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that God can accept
And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet [or private area], and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.
And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer [in line with God's will], believing, you shall receive.
Prayer is talking with God
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and He often urged upon them the necessity of prayer. Matthew 6:9-13. He did not bid them to study books to learn a form of prayer. They were not to offer prayer to men, but to make their requests known to God. He taught them that the prayer which God accepts is the simple, earnest petition from a soul that feels its need; and He promised to send the Holy Spirit to help compose their prayers. Romans 8:26.
God invites us to come to Him with our burden of guilt and our heart sorrows. Sin fills us with fear of God; therefore, when we have sinned, we normally try to hide ourselves from Him. But whatever our sin, God bids us come to Him through Jesus Christ, for it is only by taking our sins to God that we can be freed from them. Cain, under the rebuke of God, acknowledged his guilt in killing Abel; but then he fled away from God, as if he could thus escape from his sin. Had he fled to God with his burden of guilt, he would have been forgiven. The prodigal son, realizing his guilt and wretchedness, said, "I will arise and go to my father." He confessed his sin, and was taken back to his father's heart.
Confessing faults to one another
If we would offer acceptable prayer, there is first a work to be done in confessing our sins to one another. If I have sinned against my neighbor in word or action, I should make confession to him or her. If they have wronged me, they should confess to me. So far as is possible, the one who has wronged another is to make restitution. Then is the time to confess the sin to God, whose law has been transgressed.
[Jesus said] Leave there your gift [or prayer] before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
In sinning against our brother or sister, we sin against God, and we must seek pardon from Him. Whatever our sin, if we but repent and believe in the atoning blood of Christ, we shall be pardoned.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
Daniel's example of prayer and confession is given for our instruction and encouragement. For nearly seventy years, Israel had been in captivity. The land which God had chosen for His own possession was given into the hands of the heathen. The beloved city, the recipient of heaven's light, once the joy of the whole earth, was now despised and degraded. The temple that had contained the ark of God's covenant and the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, was in ruins. Its very site was desecrated by unholy feet. Faithful men who knew of the former glory were filled with anguish at the desolation of the holy house that had distinguished Israel as God's chosen people.
These men had been witnesses to the censure of God because of the sins of His people. They had been witnesses to the fulfilment of this word. They had been witnesses also to the promises of His favor if Israel would return to God, and walk circumspectly before Him. Aged, gray-headed pilgrims went up to Jerusalem to pray amid its ruins. Jeremiah 40:4-5. They kissed its stones, and wet them with their tears, as they entreated the Lord to have mercy on Zion, and cover her with the glory of His righteousness. Daniel knew that the appointed time for Israel's captivity was nearly ended; but he did not feel that because God had promised to deliver them, they themselves had no part to act. With fasting and contrition he sought the Lord, confessing his own sins and the sins of the people.
"All Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey Your voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us, and against our judges [leaders] that judged [guided] us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, All this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand Your truth."
There had been a kind of prayer offered - commonplace, self-justifying prayer - but not the prayer that comes from a broken heart and contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18. Daniel makes no plea on the ground of his own goodness; but he says:
"O my God, incline Your ear, and hear; open Your eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name: for we do not present our supplications before You for our righteousness, but for Your great mercies."
His intensity of desire makes him earnest and fervent. He continues:
"O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Your own sake, O my God; for Your city and Your people are called by Your name."
This prayer was the work of the Holy Spirit. It was heard in heaven.
"While I was speaking and praying," Daniel says, "and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yes, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, . . . being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved."
What a prayer was that which came forth from the lips of Daniel! What humbling of soul it reveals! The warmth of heavenly fire was recognized in the words that were going upward to God. Heaven responded to that prayer by sending its messenger to Daniel. In this our day, prayers offered in like manner will prevail with God.
"The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
In ancient/ times, when prayer was offered, fire descended from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice upon the altar. So, in answer to our prayers, the heavenly fire will come into our souls. The light and power of the Holy Spirit will be ours.
1 Chronicles 21:26
And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven [split] tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
Daniel's heart was burdened for the people of God, for the city and temple that were laid waste. His deepest interest was for the honour of God and the prosperity of Israel. It was this that moved him to seek God with prayer and fasting and deep humiliation. Have not we as great need to call upon God as had Daniel? I address those who believe that we are living in the very last period of this earth's history. That God who heard Daniel's prayer will hear ours when we come to Him in contrition on behalf of others. Our necessities are as urgent, our difficulties are as great, and we need to have the same intensity of purpose, and in faith roll our burden upon the great Burden-bearer. There is need for hearts to be as deeply moved in our time as in the time when Daniel prayed.
It is NOT enough for us to ask God to help others as though He was not already doing that! That prayer which says, "O Lord, help Mary or Tom Jones down the street (or in another country) because she or he needs help" can never be answered by a righteous God. He is already doing all He can - it is us He is waiting for - to do our part. Only that prayer which acknowledges our helplessness yet which says, "Lord, give me the strength and I will do it for You", can receive God's blessing. This presupposes that we know of the other's problem and that they are near enough to us for us to reach them in His name. To this end it is written:-
What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You believe that there is one God; you do well. The devils also believe, and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? See you how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect [or complete]? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
You see then how that by works a man is justified [or proved righteous], and not by faith only.
And Jesus told us:-
When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say to them on His right hand, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was a hungry [person], and you gave Me meat [food]: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me.
Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we You a hungry [person], and fed You? or thirsty, and gave You drink? When saw we You a stranger, and took You in? or naked, and clothed You? Or when saw we You sick, or in prison, and came to You?
And the King shall answer and say to them, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it to Me.
Then shall He say also to them on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungry [person], and you gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me not in: naked, and you clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited Me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we You a hungry [person], or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?
Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [right-doers] into life eternal.
As James says, our works will show our faith AFTER we are saved. They are not necessary for our salvation, but are necessary for our sanctification. There is no salvation for us except in Jesus; for it is through faith in Him that we receive power to become the sons of God. But it is not merely a passing faith; it is faith that works the works of Christ. Jesus has said,
If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
We have a part to act as well as to believe; for we are to be judged according to our works.
Watching and working must go together; faith and works must be united, or our characters will not be symmetrical and well-balanced, perfect in Christ Jesus. Should we give our lives up to prayerful meditation only, our lights would grow dim, for light and strength is given to us that we may impart it to others, and the more we impart light and help, the brighter our own light will become.
It is a dangerous theory that leads men to declare that all that is necessary to salvation is to simply believe in Christ, while disregarding His plain commands. The gospel is not the Old Testament standard lowered, it requires faith that works righteousness, that keeps the commandments of God. Says the apostle,
1 John 5:3
This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.
When men or women claim to be saved while living in violation of God's law, they claim that to which they have no right. Their salvation is not assured, but they are deceived by the falsehood of the evil one. The same sophistry is indulged, the same lie repeated by men, as was first spoken in Eden through the mediumship of the serpent. Though the medium is changed, the sentiment is the same. True prayer, then, includes actions.
One way only
We have only one channel of approach to God. Our prayers can come to Him through one name only, - that of the Lord Jesus our advocate.
Neither is there salvation in any Other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
His Spirit must inspire our petitions. No strange fire was to be used in the censers that were waved before God in the sanctuary. So the Lord himself must kindle in our hearts the burning desire, if our prayers are acceptable to Him. The Holy Spirit within must make intercessions for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered.
A deep sense of our need, and a great desire for the things for which we ask, must characterize our prayers, else they will not be heard. But we are not to become weary, and cease our petitions because the answer is not immediately received. Jesus covered this very point in the following story.
And He spoke a parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint [or give up]; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: and there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God [the just One] avenge His own elect, which cry day and night to Him, though He [seems to] bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them [as] speedily [as He can].
Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?
Great persistence is required
The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
The violence here meant is a holy earnestness, such as Jacob manifested whenm he wresteled with God. Genesis 32:24. We need not try to work ourselves up into an intense feeling; but calmly, persistently, we are to press our petitions at the throne of grace. Our work is to humble our souls before God, confessing our sins, and in faith drawing near to God. The Lord answered the prayer of Daniel, not that Daniel might glorify himself, but that the blessing might reflect glory to God. It is the design of God to reveal Himself in His providence and in His grace. The object of our prayers must be the glory of God, not the glorification of ourselves.
When we see ourselves weak, ignorant, and helpless, as we really are, we shall come before God as humble suppliants. Revelation 3:17. It is ignorance of God and of Christ that makes any soul proud and self-righteous. The infallible indication that a man knows not God, is found in the fact that he feels that in himself he is great or good. Pride of heart is always associated with ignorance of God. It is the light from God that discovers our darkness and destitution. When the divine glory was revealed to Daniel, he exclaimed,
"My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength."
The moment the humble seeker sees God as He is, that moment he will have the same view of himself that Daniel had. There will be no lifting up of the soul to vanity, but a deep sense of the holiness of God and of the justice of his requirements. The fruit of such an experience will be manifested in a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice.
Study the books of Daniel and The Revelation
The Lord calls for co-partnership in His work. He desires us to enlist our interests in His cause, as Daniel did. We should receive great benefits from a study of the book of Daniel in connection with the Revelation. Daniel studied the prophecies. He earnestly sought to know their meaning. He prayed and fasted for heavenly light. And the glory of God was revealed to him in even greater measure than he could endure. We are in equal need of divine illumination. God has called us to give the last message of warning to the world. There will be voices heard on every side to divert the attention of God's people with new theories. We need to give the trumpet a certain sound. We do not half realize what is before us. If the books of Daniel and the Revelation were studied with earnest prayer, we should have a better knowledge of the perils of the last days, and would be better prepared for the work before us - we should be prepared to unite with Christ and to work in His lines.
God has honoured us by showing how greatly He values us. We are bought with a price, even the precious blood of the Son of God. 1 Corinthians 6:20. When His heritage shall conscientiously follow the word of the Lord, His blessing will rest upon them in answer to their prayers.
"Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn you even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents Him of the evil. Who knows if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him? . . . You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and My people shall never be ashamed."
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