Pastoral Ministry
in the Real World Click Now to Order

What Does God Say When People Pray? (Part 4)
Daniel 4:18

If you had a pressing problem, who would you ask to pray for you? Who would you turn to for help?

The other day, I got an email from a stranger with the heading, "Urgent prayer request." I didn't know how the person got my email address, but that didn't matter to me. If he had an urgent prayer request, I felt obligated to open the email and to pray for him. Wouldn't you? If someone asks you to pray for them, don't you want to intercede on their behalf? 

When I read the email, I became incensed. The email wasn't a real prayer request, it was asking for me to pray that he would get 1000 investors to help underwrite a software venture he was launching. And of course, he included a place I could write if I wanted to become an investor.

I felt betrayed. He used a request for prayer as a Trojan horse for an investment scheme. Prayer is sacred, and our prayer requests should be sincere. I was offended.

This guy didn't want my prayers, he wanted my money.  (Fresh Illustrations

You know, prayer requests come with different levels of concern. Sometimes people will ask you to pray about something because they just want you to know about it and wouldn't mind if you prayed. Sometimes people share gossip with you and masquerade it as a prayer request. But sometimes people come to you with a heartfelt prayer need.

Who do you turn to when you need someone to pray for you? Are you the kind of person people turn to when they need prayer? Are you the kind of person that people come to when they have problems?

Daniel was.

In Daniel 4:18 the King turned to Daniel with a need. "'O Belteshazzar, (Daniel's Babylonian name) that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for no one else can help me. All the wisest men of my kingdom have failed me. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.'" (NIV)

King Nebuchadnezzar's dreams plagued him to the point he turned to his advisors for help, when they couldn't help, he turned to Daniel.

What are the characteristics of people that make you trust them enough that you will turn to them with your prayer concerns? Nebuchadnezzar turned to Daniel because "the spirit of the holy gods is in [him]." 

When you are looking for prayer support, do you want people who will seek God with all their heart? People like Jeremiah 29:12-13 talks about. "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. [13] You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." 

Do you want people who are willing to wait upon God? People like David, who wrote: 

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry." (Psalm 40:1 NIV)

Are you more likely to turn to someone who is unrighteous or righteous? Psalm 34:15 says, "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;"

James 5:16 affirms the power of a righteous man's prayer, it says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Are you likely to ask someone to pray for you, who doesn't keep God's commandments or someone who does keep God's commandments? Who do you think God will likely listen to, someone who keeps His commandments or someone who doesn't? John wrote, "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." (1 John 3:21-12 NIV)

Would you ask someone who has a close relationship with the Lord, or would you ask someone whose relationship seems superficial? Personally, I'd ask someone who abides in Christ. John 15:7 says, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." 

One more question, are you more likely to turn to a humble person or one filled with pride? One of my favorite verses on prayer is 2 Chron. 7:14, it says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 

Would you say these verses I just read describe Daniel? Do they describe anybody you know? Do they describe you?

Would you say people who met these qualifications-people who seek the Lord and are willing to wait on Him, people who keep His commandments, are close to Him and have a humble spirit, would they live a easier life than those who don't meet these qualifications? 

Another way to ask the question is, would you like to be the kind of person whose prayers are answered? On the surface, most of us would say yes, I want my prayers answered. I want to be a prayer warrior. I want to be the kind of person who others come to with their prayer concerns. What about Daniel, what was his life like?

Daniel was a man of prayer. Nothing could detour him from his daily appointments with God. Because of jealousy, Daniel's peer convinced the king to pass a decree against praying to anyone but the King. They make their argument in Daniel 6:7. "The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den." 

The king agreed. Daniel didn't. 

"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. [11] Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. [12] So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: "Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions' den?"

The king answered, "The decree stands--in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed." 

[13] Then they said to the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day." (Daniel 6:10-13 NIV)

Daniel wouldn't stop praying, even under the threat of the lions' den. His peers caught him in the very act of praying and forced the king to carry out the decree. Why would Daniel continue to pray even when it could mean it would destroy his life?

Simple. Prayer isn't about the person praying. It is about the Kingdom. We don't pray so our life will be easier, better or enriched. We pray because we are compelled to reach through our prayers to the throne of God to impact the world.

The Scripture doesn't record the content of Daniel's prayer when he continued to pray "three times a day." What would you have prayed? For me it probably would have had something to do with not wanting to spend the night as dinner for the lions. Our tendency, when faced with difficult situations is to ask God to take it away. It is different with Christians who are under persecution, they tend to ask for the strength to go through the trial.

Phillip Yancy, in the February 7, 2001 Christianity Today, writes about the response of Christians in Malaysia and Indonesia to their persecution. The Christians in Malaysia consider themselves blessed because all they have to endure is restrictions on their Christian activities, while in Indonesia the persecutors are killing Christians. In Indonesia, the Christians consider themselves blessed because they can still publish the gospel, unlike the believers in Malaysia even though they face martyrdom for their Christian activities. (Fresh Illustrations

People who are the kind of people that others depend on to pray, often have important things to pray about, because of the depth of their faith and the direction of their life. Things like, how to continue their Christian activities or publish the Scripture without it being hazardous to their health, and the courage to do it when it is. Or things like how to survive a night with the lions.

The morning after the King threw Daniel into the Lions' Den he ran to it to see if Daniel survived: "And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Daniel 6:20 [KJV]

He had. God shut the mouth of the lions, he answered their prayer, but Daniel still had to spend a night sleeping with deadly beasts. What does God say when people pray. Sometimes He says, you have to go to the Lions' Den, but I'll be with you when you do.

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
one-pointexpositiory sermon