about what is not right in your life, what kind of relationship would you have? Why would we think our relationship with God is any different. Sure, God wants us to cast our burdens on Him. Sure, God wants us to come to Him with our requests. In fact, giving requests to God shows that we know God is the One who can answer those requests. This is a good thing! But, more importantly than asking in faith for something, are we genuinely spending quality time with God, cultivating a relationship with Him, and using our prayer time to know Him better? Put another way, are we more interested in what God can do for us than we are with just Him? Is He really all that we need?
In closing, we can learn much from Daniel’s prayer. We see in this prayer a passionate plea to God, an adoration of God, a confession of our sin, and an acknowledgment of God’s righteousness that are important parts of prayer. Another thing we learn from Daniel’s prayer is that God hears prayer and He answers prayer. That does not mean that God will answer our prayers just like He did with Daniel, but God does answer our prayers. Sometimes, the answer is not what we want, but we should trust God that He knows best. God answers the prayer of confession. God answers prayer to reveal something to us and to give more than we even ask. And, God answers our prayers simply because He loves us. Let us learn from God’s servant, Daniel, how to really pray and how to have a genuine relationship with God. Thanks be to God that He hears and answers prayer. This is good news. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.