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Friday, September 18, 2009

Pray Like Daniel

Now Daniel ... went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:10

It was drawn to my attention today that Daniel is one of the few characters in the Bible about whom nothing negative is said. Indeed, it was the fact that no-one could find any fault with Daniel that led to this very situation. There were people who wanted rid of Daniel and they manipulated circumstances to their own ends.

The decree had come down from King Darius that only he should be worshipped during the next 30 days.

Daniel's Prayer Life
The key to Daniel's life was that it was centred on prayer.

Firstly, he set aside time for prayer not just once, or even twice, but three times a day. Even though he was a busy, high ranking government official his life was saturated with prayer. Men and women of God such as John Wesley, Desmond Tutu and Madam Guyon have all attested to the importance of spending significant quantities of time in prayer when life and ministry become busy.

Secondly, Daniel had a "sacred space" where he went to pray. Deprived of Jerusalem and the Temple he made his upper room a sanctuary where he met with God. It is invaluable to have a particular place to pray because it is easier to settle, to take our focus off the world and place it firmly on God.

Thirdly, Daniel knelt to pray. He humbled himself physically, an outward act which reflected the attitude of his heart. This wasn't just because of the current desperate circumstances. Some people only pray humbly when they are in need but this was Daniel's daily practice.

Fourthly, he gave thanks to God. One might consider that in this dire situation he would skip over that bit of prayer and move straight into the, "HELP ME" prayer. After all, he had been thanking God every day and this was now a matter of urgency. But no, Daniel stuck to his usual pattern. He gave thanks. Amazing. His life is under threat, the lions are waiting, and Daniel gives thanks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can see that Daniel had established a consistent prayer life over an extended period of time. He had learned intimate communion with God. This wasn't a single act of defiance. It was a simple decision to keep doing what he'd always done. It appears not to have occurred to him to do anything differently.

Prayer College Assignment
Is there consistency in your prayer life? Have you come to the point in your walk with God that prayer comes naturally and it would be unthinkable to go a day without prayer? Ask God to help you become more consistent in your praying.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Apart From Me

"Apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

This week I have been struck by the continuity there is, throughout the centuries, of the practice of prayer. I have downloaded to my Blackberry several versions of the Bible and also some of the great classics on prayer. These have included Madam Guyon's A Short and Easy Method of Prayer and Andrew Murray's, The True Vine

Both writers emphasise our dependence on God, apart from the Lord we can do nothing.

Dependence For Salvation
It is a simple thing to understand grace when we first turn to Christ. We acknowledge we cannot save ourselves and are totally dependent on His loving sacrifice. All we can do is accept and be thankful.

In the early days of our Christian life we want to be with other believers, we want to read the Bible and we want to pray. But as time goes by things change. We start to think we should be doing things the way other people do them and we begin the Galatian slide into works and are worthy of the criticism Paul heaps on them (Gal 3:1-3). We slip from grace to works and the light of Christ begins to dim, our Christian lives becoming a chore.

Dependence In Prayer
This is evidenced in our loss of desire for prayer. Whereas once we were aware of God's loving presence whenever we prayed, now "the heavens seem as brass."

What has happened? We have made prayer a ritual, something we perform, something we do because we should, something that is our responsibility, instead of a loving conversation between the Father and His child or the Bridegroom and His beloved.

We need to return to an understanding that we ourselves cannot pray on our own - apart from Christ we can do nothing. In Romans 8:26 Paul says, "we do not know how to pray as we should," and then explains it is the role of the Holy Spirit to fill that gap.

Beginning Again
James says, "draw near to God and He will draw near to you," (James 4:8). The way to do that is through worship. Whether you read Madam Guyon, Andrew Murray, or any of the other great writers on prayer, they all say the same thing - worship, adoration is the way to approach God. This is how the Lord's Prayer begins, with a recognition of God's character and nature and a desire for Him to be glorified.

When we begin in this way we gain a correct perspective of His greatness and our own inability and inadequacy before Him. We see that He is ALL-mighty and that we can indeed to nothing without Him, that we are dependent on Him for our prayer lives and that it is all of grace.

Prayer College Assignment
In your prayer life do you recognise that apart from Jesus you can do nothing? Confess your failure to pray as you should and acknowledge your need of His enabling. Ask Him to take you in hand and teach you to pray.