Challenge Group #1
Prophecy Awakens a Prayer Burden and Preparedness
Daniel is presented as an amazing man of prayer. His humility, reverence and earnestness are the hallmarks of effective prayer. While God honors the briefest of prayers, as the experience of Neh 2:4 indicates, effective prayer requires faith in God & His Word, proper attitude of mind and heart, and an unhurried petition.
In the beginning, his prayer to the Lord in Dan 9:1-18, Dan relies on the majesty & greatness of God, His power, His faithfulness in fulfilling His covenant promises and especially His "hesed-lovingkindness & loyalty.
The occasion of this prayer was the discovery by Daniel in the prophecy of Jeremiah that the 70 years of exile was nearly over, "thus says the Lord, that after 70 years...I will perform my good word toward you in causing you to return to this place". The Lord goes on to say that His thoughts toward Israel are of peace esp. when they seek Him with all their heart.
 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile."
On the basis of this remarkable prophecy Daniel prayed for the regathering of the people of Israel to Jerusalem. On the one hand Daniel recognized the certainty of the Sovereignty of God fulfilling the prophetic word. On the other hand he recognized human agency, the necessity of faith and prayer as it relates to God's program--His burden.
Because of Daniel's own prayer life he had a heart for the things God was concerned about...9:3 "I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him" to concentrate on prayer and seek an answer to his petitions.
Daniel begins by confessing the sins of Israel: all kinds of sin; rebellion to the fullest extent; how the people disregarded God's prophets and "laughed them to scorn and mocked them" (II Chron 30 :10); this went on for generation after generation until God scattered them "through all the countries".
Then Daniel contrasts the mercies and forgiveness of God to the sin of Israel. It is on this ground that Daniel bases his petition. It is true that God is a righteous God, and yet at the same time full of mercy and forgiveness. Daniel's petition has to do with God's covenant to restore His people to His Holy city because of His own character and for His own Glory--not because the people deserve God's forgiveness or restoration.
Led by the Spirit, Daniel had expressed as an intercessor precisely what God wanted:
- Daniel's committed life of prayer
- his uncompromising confession of sin
- his appeal to God's character as One who is both righteous and merciful.
While Daniel was praying the answer was already on the way by means of the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel came to give Daniel "skill in understanding" (v. 23) God, in a word, wants to assure Daniel of His unswerving purpose to fulfill all His commitments to Israel, including their restoration.
Gabriel bears witness to the special relationship which Daniel had with the Lord--he was "greatly beloved". Then one of the most important revelations in Scripture was given to Daniel, the prophecy revealing God's purposes for Israel, culminating in the second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom: The Prophecy of 70 weeks of 7 years.
Instead of studying the prophecy I want to focus on how Daniel reflected God's burden for that period of time:
- How did he know God's burden?
- How did he intercede?
- How does God want to work through us today?
I. How did Daniel know God's burden?
First, we need to see what Daniel knew about God that prepared him to understand God's burden.
- Daniel knew about God's compassion in ch 2: 16-18 when Neb. was going to put to death all the wise men because they could not reveal to him his dream. The very nature of prayer is to seek God's compassion, and He was compassionate--He revealed the mystery of Neb.'s dream to Daniel, saving His life.
- Daniel also knew God is the One to Whom we can petition & make supplicationsthe essence of prayer is asking God for help.
- In ch. 6 Daniel turned to God seeking His favor v. 11 "making petition and supplication before God". This is what happened to Daniel. Darius was a new inexperienced king who respected Daniel, but other officers were jealous of him and tricked Darius through a plot to get rid of Daniel. A law was made that for a 30 day period no one was to petition any other person except King Darius--as a "god". It was a dilemma for Daniel: he had been framed. But he openly "made petition & supplication to God" as he always had done, entrusting his very life into God's hands. Thrown into the lion's den, he was kept safe by God's angels--he secured God's favor & protection.
- Daniel also knew that if God is a faithful God, keeping His commitments. Inherent in the nature of prayer is our appeal to God's commitment to us. Daniel prays in ch. 9:14 "the great and awesome God who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness Moses had declared in Deut 7:9 "that the Lord your God He is God, the faithful God-- who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness to the thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments".
These three qualities or attributes of God seem to go together:
They are the same ones Moses saw when he asked to see the glory of God--& saw His "back side" Ex. 34:6....Compassionate---Gracious---Faithful
So, how did Daniel know God's burden? By, meditating on God's Word, knowing God Himself, through answered prayer he was able to enter into God's burden. Then Daniel was able to intercede.
II. How did Daniel Intercede?
Once Daniel knew God's burden to restore Israel to Jerusalem there was a war in the heavenlies between the Prince of Persia (Satan) and the angelic messenger.
Daniel sought God with fasting, sackcloth and ashes: to identify himself with his people with nothing of selfishness in his prayer; pleading for forgiveness and mercy, acknowledging the sinfulness of Israel but pleading that God's righteous anger would be held back.
What was the result of Daniel's intercession?
- The return to Jerusalem was supernaturally accomplished shortly--which was God's burden.
- Even when Daniel began to intercede Gabriel was on his way to reveal profound prophetic insight (9:24-27).
III. How does God want to work through us today?
So often we have thought that prayer was getting God to bless whatever we were doing or what we wanted to do. But real prayer is finding our what He wants us to do. When Daniel found the will of God, he began to pray fervently for it's accomplishment.
The reason Daniel was so concerned about sin was because it was a barrier to knowing what God was doing. It always is the major reason we don't know God's will or understand His program. Many times we try to hang on to our favorite sin. It's so important to verbalize our spiritual shortcomings ie. "confess" them. When we confess we recognize that we have a responsibility to change what it is we have told God we are doing. That's hard to do, because implicit in that confession is that we are not going to do it anymore. And God knows our heart, whether we are really sorry, and really want to give up that sin.
So intercessory prayer is really a matter of coming to God and being totally submissive to His will in every area of our life. Then it will be easy to discern the will of God in our circumstances, and to know what role He has for us to play. eg in the 1950's God made it very clear to me that the mainline churches were not going to turn to God & His Word. So I just used the churches as places where I could reach the willing open hearts. Then I started a weekly Bible study. Laymen's Challenge for Today for people from all churches. It was clearly God's vehicle to transition new believers into good churches.
Living with an attitude of Preparedness
The certainty of Christ's return someday should shape the way we live now, knowledge of God's Tomorrows can transform our own todays.
Mt 24:45-51 In this parable Christ stressed the need for faithfulness on the part of the servant who was left to feed and care for his fellow servants. "It would be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns"--he will be given added responsibility and power. But the servant who thinks, "my master is staying away a long time" will be surprised and judged when the master "appears on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of" (24:50).
Seeing the "signs" should make is diligent and faithful, rather than giving in to self-indulgence using our time and resources for personal gain. Jesus IS coming again!! Expecting Him daily will convince us to focus on His concerns, not our selfish living.
Notice that Jesus shifted His disciples' attention from "When will you come?" to "What are we to do while we wait?".
Study the following parables. Note the recurring themes and list them as you interpret the parables.
- Lk 12:35-40 (cf. Jn 15: 18-16:4)
- Mt 25:14-30
God's Tomorrows, Our Todays
- Read the book of Daniel....pay special attention to his prayers.
- Do you, on a more or less daily basis, have the awareness that Christ could be returning soon? Does this "prepared" attitude motivate your walk and ministry?
- Would you say that this mind-set of alertness for His return is Biblical? Support your answer with Scripture.
- Think of some practical ways one might develop an attitude of expectancy for Christ's imminent return. (Feel free to discuss this with others).
- Read articles (O. Chambers, Pentecost,)
*This was to be done before the first lecture in Novemeber. The following was assignment was given with the November lecture.
Challenge Group Assignment #2
- Notice that Jesus shifted His disciples' attention from "When will you come?" to "What are we to do while we wait?". Study the following parables. Note the recurring themes and list them as you interpret the parables.
- Lk 12:35-40 (cf. Jn 15: 18-16:4) Characteristics of a true servant.
- Mt 25:14-30 Minas
- Luke 19:11-27 Talents
- Luke 14:16-24 The Great Banquet
- Study II Peter. List the "signs" Peter gives about Christ's return & how we should live in light of His return.