This past Sunday morning, the way I thought about prayer shifted a little. It got better and deeper. A guest speaker named Scott Williams, formally from LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma, was doing a series a Private Disciplines; this Sunday was prayer. As he spoke, I took notes and realized what I thought I already knew about prayer and how to prayer, was just the surface.
We've all heard about Daniel and the Lions den from the book of Daniel in the Bible. Do you know why he was sent the Lions Den? In Daniel 6 it describes how Daniel, a high ranking, trustworthy "politician" (imagine that?!), was target by other jealous peers because of his religion. His "haters" went to King Darius and convinced him to sign a law that people could only pray to him, and no other gods, and if they did, they would be sent into the Lions den. Once Daniel had learned that the law had been signed, the FIRST thing he did was pray.
Daniel 6:10 "But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God."
Here's what I learned Sunday about prayer:
1. HUMBLE yourself before God.
Daniel knelt before God. Kneeling is a sign of servanthood, lowering yourself before someone or something that is greater than you. To get on your knees is a representation of humbleness before God. It says, I am not worthy, I need help, I can't do it on my own.
Taking time to humble ourselves before God allows us to be in a position of servanthood. Especially when we are in solitude. With our busy lives it's so hard to find a truly quiet place. Solitude = no TV, no music, no phone, no computer, no distractions, no to-do lists, etc. Hey, praying on-the-go is okay too! God still hears those prayers and knows sometimes we need to ask for His help quickly. But He desires just us, just as we are, humble before Him.
2. Be PERSISTENT
Daniel 6:10 says, "...he went home and knelt down AS USUAL. ... He prayed THREE TIMES A DAY, JUST AS HE HAD DONE BEFORE."
Daniel was persistent about his prayers. He prayed everyday, three times a day. We know this to be true because it says, "just as he had done before." It was a normal occurrence. And, as "usual" he knelt before God.
When was the last time you prayed everyday for an entire week? Not counting praying for meals or quick, "Lord give me strength" prayers. But actual everyday, on your knees, in solitude, conversation with God? Gotta be honest... I do a lot of "Lord give me strength" prayers, and praying aloud in the car. But personally, I need to be better at being persistent about devoting time and solitude into my prayers - talking AND listening! Making it a daily occurrence! You can't just jump into devoted prayer and expect all your prayers to be answered at once. It takes time! And persistence!
Daniel was caught praying to God by his "haters" and they ran to King Darius telling him about Daniel's betrayal. King Darius was disturbed by this because he loved Daniel, but he also knew he could not go back on the law he signed. So when Daniel was arrested and as he was put into the Lions den, King Darius said to him, "May the God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you." King Darius had a prayer of his own.
3. Be SPECIFIC
Can you imagine what Daniel's prayers were like in that dark den filled with hungry, wild lions? You better believe that Daniel prayers were filled with exact requests for God: "Lord, close the mouth of this lion looking at me right here!" and "In the powerful name of God, I pray no harm, not even a scratch would come to my body the entire night!" You get the picture! He was specific in his prayers! Daniel ASKED FOR WHAT HE NEEDED.
A lot of times we ask for protection, healing, peace, direction. But what exactly are we asking for protection over and when are we asking for that? What exactly is hurting in our bodies and why do we want it gone? What types of decisions do we face everyday? Not just big ones like job changes, children, moving, etc. But what about little things like, "Lord please give me a clear sign and wisdom if I should wake up my teething 1 year old early from his morning nap, just so I can get my grocery shopping done sooner?" I prayed that prayer this week and guess what?! God gave me a clear sign (that mommy "instinct", aka God's voice, really kicked in!) that my child needed to keep sleeping!
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED! You don't get what you don't ask for! It's God's decision as far as the timing or specific way that He will answer.
4. Be EXPECTANT
Don't let your outward circumstances effect your inward faith. We have a BIG, POWERFUL God. Expect BIG, POWERFUL answers. You may have something tough going on in your life right now, but why should that make you doubt God less? Do you still have faith and trust in Him? Prayers should be expectant. Expect God to listen and to answer. Don't underestimate the power of Jesus Christ!