Daniel-Wayne Barber/Part 23
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|I’m beginning to realize that there is a sincerity and seriousness about prayer that I wonder if I have learned yet. I am learning it. I want to learn it. I want to be in prayer like God wants it to be in my life.|
Three Insights to Prayer – Part 1 (Daniel 10:1-14)
Turn to Daniel 10. Now I’d like to begin talking to you about three insights into prayer that God has just really put on my heart. You know, truth is like a diamond. You can look at it this way, and you can look at it this way, and somebody can look at it this way. It’s still the truth; I just like to take a perspective of what really ministered to me as I got into the book of Daniel, particularly in Daniel 10. Three insights into prayer.
Well, we come today to chapter 10, and so far we’ve seen that Daniel has had three revelations or three visions. In chapter 7 in the first year of Belshazzar, that’s the first year of Babylonian rule, he had his vision of the four beasts. And remember, of those four beasts, it was the fourth one that he was particularly concerned with, and that was Rome in the latter days. It was different from the other beasts, and of course the little horn comes out of chapter 7. We see this picture of the Antichrist that will be there in the latter days and the tribulation time, particularly as he deals with Israel.
Then in chapter 8 the third year of Belshazzar he has another vision and this time it is of the two little kingdoms that he’s had before: the ram and the goat. Medo-Persia and Greece, and of course this is a vision that was of the ram and of the goat and it had to do also with the small horn that comes out. Now that small horn came out of Greece, not Rome, and it’s not the same one as chapter 7 but it’s a preview of what it’s going to be all about: Antiochus Epiphanes as we’ve already studied.
Then in chapter 9, 13 years go between that one and the next one. In chapter 9 he has his third vision, and here it’s in the first year of Darius, who is actually the king over the Medes that has taken over. And this also has to do with the 70 weeks, 490 years, that have been decreed to break Israel of their self-sufficiency. And now we come to chapter 10, the third year, it says in verse 1, of Cyrus as he has his fourth vision that we’ve looked at so far.
Now let’s read in verse 1 and we’ll find that this vision has to do with great conflict. It says, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict.” The word “conflict” has to do with war, pain, strife, struggle, and it all had to do with Daniel’s people. Look in verse 14. As the angel comes to give him understanding it says, “Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.” As far as I can understand from an historical perspective, this is during the time when they have just gone back into their homeland. And as I can understand history, and I certainly can stand room to be corrected, but I believe here that Daniel stays back in the land. He hasn’t gone with the people as they’ve gone back into their land.
Verses 2-3 tell us that the vision came again as a result of fervent prayer. Verse 2 says, “In those days I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed.” Daniel was fasting and praying for three solid weeks, and then God begins to move to him and give him this fourth vision. There is something that impresses me about the prayer life of Daniel. I can’t get away from it. So, again, I want to share this from my heart to you. I’m learning, I’m a learner, I’ve never told anybody I have arrived. But there are some things that are beginning to sink into my mind about prayer that is going against what I have read and heard and things over the years. I’m beginning to understand that prayer is much more something that God does and then lets me cooperative with, than it is something just that I do.
I’m beginning to realize that there is a sincerity and seriousness about prayer that I wonder if I have learned yet. I am learning it. I want to learn it. I want to be in prayer like God wants it to be in my life. I don’t think there is probably anybody here that feels any differently. You see, prayer to most people today, particularly in America, you don’t find this in other places in the world, is basically a grocery list. Kind of like the “honey do’s” that you get on Saturday when you think you have a day off. “Honey do this, honey do that.” It’s kind of like we do our prayer like that. “God, I want You to do this. God, I want You to do that. Oh, by the way, God, would You do this? Now to this, this, and this. Now Lord, I’ve got to hurry so don’t You call me, I’ll call You. And would You take care of those things until I get back?”
And it seems like that becomes the essence of what our praying is all about. It seems to be two things involved in it as I observed my own life and other’s life. Sometimes it’s begging God to do something materially. Have you ever stopped to analyze what you’re talking about to God in prayer? Most of the time it has to do with physical, tangible, temporary, meaningless things in our life: things that are material. And we spend our time trying to get God to give us what we really want Him to give us. Think about it the next time you pray. Just ask God to help you realize what you’re praying for. What comprises your prayer? How many times is “I” involved in the midst of that prayer?
But the second thing it seems to involve is that many times, and this is the thing that is really on my heart this morning and I’ve got to share it like it is, alright? And where it falls, it falls. Sometimes it’s opinion and that plus 65 cents will buy you a cup of coffee at Shoney’s. But this is where my heart is this morning.
Many times, and what I’m observing, everywhere I go and just about every area I find this: we’re trying to twist God’s arm to get Him to do something exciting. To get Him to do something miraculous. Do you know why? Because we in America have become bored with the mundane. Folks, this is so burdening me this morning. It’s funny, I’ve preached this once before and it’s having a different effect on me now that it did then. It’s a real burden to me. I see so many people that are just bored stiff. Christianity is not real unless God’s doing something big and exciting, unless I’m getting goose bumps or I’m sweating funny, or I’m talking funny, God’s not doing anything. There’s no thrill in my life: God, I’m bored. I go to school every day, I study, students will tell you. I’m bored, God, do something bigger in my life. If Jesus is really Jesus, do something that I can see, touch, and feel. Make me feel better, God.
It appears that we’ve fallen into a trap in our country, taking our understanding of prayer not from the Word of God but out of our own fleshly senses and out of what we’re reading and out of what we’re hearing. As a matter of fact we even go a step further. After you’ve had one experience, if it’s supernatural, you’ve got to have one to beat that one or it doesn’t qualify anymore. And God just isn’t coming through. We live in the days of the Star Wars, mystical. You know, they’re making billions of dollars off these movies. Do you know why? Because that’s what intrigues America now; anything that’s twilight zone. Boy, we like that stuff. We like to think as something as mystical and over here and over there. Prayer becomes, like I said, that which we try to use to cure our boredom.
You know what I think has hurt us? I think in America, because we have television, we need to be entertained every time we do anything. We come to a special service and it’s wonderful, but as soon as that special service is over, well now, God, what can you do to thrill me? What are we going to do to compete with that? I know last year when we had a Praise Pageant, somebody asked, “Well how in the world are you going to compete with that?” Good grief, folks. We’re not competing with ourselves. We’re just trying to be obedient to the Lord as we see His leading in our lives.
So many people have lost the understanding that Christianity on a gut level many times doesn’t involve the feelings and many times doesn’t involve the spectacular and there are no lights and there are no microphones and there’s nobody speaking and there’s no music in the background. We’re just in the valley, folks, and we’re just real people with problems every day, but with a God that lives within us and a God who is helping us deal with those problems day by day. Making the right choices, nobody shouting, no angels around, nobody we can see, touch, or feel, but God is there. Where are we going to in our prayer?
Several years ago I shared this with you and I share it again from my heart. A young person that I so dearly loved, his mother and father were struggling, and so we just kind of took him under our wing when I was in youth work. He came to my house one day and, boy, he just wanted to be everything God wanted him to be. And I really believe he started off with the right heartbeat. “God, I just really want to be what You want me to be.” But he made a statement to me one night. He came to me after the group had met and he said, “I think we’re just not there. I think there’s more. I think there’s more to Jesus.” Now there’s a reality to that. Certainly the more I deny of myself, the more I realize of the Lord Jesus in my life. Certainly that’s true. But I picked up something in his voice that sort of disturbed me because I could sense in his life that he, along with what I shared before, he was bored with his whole life. He had an upper middle class background and anytime he wanted anything he had it. His mother and daddy owned a restaurant and he could go eat anytime he wanted, take his friends there, he had his own car, he didn’t really need or want for anything. So all of a sudden, God was not God unless it was something bigger or better than the last time he’d been with you.
He said, “I think we’ve missed it.” He said, “I think there’s more in this Christian life. There’s more.” He came by my house one night and told me on the porch, “What God could do with you if you just had the second blessing. What God could do with you if you would just get the Holy Spirit? If you could just speak in tongues, if you just had something from above that was something ecstatic; what God could do with you.” He walked off my porch and I was so saddened in my heart. Always looking for something more. Jesus somehow in his vocabulary was what he was seeking, but he really wasn’t seeking Jesus. He was seeking another experience to compare with the one he had had before.
I lost track of him. He left our church, went to the church that deals with assigned gifts and I just sort of lost touch with him. Two years ago I got a phone call from one of the young people in that group. Side by side. Isn’t it amazing how two people can hear two different ways? Heard the same message. And that person called me and said, “I hate to tell you this, but our buddy Bob has been killed tragically in a car accident on his way to New Orleans. Going down through Mississippi he was on one of those side roads and a car pulled out in front of him and he hit him head on.” But he said, “But that’s not really the tragedy of the story.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “The tragedy of the story is that he just never could seem to find what he was looking for and he was on his way to New Orleans to become the director of the New Age Movement in that city.”
It started with a young man who felt like there has to be more, and my friend, if you don’t think there isn’t more, you’ve missed the point of what I’m saying. But instead of seeking Him, instead of seeking Him through His Word, he began to seek the thrill of it. And, friend, I want to tell you something: that to me is a trap that we’ve fallen into in this country. I’ve fallen into it, you’ve fallen into it, it has affected my prayers in the past and I’m even struggling sharing it this morning because it is something that just is heavy on my heart. Jesus ought to be enough.
A man that was in our church not long ago, we took up an offering and gave it to him. You know what I wanted him to do with it? I wanted him to take it and use it on his family; that’s what I really wanted. I knew it would be about five years’ salary over where his country was, and I knew that he could take that, he could get him a refrigerator maybe, or get him something over there. And you know what he said to me? He said, “I wouldn’t touch a dime of that for myself. I want to put that into building a facility to train people to love and to seek the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And I got to thinking about it. He doesn’t live over here. He doesn’t have the mall out here. He doesn’t have everything at his fingertips. He doesn’t want anything but just Jesus in his life. Good grief, folks! Where have we gone? When you study the prayer of Daniel, he just would never fit the mold of what everybody is saying spirituality is in this day.
There are two things burdening me this morning and another one I’ll have to wait until next time, because I’ll never get to it. Three things about prayer basically that I just want to share my heart with you. I never asked anybody to agree with me. God’s Word is the absolute. You don’t have to agree with me. But what I’m sensing and what I’m seeing in the Word of God is speaking to my heart. I want to share that with you this morning. I could teach chapter 10 in a different way and you could probably do it in a different way, but that’s not where I’m coming from.
Daniel’s prayer in chapter 10 was initiated by God, not by Daniel
First of all is this: Daniel’s prayer in chapter 10 was initiated by God, not by Daniel. I’m going to document that in a minute. I’ve got a statement and I wrote it down and I think it might be profound, but I doubt it because I never usually say many things profound. But here’s the statement that God gave to me, or at least I believe He did: People that are judgmental usually are the authors of their own spirituality. People that are judgmental are usually the authors or the originators of their own spirituality.
They witness and somebody comes to know Christ. “Look what I’ve done! I prayed. God answered me. Look what I’ve done! I’m doing it.” Yet I see in Romans 11, all things are “of Him and through Him and to Him.” I’m beginning to discern something in my own personal prayer life: that real prayer, real prayer as I’m seeing it in Scripture, is something that starts with God, not with man. And God has a purpose and God wants man in on that purpose because God wants him to have the joy of cooperating with Him and being blessed in all that God can do. Prayer God initiates.
Verses 2-3 shows that he’s been in prayer. “In those days I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed.” Now, if you didn’t know the situation, didn’t understand the setting, you could say, “Man, that guy is a spiritual guy. I’m just not spiritual. I need to do the same thing Daniel does.” And here we go off on another tangent, chasing another whim of the flesh. But if you understand something: he does something in verse 4 that caught my attention. He says, “And on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris,” and he goes on to explain his story.
Now why did he pick out and single out that day? I don’t know, he doesn’t say. But when I saw that, in my heart, it just thrilled within me because I know what that first month is on the Hebrew calendar. That’s the month of Nissan. And I began to realize what was going on in that three week period of time. If this was the 24th day that he got an answer, he’d been praying for three weeks. What was going on during that time? Friend, if he’d have been back in Jerusalem, had he not been in captivity, do you know what he’d have been celebrating with all of his friends and all the ones that were there? He’d have been celebrating the Passover Feast. The Passover fell on the 14th day of the first month of the month of Nissan. And the Passover Feast was something that was initiated when the people of Israel were allowed out of Egypt. They were delivered and rescued out of Egypt.
And how did they get out of that land? Remember the shed blood of the lamb and how the blood was put on the doorpost and as a result of that, as a celebration of that, they were to keep a Passover Feast year by year by year to show God’s merciful hand and God’s powerful hand, God’s redemptive hand, and His deliverance among His people.
But the second thing that went on during that time was the Feast of Unleavened Bread. If you were a Jew living in that time and living in Jerusalem you’d have had to get all the leaven out of your house, which is all the sin out of your life. And the two pictures together draw a tremendous illustration of what redemption is all about. Daniel was no fool. Daniel knew that just because the people had gone back to their homeland, that didn’t mean they were free. Freedom is not simply the loss of oppression. He knew that the only true freedom of any believer was when he was repentantly a servant of the Holy God. When he had turned to Him and would obey Him at any cost. And I personally have a conviction that during this time, and the reason he was motivated during this season of prayer, was because perhaps he had heard the same thing that Ezra had heard and they’d gone back into the land.
There’s a statement in the book of Ezra that says, “O, Lord, when will we ever learn? You have dealt with us, we’ve been in captivity and now we’ve come back and we still forsake You.” And I think what’s happened is here is old Daniel is back in his land. And what has happened is that he knew that the people hadn’t changed any. They were still going on their own way. They were still living in their own self-sufficiency. And then during this precious period of time God begins to move on his heart with a burden to pray because God has something to say to Daniel and God’s going to honor his prayer to get that message across to him.
It seems to me a principle is beginning to form in my mind in my own personal prayer life: That usually a crisis is where it all starts, no matter what degree. And God Himself manipulates that thing. God Himself allows it in our life. And when that crisis comes, God drives us to Himself and when we get to Him we have to go to His Word. How can you separate His Word from Who He is? And when we come to the Word, to find that wisdom that will come down from above and God answers us and we cooperate with Him and He does what He says He’ll do, then that cycle continues and goes right back to where we can give praise to Him and we can’t take praise for ourselves.
Is there a crisis going on in your life? You know, I hope you’re hearing my heart. I’m just beginning to be aware of just how wicked my flesh really is. Are you aware of that? Have you grown beyond that somehow? How often do we say, “Oh boy, I prayed God, I got in touch with God this morning.” And what we’re really saying is that I believe God would agree with what I want to do. I’ve certainly gone through the motions, said it all, even cried some tears and I’m going to go do what I was going to do anyway. To me the real prayer, when you really meet God and you really discern that God’s up to something in your life, it is through His graciousness to create a crisis and through that crisis He drives us to our face before Him and in that is where we meet Him and find out what His wisdom is all about and God comes through and continues that cycle.
Helps me better understand the book of James. “Count it all joy, brethren, when you encounter various trials.” How could I count it all joy if I didn’t know that God was up to something in my life when those things begin to happen around me? Real prayer appears to me to be God-initiated. And when I say that, I say that very cautiously. It appears to me; I don’t drive that down your throat. You study and see what you come up with. But I sense that God initiated Daniel’s prayer.
Daniel, even through fervent prayer, did not get the answer he would have wanted
Secondly I see this: Daniel’s prayer, as fervent as it was, three weeks fasting, all the different things, fervent as it was, he did not get his answer. He did not get the answer that he would have wanted through God. In other words, the answer wasn’t as good as he wished it could have been. Here’s Daniel, not praying now for them to go back home; they’ve already gone back home. Now he’s really burdened for his people, and as he’s in this fervent, mourning prayer over his people, God answers him. Verse 14, remember it’s great conflict, but verse 14 says, “I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days.”
You know, even Daniel couldn’t twist God’s arm. Have you ever tried to do that? “God, I really want to do this and I’m going to twist and twist and twist until I get my way.” And we just so badly want to have our way. I’m sure his desire would have been, “God, just zap Israel, make them understand and cause them to repent.” God doesn’t work in the way that we would work.
You know, I think we’re living in a time, at least I feel the pressure of it, and we’re living in a time that when people look at you and you don’t have all the answers, they don’t think that you’re really spiritual to begin with. Friend, when we start having all the answers, when we can figure God out, He’s no longer any bigger than our brain, and, friend, that’s not much of a God. You can’t figure Him out, I can’t figure Him out. Daniel is praying and he’s fasting, he was going through a difficult time. But there were no answers that he would have desired to hear. He’d already heard that it was going to be 490 years and now he hears nothing but that of great conflict.
I begin to pick up as I’m around people, and I travel over the country and I hear people asking me different questions, and this has been a great education for me, by the way. Whenever I’m gone from this church just thank the Lord because it always does me good coming back; teaches me something that I couldn’t have learned any other way. And I hear things being said and I feel a thermometer of what’s going on. And I hear people wanting to remove certain words from their spiritual vocabulary, like death, suffering, pain; we don’t want to have those things in our vocabulary. So when we come before God, since we’re a father to our children, we begin to interpret what “good” is. And we ask God to do something based on what we think He ought to do. When God doesn’t come through that way we don’t think we’ve gotten in touch with Him.
You know, I think we’ve got a distorted view of God’s will, don’t we? Romans 12:2 tells us what God’s will is all about. It says, “So that you might prove to yourself what is the good and acceptable and the perfect will of God.” Do you realize all we basically have is hindsight, other than what our walk by faith in the future? We don’t know what is ahead. Some of these guys talking about wishing they knew what was ahead of us, I don’t want to know what’s ahead of me. I’m just glad that God knows what is ahead of me. If you knew today what was ahead of you friend, it might cause you to do some interesting things. Hezekiah said, “God, I want to live 15 more years.” God said, “Alright.” And those 15 years were some of the most horrendous years he had ever lived. I wonder how many times he cried out and said, “Oh God, I wish I’d never said that.”
We don’t know what’s ahead. You see, when Daniel prayed for Israel he had a true burden for them, but I’m certain that his whole answer would love to have been from God, “Okay, Daniel, I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it right now and Israel is going to be everything I want them to be.” But it wasn’t, because God knew how hardheaded Israel was, and God knew what it was going to take all the way down to the end of this age to break them, and it involved pain in that answer. And you would think, and I would think, if I were God I wouldn’t have done that. I would have done it differently. Look at all the suffering that Israel has had to go through because of that. Why couldn’t God have stepped in and done something differently? Man, when we get there, after the tribulation, and when that one-third of Israel has been saved, I want you to walk up to one of them and ask them whether or not it was worth it. Because then it is going to be good and acceptable and perfect.
I wonder if I could ask you a real personal question. How many of you are going through the throes of some type of decision right now and you’re really struggling, perhaps right in where we’re talking about today? We’ve been dealing with some decisions about our children and my wife said something in the car the other day that was so profound I need to listen to her so much more. She made the statement, “You know what this proves to me?” I said, “What’s that?” “You just can’t figure God out.”
You can’t do it, friend. I want to tell you something: when you start walking by faith, and you start wanting for what God’s will is in your life and in my life, and when we start praying that way, we’re going to appear as fools to this world because it just doesn’t make sense.
Well, two things. I think that real prayer, from what I see in Daniel, from what I see in Daniel, is God-initiated, not Daniel-initiated. He didn’t have a judgmental view toward anybody. Man, he had a broken heart that went clean through his toes. And he spent his time actually repenting for their sins. And then secondly, the answer that he gets back is not one that I would have believed he would have chosen to hear. As a matter of fact we know that it made him weak when he began to realize the suffering that was going to have to come to his people before God could finally break them of their own self-sufficiency.
Well, like I said, I never intended to be the absolute and certainly God’s Word is the authority. But as you go through your search and the truths about prayer, I trust you’ll pray for me. I’m trying to understand it. I’ve been going through something the last two years that’s interesting. I really thought I had it all together. I don’t know whatever convinced me of that. Boy, I just don’t know anymore. It seems like the more I see things I see it from a different perspective. I can say this to you though. When the crises comes in your life, don’t prejudge anything and don’t premeditate what you think God is up to. Just thank Him, because He never slumbers or sleeps. And, buddy, He must have something up His sleeve that He wants to show you about Himself that will blow your mind.
Stop trying to figure Him out. One day when we stand before God, He’s not going to ask me what you thought about what I did. I’m going to find out what He thought about what I did. I’m not here to please you and you’re not here to please me. We’re here to please Him. And in our prayer time, how much of it is self-initiated; so therefore everybody else is always the wrong one. Friend, when it’s God-initiated I don’t every find anybody else to be the wrong one. Daniel confesses himself to be the wrong one, not Israel. And don’t worry; the answer He gives you probably won’t be the one you’re looking for. But learn that whatever God does is right.
I guess it’s been on my heart so much is because I’ve talked to so many people lately that are struggling. And I heard a lady say, “You know, I’m not really sure that I even need to pray anymore.” That’s odd. How many of you have ever felt that way? I have too. I have. I’ve wondered sometimes why even bother with prayer. Because I had a distorted understanding of what life is all about and especially what prayer is all about. Now I’ve got a distinct feeling that I’ve probably raised more questions that I’ve given answers. That’s good. Let’s solve them in the Word and quit letting somebody give us the answers. I’m going to search. I definitely don’t have it all together, but I’m learning something about my prayer life. A lot of it has been Wayne-initiated, not God-initiated.