Moving Heaven And Earth Through Prayer

Bible Book: Daniel  9
Subject: Prayer; Prayer Ministry
Series: Living Right When Life Seems Wrong
[Editor's Note: This is the last sermon in an eleven part series of messages on Daniel. All the other sermons are or will be added to www.pastorlife.com.]
Introduction

One of the great ministries of our church is the ministry of prayer. Our Partners In Prayer Ministry is a special blessing to the fellowship. I want to thank everyone of you who has agreed to pray with a partner each week. I am praying today that your tribe will increase and that even more of us will make a commitment to this vital ministry.

I am speaking today from Daniel 9. This is the last message in a series entitled, Living Right When Life Seems Wrong. Daniel was a captive in far away Babylon. But the enemy could not take his soul captive. He could talk to God! It is in his prayer that we see several important truths on this subject which we need to learn and re-learn.

Look at three ways that we must view prayer if we would appreciate and practice this prayer properly.

I. Prayer must be viewed as Serious Business

Prayer is serious business for it involves three realms. Each of these is important to each of us. Jesus taught His disciples about prayer by giving them the Model Prayer. I am not going to turn to it for I believe there is not a person here is not familiar with the words of the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer our Lord Jesus Christ points out the three worlds touched by prayer. Any one of these would make prayer serious business, but all three of them make it all the more weighty and significant. Look at the three realms which are addressed in the Model Prayer, also known as the Lord’s Prayer.

A. The Divine Realm

The Father in heaven is addressed. Prayer moves heaven. Prayer touches God. Prayer lifts us up from our world and wafts us above the clouds, beyond the stars, past the Gates of Pearl, glides us over the streets of gold and brings us right up to the very throne of Almighty God. Now that is serious business. Yet, that is what prayer does. Jesus taught us to prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” Yes, prayer addresses holy God.

B. The Daily Realm

Prayer also speaks to events in our daily lives on earth. We are sometimes accused in the church of being so heavenly minded that we are of little earthly good. Fiddlesticks! Our faith is all about life here on earth. Prayer, in fact, is about life right here, right now! Listen to what Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Things on earth can be and often are changed through prayer. God is interested in my daily life. He even tells us that we do not have a High Priest fails to be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He goes even further and tells us that we cast our “cares upon Him because He cares for us.” Yes, prayer affects life in the here and now!

C. The Demonic Realm

Furthermore, Jesus prayed, “Deliver us from evil.” The word evil speaks of the evil one. Jesus was praying for us to be delivered from the devil. Even hell, the demon forces in spiritual places, can be and often are affected through the prayer of a believing child of God. So, this is serious business. How can we approach prayer with the serious attitude it deserves?

Prayer is more than muttering a few spiritual words - it is the means by which we can affect three worlds. Daniel did so. He spoke to God in heaven, shook things on earth, and involved demons from hell in defeat. No wonder the devil is so interested in the church, the Christian, doing everything but praying.

II. Prayer must be viewed as a Self Denying Burden

The flesh does not life prayer. Self and pride do not like the idea of prayer. You will feel the burden of bringing self under control to spend time with God. Satan will do all in his power to keep you from prayer, for he knows his defeat is assured when God’s people bow in earnest, sincere prayer. Let me tell you three attitudes you must have if you would overcome the flesh, the deny self, and spend an appropriate time with God.

A. Determination

We must determine that we are going to maintain that quite time with the Lord. Daniel was busy. He was high up in the echelons of Babylonian and Persian life. Yet, he never neglected his time with God.

The devil will fight you on this matter. He will do everything possible to keep you from this time. You can be sure that anything that counts in life will requires cost in this life. This business of prayer will cost you in time and energy, but it will count in great ways in your walk with God and the power you will experience from Him.

B. Desperation

You must feel and sense your need of God. As long as you feel you can manage alone, you will never come to God in desperation. We must seek God’s presence with the same energy of a person who is under water struggling for air! You must never get to a point to believe that you can live without the power and blessing of God.

There is the story told by Vance Havner about an elderly lady who was very sick. I don’t remember the exact details, but the core of the story involved prayer. Every doctor had been sought and visited, and at last nothing more could be done. Her son said, “Mom, we are just going to have to pray.” The sick lady responded, “Has it come to that?” Sadly, many of us try everything but prayer before we decide to pray. It is little wonder that God is reluctant to answer such prayers! It is going to “come to that” so we might as well begin with that. Start with prayer. Remain desperate for God’s presence and hand in your life. If we don’t feel that sense of need, we will never pray as we should.

C. Dedication

One thing you will note in the prayer life of Daniel is that Daniel was a man of humility. The person who is truly humble before the Lord will pray. If you are not praying, it may just be an act of pride and rebellion on your part that keeps you from it.

Determination answers the problem of self-indulgence.

Desperation answers the problem of self-sufficiency.

Dedication answers the problem of self-righteousness.

III. Prayer must be viewed as a Spiritual Battlefield

When we read Ephesians 6:10 and following, we note the fact of spiritual warfare. Also, we see the list of armor we are to don in order to face our enemy. But, one thing that can be missed is something Paul mentioned in this passage near the end. In Ephesians 6:18 Paul reminds us that being aware of the spiritual war and wearing the armor must be accompanied by “praying in the Spirit.” In fact, the words from Paul regarding praying in the Spirit come immediately after the mention of the last piece of armor. So, prayer is serious business in the spiritual war we face each day.

A. The Problems we face in Prayer

We note that Daniel had prayed for twenty-one days before his answer came. In Daniel 10:12 we read that there was an angelic battle taking place regarding his prayer and its answer. We may not fully understand this, but we can appreciate that prayer is a battlefield in the spiritual realm. We must never view prayer as some sweet little experience in the Christian life. Prayer is laying hold of God and opening up the channels of blessings from above so that we can face and defeat the enemy. Satan does not like it when you pray, for he knows that prayer will lay hold of heaven and defeat him. He will oppose prayer every way he can.

Several personal hindrances occur in prayer which I believe Satan uses to keep us from prayer. Let me share 5 of them quickly with you.

1. Selfishness

Selfishness blocks our prayer life and the effectiveness of our prayers when we do pray.

James 4:3: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

When we pray for God to use us, is it for His glory or your own? Whenever we pray with some hidden motive (i.e. praying for a salary increase so you can impress your friends and neighbors) your prayer is "canceled out," so to speak.

Listen to Daniel’s prayer, and note that he prays His prayer not because he feels worthy to do so, but because he trusts the mercy of God. And note also that Daniel calls upon the Lord to honor His own name; in other words, Daniel’s prayer is more for the glory of the Lord than for his own safety or blessing. Such unselfish prayers get through to heaven.

Read the prayers of Paul in the New Testament and see if you can find one prayer he offered from prison that was a request for his escape or welfare. Even in prison he was praying for the churches, for the believers and for the advancement of God’s work. No wonder God used him so mightily.

Don’t misunderstand this, God desires that we bring our requests and needs to Him. We can pray for our daily bread, healing and God’s protection. But, when our prayers become totally selfish, they reveal an attitude that seeks to turn God into a “tooth fairy” who will leave us trinkets under our pillows at night.

2. Having Idols in Our Lives

Sometimes are prayers fail because we set up idols in our lives.

Ezekiel 14:3: "Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?"

An idol is anything or anyone that takes the place of God in our lives. It is any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport or loyalty that to any degree decreases one's trust and loyalty to God. British preacher Alan Redpath said, "Our God is the person we think most precious, for whom we would make the greatest sacrifice, and who moves our hearts with the warmest love. He (or it) is the person who, if we lost him, would leave us desolate."

If God is not Lord of your life, your communication with Him will be deficient and defeated. He must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all!

3. Unforgiveness

A lack of forgiveness also stunts our prayer life.

Mark 11:25, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Forgiven people should be forgiving people. An unforgiving attitude is one of the most common hindrances to effective praying.

4. Unconfessed Sin

No one can pray as he or she should while living with unconfessed sin.

Psalm 66:18, “If I regard (hold on to, cling to) iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Also we read in Isaiah 59:2, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.”

God will not forgive the sin that you are unwilling to confess. Perhaps you have some sin in your past that has remained un-judged and un-confessed. You may even be committing a sin right now that you do not consider a sin. We need to pray as the Psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).

5. A Lack of Faith

Hebrews 6 reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God. We must know that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him. It only stands to reason that one cannot pray properly without faith!

James 1:5-8: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

There is no question that faith is a key element in effective prayer. On one occasion we are told, "Jesus could do no mighty work there because of the unbelief of the people" (Mark 6:5). Some have taken this to extremes, suggesting that an affirmative answer to prayer somehow depends upon our personal faith. Yet, how much faith did Lazarus have when Jesus raised him from the dead? How much faith did the early Church show when Peter was released and showed up at the door (Acts l2)? They didn't believe it could be true at first! Yes, we need faith and should pray with as much faith as we have. Yet, God can do a lot with a little--especially when we acknowledge our weakness. Remember the story of the man with the demon possessed son (see Mark 9: l4-29). He approached Jesus, asking Him to save his son by casting out the evil spirit. Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24). Jesus then answered that man's honest plea. God wants no less from us when we pray. If you want your prayers to be powerful and effective, steer clear of the six hindrances that can destroy your prayer life. Then you will see that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James5:16b).

B. The Power we can Experience Through Prayer

Daniel received an answer from the Lord and a very profound one at that. He was blessed with the personal love of God. Note that the Lord told him that he was beloved. Then note that he received a prophetic message beyond his wildest dreams. We, too, can experience great things from God through prayer.

Consider the prayers of these Bible characters:

Jehoshaphat

(2 Chronicles 20:1-30) The King of Judah, was doing all the right things to please God. Then suddenly, without warning, the bottom dropped out. He received a frightening report concerning a vast army that was coming against him. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat stopped what he was doing and prayed: “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chronicles 20:12). We also read that all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD as Jehoshaphat prayed. Since Jehoshaphat chose to turn the problem over to God, God responded powerfully and answered the prayer of the King and his people.

Hannah

(l Samuel 1:1-20) She was unable to have a child, so she prayed that God would give her a son. The Lord answered her prayer, and she gave birth to a son, Samuel, who would one day become one of Israel's greatest prophets.

Samson

(Judges 16:28-30) In spite of his previous disobedience to the Lord, Samson prayed and God returned his strength.

Paul and Silas

(Acts 16:22-26) These two men were imprisoned for their faith, but they prayed and within moments an earthquake came and they were set free.

Peter

(Acts 12:1-17) He was in prison awaiting execution, but the early Church prayed for his release. Within hours, an angel came and escorted Peter out of the prison.

Elijah

(James 5:17-18; 1 Kings 18:36-38) Elijah prayed and the rain stopped. He prayed again, and the rain returned. Another time he prayed, and fire came down from heaven.

Conclusion

Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of God’s readiness. Prayer is not sending God to run your errands, it is submitting to God’s authority, will and purposes. Prayer is not getting our will done in heaven; prayer is getting God’s will done on earth.

“Prayer makes the darkest cloud withdraw,

Prayer mounts the ladder Jacob saw,

Gives exercise to faith and love,

Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;

Prayer makes the Christian armor bright;

And Satan trembles when he sees

The weakest saint upon his knees.” (William Cowper)

It ought, further, to encourage us in prayer to remember that Daniel was only one man, and yet he received great things from God. You can pray as only one person. But if two of you agree as touching any one thing, it shall be done. We need to pray in teams of two. Furthermore, the Bible states that a threefold cord will not be easily broken. Think of how mighty prayer can be if we band together to call upon the Lord.

Let us make a new commitment today to talk to God in prayer. Let us call upon Him one-by-one. Let us call upon Him in teams of two. Let us call upon Him in numbers together. Let us lay hold of heaven and move earth and hell in the process!

If you are not a member of our prayer ministry, please respond today. Pick up a card from one of the ministers here at the front of the church. Once you sign up, you can choose a partner and your commitment will be to pray with that person at least once a week and to hold each other accountable for your private, personal and persistent prayer time before God.