Living for God in a Secular World
A Gospel Prayer – Daniel 9:1-19
Pastor Doug Klein
How can we talk to God in a way that is totally natural and right from the heart? How can we talk with him using the language of the heart? Yet, at the same time, how do we honor him as a mighty God in our requests? How can we pray big prayers that are worthy of a great God?
What a difference a Gospel prayer can make in contrast to a man centered prayer. A Gospel prayer focuses on who God is and what He has done for us and in us. It’s recognition of a new status believers have with God vs. the posture of an outsider desperately trying to be heard. A Gospel prayer takes advantage of the incredible access we have to God the Father.
Daniel had received an overwhelming vision of the future that left him weakened and dazed. The only place he could go was to God the Father in prayer. There was no other way to make sense of what he had received from God. What a lesson for us in our lives. So in this election season, this prayer is a model for us personally and as a church as we collectively pray for God’s hand and direction upon our nation.
The first principle is 1.) Come clean about your sin and need. Daniel 9: 1-6, 8-15.
Our posture is always one of one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. It’s really hard to see ourselves spiritually on a deep personal level. Simply speaking, we have many blindspots. That’s why David had to plead with God to help him see the depth of his sin.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
We all have a deep reservation about being known by other people as we really are. It only increases when it comes to God. Yet, David’s prayer was not just an individualistic prayer focusing on his own need. It was also a prayer of collective repentance with focusing on the rebellion of the people of God.
His prayer also recognized the difficulty in remaining faithful and joyful during a tedious period of captivity that would last 70 years. They desperately needed the grace of God to see His hand in a tough situation. I remember hearing many bible teachers exhort us to “bloom where we are planted.” That’s easier said than done unless you possess a real sense of God’s hand on your life and on your particular situation. So Daniel in prayer turned his face toward the Lord in a posture of humility. Just like the publican in the parable of Jesus, he was crying out to God saying “Woe unto me a sinner.” That’s a Gospel posture with empty hands extended toward the Lord.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer
and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
He reminds God of his tender chesed and faithfulness to His covenant. The promise of God’s covenant is certain and irrevocable. Daniel places his prayer in that context. It’s not easy to look at yourself and see your real condition before a holy God. But it’s the only way to pray a Gospel prayer.
“When I look at myself I don’t see
The man I wanted to be
Somewhere along the line I slipped off track
I’m caught movin’ one step up and two steps back”
Daniel focused on the infinite contrast between us and God. In God alone resides perfect righteousness. On the contrary, deep shame is embedded in our souls. But God never leaves us with an open wound of shame. He covers our shame, mending our wounds, restoring us by his grace. So we are comfortable in coming to him to share our deepest needs. A broken reed he will not break.
The second principle is 2.) Look into his holiness. Daniel 9:7a, 9.
Our first thought instinctively is one of fear and horror concerning encountering God in his holiness. Instead, we assume we should grovel before such a God. A Gospel prayer encourages just the opposite. Most of us are so preoccupied and fixated on our life and struggle that we never take the time to lift our eyes off our sins and weakness and truly gaze upon the Lord.
A religious person will dwell on his own sins incessantly. A Gospel person is not afraid to look to the Lord.
So Daniel declares in verse 9, “righteousness belongs to you O Lord.” But in verse 9 he proclaims the Gospel counterpart when he proclaims, “To you Lord belong mercy and forgiveness.” That’s the reason we can approach the throne of grace boldly to find help in our time of need.
In the midst of our struggle, God now has our attention. Our radar is alive with his presence. His righteousness no longer needs to keep us at a distance because God has invited us to come close. And the very righteousness that intimidates us now becomes the basis of our salvation. At the heart of the Gospel is his mercy and forgiveness. And it has nothing to do with our righteous efforts. What a God and what a Gospel. The just One truly has become the justifier.
The third principle is 3.) Rejoice in God’s judgment upon your sin. Daniel 9:16.
This is an extraordinary counter-intuitive statement. And yet, it’s the only thing that can free you from your guilt. In verse 16, Daniel is asking God to remove his holy wrath and judgment from his holy hill. Daniel is not questioning whether the judgment that has come upon Jerusalem is justified. He knows it is completely. But a Gospel prayer always points to God’s crowning achievement on the cross on our behalf. Daniel is asking God to remove his holy wrath and judgment from his holy hill and to provide his people a way out. But there is no way out unless God intervenes dramatically.
And so our God does it in a way that only God can do. He takes the punishment himself for all of our sins and he does it through his only Son, on a hill far away outside of a city garbage dump. The cup of wrath that we all deserve fell instead upon Jesus. His anger and wrath against sin was not turned away and ignored. It fell directly upon his own Son.
7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written,
‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
Until it really hits home what God has done with our sin, our hearts will remain hardened and self serving. But once this ultimate sacrifice hits home it melts our hearts and begins to destroy our idols. I can actually rejoice that the weight of my own sin and guilt has been dealt with decisively. I don’t have to justify anything about my life anymore. The freedom I now possess is beyond my wildest expectations.
The fourth principle is 4.) Walk in favor. Daniel 9: 17-19.
Daniel gives us a picture in verse 17 of God’s face shining on his sanctuary which is desolate. What a vivid picture of our lives. To walk in favor before God is to walk in the freedom of the Gospel. The barriers between me and God have been removed and I know that I can expect his very best in my life regardless of the struggle. The Old Testament Sanctuary of God has been replaced by our own lives which now serve as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God has seen everything about me that is deserving of his wrath yet now because of Christ, he loves me with an unconditional and infinite love. I experience his favor and friendship at every level.
As verses 18 states, “It is not because of our righteousness but because of your great mercy.” And because we bear the name of Christ, we can expect to be treated as a precious family member. And it only increases the urgency of our prayers. “Pay attention and act,” Daniel cries out. “Do not delay.” For we desperately need your grace and mercy.
So maybe this is beginning to hit home with you. And yet, we still carry the burden of our shame. It’s with us everywhere we go. We know we are forgiven yet the pang of guilt stays with us. Listen to this beautiful story of the grace of God.
Justin Holcomb, an Episcopal rector, recently wrote a powerful book on grace.
He was interviewed on a talk show about where he first learned about grace.
He said it was from his father. And he told this story.
When he was 7, the neighbors decided to move and put their house on the market.
Justin snuck into the house, stopped up all the drains and turned on all the faucets, flooding the house and causing thousands of dollars of damage. Justin, of course,
lied about his involvement. But that next week, Justin said, was horrible. He was
eaten up with shame and guilt. He prayed that God would not let anybody find out
and repeatedly asked God to forgive him. God answered the second prayer.
A neighbor told Justin’s father he had seen Justin go into the house and was sure
that Justin had done the deed. Justin was out playing with his friends when his
father came to the door and said he wanted to talk to him. Justin came in and sat
down. His father asked, “Did you have anything to do with the destruction to our neighbor’s house?”
Justin told us that he lied once again and swore he had not been there and had not
done anything wrong. Then his father said, “Justin, our neighbor saw you and the
gig is up. I’m angry at you for what you did and I’m even more angry that you
lied to me about it.”
Justin started crying and said he was so sorry. Then he said, “I’ve asked God to
forgive me over and over again.”
“You asked God to forgive you?”
“Yes, every night.”
“Oh, that’s different,” his father said. “If you asked God to forgive you, you’re
forgiven. Go out and play.”
Faith Presbyterian Church
March 6, 2016