Whether it’s a short blessing before a meal, a personal utterance before something challenging or a longer group session, praying can take many forms. When I was little, my parents taught me two prayers – one for meals and one for bedtime. I am sure that many of you had a similar experience. Later in life, I was taught the Lord’s Prayer. While it is a powerful prayer straight from Jesus, I never really used it as a personal prayer, but I am sure many have. As I have gotten older, I have cultivated a personal prayer style borrowing from what I have heard others do well.
One thing that I have borrowed and practiced over the years is the ACTS model of praying – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. I say practiced because I am an “ADD” prayer and sometimes, especially in groups, get stuck. I am typically great out of the gate with the “A” – I am pretty good at telling the Lord how awesome He is. I am also pretty confident with the “C” because I have a bunch of stuff to confess. The problem typically kicks in when I start thanking the Lord for all of the great things He has done for me. Because I could go on forever in thanksgiving, I sort of get lost and then just blurt out some random requests – sometimes completely forgetting some of the big ones. Besides my poor execution, it is a very good prayer method.
Pastor James MacDonald had a few really great sermons on prayer that I have always loved. He had a sort of prayer checklist that I have attempted to also incorporate into my prayer life along with the ACTS model – Commit to a Time. Commit to a Place. Pray alone. Pray out loud. Pray on your knees. Pray with a list. Let me tell you though, from an aspirational perspective, I have a long way to go. I am always amazed by how good some people are at prayer – especially extemporaneous prayers.
As I continue to spend time in the Old Testament, one of the most aspirational pray-ers that I have found is Daniel – His prayer in Daniel 9 is a magnum opus. As prayers go, it is not very long, probably under 2 minutes total, but it is a great example of the right content, tenor and tone we need to use when we are on our knees, talking to the Lord. I am going to look at each part and point out the greatness contained in this prayer as a model for us to emulate in our personal and corporate prayer sessions.
Daniel starts our strong. He shows us that he already trusts the Lord and is in the Word. He is studying the prophet Jeremiah when God reveals what He wanted him to hear. Daniel’s actions and reaction is a perfect example for us. Turn to the Lord, stay in the Word and pray about what you hear from Him.
1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes, who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 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. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
– Daniel 9:1-3
Much like the ACTS model, Daniel starts his prayer with adoration and confession. While doing this, he also gets bonus points by showing that he knows what the Lord has promised – to Love those who love Him.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
– Daniel 9:4-6
Next, Daniel continues to keep a contrite and humble attitude while speaking the truth about the Isrealite’s past. This affirmation is backed by heavy doses of gratitude (the T of Thankfulness) and more solid Bible knowledge.
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
– Daniel 9:7-14
After this tremendous wind-up, Daniel makes his supplication pitch (he gets around to asking the Lord for something). Even in his asking, Daniel sort of delivers a mini prayer within a prayer filled with solid truth, adoration, confession wrapped around his prayerful ask.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
– Daniel 9:15-16
The final part of this prayer is pretty bold. In his asking, Daniel points out that God should act, not only for the Isrealite’s sake, but for His own. His imploring even have just the right hint of commanding without being demanding or expecting. Lord, (please) do this because you are not only great and awesome, but you promised.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our 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. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
– Daniel 9:17-18
Praying like this, powered by a healthy humility and knowledge of His Word is what we need to aspire to. If we do this, the Lord will do His will and we will know that we are in alignment with Him.