Excellence in prayer


Preaching notes

Discover how to use these preaching notes (authentically)

… and understand the abbreviations

[reminder re taking notes and outline in News Sheet]

Daniel and the Word

Dan 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.

This tells us some significant things:

a) the book of Jeremiah was already being regarded as ‘scripture’

In other words,

  • a book with God’s stamp on it –
  • a book with God-breathed content
  • a book from which we can all hear the word of the Lord.

I’m sometimes asked how it is that these books were chosen to be in the Bible while others were ignored.

  • One of the reasons is that many people, not just theological experts, hear God’s voice from their pages.
  • This ground-swell of hearing God’s voice through a book combined together to give us (today) confidence that the Bible reliably God’s word, and not merely interesting pieces of ancient literature

More importantly,

b)it tells us something about Daniel’s spiritual DNA

He had been researching the prophecy of Jeremiah and it had dawned on him that the prophecies of Jeremiah were coming true all around him

  • … and he was in the middle of something God was doing!
  • this made his heart miss a beat or two.

He was looking around him and concluding “This is it!” “It’s happening here!”

There’s another good example of this in the Bible – Day on Pentecost

  • Jesus had foretold that the Holy Spirit would come
  • sure enough the disciples are filled to overflowing with the personality and power of God Himself
  • Peter stands up and what does he say? “This is it!”
  • He knew enough of the Old Testament scriptures to look back, remember that Joel had foretold this happening, and realise he was in the middle of it.

“This is God making history” Peter says “and we’re part of it – this may never happen again! We are the chosen bunch to see spiritual history being made!” – “This is it!”

Now what characteristic of Daniel brought him to a point of recognising that ‘this is it!’? How was he attuned to this?

  • The answer to that question is as simple as it is profound
  • Daniel was a man of the word!
  • he knew enough about Jeremiah’s prophecy to recognise it was being fulfilled right under his nose!
  • And that is always a qualification for genuinely Godly people.

It’s such a simple principle – We recognise what God is doing in our lives, in the church and in the world – only when we spend time in his word.

God looks for people who are not allured by the externally impressive, but deep in their understanding of God’s communicated word

  • because that is what feeds the soul
  • That’s what guides the mind
  • that’s what fires the heart

His word gives us the framework in which to interpret what is gong on around us!

As it did with Daniel

Daniel and his visions

This prayer didn’t start out as a vision, it morphed into one.

  • The interface between earnest praying and seeing visual images from God in our mind’s eye is very small indeed.
  • And we are wise to recognise the psycho-spiritual aspect to this

Let me ask you a question – what happens when we dream?

The subjects, experiences and especially the feelings that are uppermost in our minds usually form the key ingredients of our dreams at night.

  • Sleep analysts tell us that during our sleep the mind tries to make sense of the day by putting moods, experiences and memories into neurological boxes for later recall

One of the reasons that God could speak to Daniel with such clarity was that he was a man soaked in God’s word. So the overall framework of God’s work in he world was already embedded in Daniel’s mind.

  • God’s word and His character – the task of understanding his ways and interpreting his actions – were so natural a part of Daniel’s mindset that God already had the basic message invested in this man’s psyche
  • Daniel’s mind was soaked in the word. His thinking was pervaded by scripture

E.g. Search group – this is one of the factors they bear in mind as my replacement here.

  • Someone who has disciplined their mind to be soaked in the Word.
  • Please pray for them.

So when God searched the population of the exiles in Babylon for a man to speak to, someone whose psyche he could communicate with –

  • There was no contest! – It was a done deal! Daniel it is!

Daniel and prayer

A man or woman whose mindset is soaked in scripture is always going to have the edge over anyone who sees prayer as little more than bringing the Lord little more than today’s wish-list.

At one level Daniel was not qualified by having a ministry of intercession to say what he did.

  • He just said it because he could see it
  • Intercessors do this – they see what is around them and they say what they see back to God.
  • They plead for the Lord to act in line with his promises
  • because prayer catapults us to the front line of the spiritual battle!

Daniel and politics

If Daniel was not qualified because he didn’t carry a ministry of intercession, in another way he was absolutely qualified to say what he did

  • he was a high ranking national leader.


Dan 9:1-2 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom– in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.


Dan 6:1 & 5 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom,

5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

(so jealous were they of Daniel’s spiritual excellence that he posed a threat to them – and he ended up in the lion’s den

The timing is significant

  • We know Daniel was condemned to the lion’s den because of his praying and this chapter contains the content of his prayers.
  • It is saying these things that landed Daniel in the den of lions!
  • So what was he praying for? The prosperity and recovery of Jerusalem!
  • He was not praying for Babylon so this became a treasonable prayer! (at least so far as the other men who were jealous of his success were concerned)

We can see there is a distinct change of mindset in Daniel in this chapter. When he begins he’s very concerned with the dates and times.

  • The question uppermost in his mind is “What date has God set for the return to Jerusalem?”

But as he meditated on the books and took them to heart his concern shifted to a much more fundamental question.

  • Can there be any hope of a return from exile while the children of Israel are still estranged from God?

His attention moved from getting the prophetic details buttoned up to wrestling with God over the spiritual state of the people around him!

This is still a shift that we need to make!

  • it’s so easy to get taken up with trying to match every detail of prophecy to an event that has not yet taken place the we forget why God gave up prophecy in the first place

… to spur us to live for him … to get us holy!


Excellent praying.

So what was the traffic that passed between his soul and the Lord?

It’s a prayer with God at its focus:

Who God is

He draws our attention to two characteristics of God:

a) “The great and awesome God”

  • awesome is stronger than just ‘impressive’ it’s more like “the great and terrifying God”
  • God puts the wind up Daniel.
  • The closer we get to God the closer we get to a high voltage line!
  • Daniel is not dealing with a pussy-cat God, he’s dealing with a lion.

b) “Who keeps his covenant of love”

God has promised to love, and he will keep that promise.

Let me read you one of the vows that we written by some friends of our for their wedding:

I promise to love you, whatever our future may hold, to love you in good times and in bad, when it is easy to love you and when it is not. I promise to support (and to obey) you in all that you do and to be faithful to you until death parts us or until Jesus comes again – and to this I give you my most solemn promise.

God has promised to love us – whether we love him back or not! – and He will keep that covenant, come what may!

When Jesus Christ dies on the cross, did he do it because he knew our love for him was sufficient to merit his sacrifice? No way! He died because of God s covenant, God promise, to love is people, and give himself sacrificially for them!

But them there is a rider,

“with all those who love him and obey his commands”

The benefits of the covenant are not for everyone

  • and this is the disturbing part of the gospel – not everyone responds to God’s love.

Appeal >>>

it’s a prayer with of confession at its heart

he presents a catalogue of things God’s people have neglected to do

have rebelled

Dan 9:5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.

We have not listened

6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

we have not obeyed

Dan 9:11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgements written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.

Dan 9:14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

How true of our nation >>>

it’s a prayer of pleading

The intensity of our pleading is shown more by how we pray than by what we say

Let me ask you a question: how did the spies who clearly kept watch on Daniel’s house know he was praying in front of his window?

Surely he could just have been quietly meditating or just admiring the view from his window.

Dan 9:3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

Imagine the scene

Daniel facing the window – knowing the threat from the decree issued by the King

Fasting – stomach churning through lack of food

  • the spies don’t know this but this man is ravenously hungry because he knows that self-imposed hunger intensifies our prayer and reinforces to the Lord that we are urgent in our praying

Sackcloth – a rough black sacking material – usually made from goats hair and worn next to the skin – deliberately uncomfortable – a sign of deep mourning or disaster

  • when his spies see sackcloth they know he’s adopting the clothing or a mourner

Ashes: the tradition was to shower ash all over yourself as a sign of repentance and sorrow!

  • Here is man who is urgent in his praying – and gruesome in his appearance.

The arm of God is moved by men and women who are urgent in their praying

Will you pray urgently and earnestly for our nation as Daniel prayed for his?

Dan 9:17-18 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary.

18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

Pray >>>