At the beginning of the year, I made a personal resolution to shepherd and to lead my congregation not out of skill and competence, but out of prayer and repentance. In other words, I want to pray more. This desire to pray more is not out of some legalistic tendency or the idea that somehow if I pray more, then God will love me more as well. No, I want to pray more so that I learn to love God more. I want to pray so that I will learn to fully submit and surrender myself and my ways and my will to God.
E.M. Bounds said, “Talking to me for God is a great thing. But talking to God for men is greater still.” I am learning that a prayer-less pastor is a powerless pastor. I think it is the same for anyone. A prayer-less father is a powerless pastor. A prayer-less mother is a powerless mother. A prayer-less Christian is a powerless Christian. A prayer-less Church is a power-less Church.
In the Old Testament, one of the more popular character is Daniel. He is well known for his ordeal in the lion’s den. But for me, what sticks out more was Daniel’s prayer life. There’s three characteristics that we see about how Daniel prayed.
First, Daniel prayed when life was hard.
In reading Daniel 6:1-12, it’s easy to see that Daniel knew that if he were to be caught praying, he would be thrown into the lion’s den. But that didn’t keep him from communing with God. We don’t have to fear being thrown into a lion’s den today, but still, sometimes it’s hard to pray. Maybe it’s hard to pray because you are tired and you don’t want to pray. Maybe it’s hard to pray because you are too busy and you feel like it will take up too much of your time. Maybe you have a problem on your hand and you just feel like you need to handle it on your own. For Daniel, even when it was difficult to pray, he made a point to still do so. It is at times when you least want to pray… is when you probably most need to pray.
For some of us, sometimes it is easiest to pray when we have problems. But a lot of times once the problem is resolved, we stop praying. The only time we pray is when we’re in a jam. As soon as things improve, we forget God. If you only pray when you are in trouble, then you really are in trouble. But Daniel teaches us to press in and to pray even when life is hard and difficult. He didn’t just pray when times are hard, he prayed consistently, daily, three times a day.
Secondly, Daniel prayed as a habit.
In reading verses 10 and 13, Daniel prayed as he had previously. So not only on days when life was hard, but every day Daniel prayed. It was natural for him to do so because he made it a habit to pray daily. In other words, for Daniel, prayer was just like brushing his teeth. He didn’t need someone to tell him to brush his teeth… no, he just knew to do it. Prayer was a natural habit for him. He had disciplined himself to do so. He could pray even when it was hard because he had disciplined himself to do it, even if he didn’t feel like praying.
Prayer is not always like a jolt of adrenaline each time you pray. Although the “jolt” may hit us periodically, the benefits of praying are more like vitamins. People who regularly take vitamins do so because of their long-term benefits, not because every time they swallow one of the pills, they feel new strength surging through their bodies. At times, praying will have a sudden and intense impact on us. However, the real value lies in the cumulative effects that long-term exposure to prayer will bring to our lives.
Lastly, Daniel prayed with humility.
Daniel got down on his knees and prayed. Of course, we don’t need to pray on our knees. We can pray standing up, sitting down and some even pray with their face on the ground. The posture of the heart is more important than the physical posture. But for Daniel and there are times… when the outward expressions show inner condition. Often times, outward expressions help us to not only express what’s in our hearts, but it helps us to understand spiritual realities. Prayer humbles us and helps us to realize that we come before a holy King. Prayer is the ultimate expression of dependence. In prayer, we’re saying, “God, you know so much more than I do. Your ways are so much better than mine. Turn my will towards yours.”
Jesus the Ultimate Prayer Warrior.
Daniel prayed when it was hard and he made prayer a habit. Prayer made Daniel become a humble servant. Daniel was saved by God in the den of lions because he prayed to the Lion of Judah. Daniel indeed is a great example for us to follow and to emulate, especially in his prayer life. But in the end, we need more than example. We need a Savior. Daniel was someone who points ultimately to the ultimate Prayer Warrior, Jesus. Jesus’ whole life was a life of prayer. If prayer connects us to God and serves as a bridge for us to commune with God, then Jesus Himself is the Prayer of God. He became the ultimate bridge and connection to God for us.