************ Sermon on Daniel 6:27 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 30, 2006
Topic: PrayerJosh Peterson, like Daniel, made a decision to persevere in prayer.
Title: If I Could Say A Prayer
During graduation exercises in 1990 at Bingham High School in Salt Lake City, Josh Peterson, 17, student body president was to deliver the commencement address. School officials advised Josh that he must not include a prayer. The school had been threatened with a law suit if it allowed prayers. The school's lawyers were particularly nervous because the issue of prayer at graduations was going to be argued before the Supreme Court that fall. So Josh Peterson delivered his commencement address and then he added "If I could say a prayer for our graduating class -- if I could -- here is what I would say:" And then he started out "Heavenly Father, we thank you... " and so forth. And it was an eloquent prayer. And when the audience got over its shock, he received a standing ovation.
-- Associated Press, 6-10-91
Remember what we said last time when we looked at Daniel 6? We said that what we have in front of us is a clever plot on the part of Satan to outlaw prayer. We said the administrators and satraps want to outlaw prayer so that they can get rid of a Daniel who keeps the king from suffering loss through graft and corruption. The Devil, however, has an entirely different goal in mind. He doesn't care at all about Daniel. Whether Daniel stays in power or not is irrelevant. What the Devil wants to do is to stop the prayer of Daniel and God's people. So the Devil uses the jealousy and pettiness of the other officials to have a decree passed forbidding prayer to God; instead, for 30 days everyone in the kingdom is to pray to the king; for 30 days there is to be one empire and one religion; for 30 days the king gets to play god. And whoever prays to any god or man other than the king is to be thrown into the lions' den. These are big lions, hungry lions, lions waiting for supper. Anyone thrown into their den is sure to be torn limb from limb and devoured on the spot.
Why is the Devil so opposed to prayer? We said that the prince of this world is not afraid of soldiers in full battle dress, but he does tremble before powerless old men on their knees in prayer. He knows that the strength of God's children is found in prayer. He knows that the life and future of the church is dependent upon prayer. He knows that God gives His grace and Spirit and gifts only to those who unceasingly ask for them and gives thanks for them in prayer. Listen to these quotes:
Subtopic: Exhortations To
Title: Chadwick, Spurgeon, And Murray Quoted
"The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray." (Samuel Chadwick)
"I would rather teach one man to pray than 10 men to preach." (Charles Spurgeon)
"The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history." (Andrew Murray)
The decree outlawing prayer is passed. So what does Daniel do? Scripture tells us Daniel's reaction:
(Dan 6:10) Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. As we said last time, Daniel knew exactly what he was doing. He knew he was putting his life on the line. He knew he could die. Daniel, we said, made a decision to persevere in prayer. Daniel purposely made a decision to continue in communion with his God.
Today, we want to look at prayer's victory. To do so, we must look at how the events of the story unfold.
I Daniel Caught
A Scripture tells us that the satraps who tried to catch Daniel succeeded. In fact, they managed to catch him in the act. Seeking safety and strength in numbers, they
(Dan 6:11) ... went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. Perhaps they were scared of a righteous Daniel. Perhaps they knew the king would not accept the testimony of only two or three of them against his most loyal and faithful servant. Whatever the reason, these heroic men went as a group to Daniel's house and found what they expected: they found Daniel praying to God Almighty instead of to King Darius.
Here we see prayer's first victory. Even though prayer is against he law, even though it is punishable by death, Daniel keeps on praying!
B Immediately the satraps went to the king. Daniel, they informed the king, was paying no attention to the king's commands. He was ignoring the king's edict. He was being disobedient, unfaithful, disloyal. He was in rebellion against the king. Of course, this was their way of putting Daniel in the worst possible light. Even the satraps themselves knew Daniel to be the King's most loyal and dedicated servant – after all, that's why they wanted to get rid of him.
The king too knew the charges were not really true. That's why he was depressed and distressed rather than angry. So all day long he tried to think of ways to save his faithful servant, but there was nothing to be done. He was trapped by his own law, a law that could not be repealed, annulled, or amended.
In a way, we have to feel sorry for the king. If anyone is the victim, it is Darius. We can't say Daniel is the victim because, though he knows the decree has been signed into law, he deliberately makes a decision to pray to his God. It isn't Daniel – the humble, faithful, praying believer – but Darius, the king trapped by his own laws, who is the victim to be pitied. This proud sovereign is bound by the dark power of the laws of the Medes and Persians – laws which can never be changed. But Daniel, he is free as a bird in the air even though he is being dragged off to be tried. Daniel has freedom of choice – the freedom of the children of God – but Darius is bound by the law. Thus Darius is actually in a worse predicament than Daniel, although it is Daniel who is about to be thrown into the lion's den.
We know it is only the perfect Law of a perfect God which cannot be changed, repealed, or annulled. No law of man deserves this status because human law is made by imperfect sinful man. The Medes and Persians, however, for the glory of the empire, said their law was good and perfect and thus unchangeable. In other words, they tried to take for themselves what belongs to God alone. And, any attempt on man's part to take God's place is always doomed to failure. No wonder the king was trapped, a victim of circumstance, forced to act against his will.
C Having no choice in the end, the king had Daniel cast into the lion's den. It was closed by rolling a heavy stone in front of it. Since people who do not trust in God usually do not trust each other either, the stone was sealed. It was the king's seal that made the execution official. It was a warning that whoever tampered with the den, the stone, or the lions faced the wrath and judgment of the king himself. And in the den were wild, hungry lions. Since it was the practice not to feed those lions for 6 days prior to an execution we know Daniel stands little chance of being ignored; instead, the lions can only see him as supper.
II Prayer's Victory
A It is here that we see prayer's second victory. You might wonder about this. Why would I speak of victory when Daniel is thrown into the lions' den? Shouldn't talk of victory wait until Daniel emerges untouched from the den? Why speak of victory in the middle of the story?
Prayer's victory, congregation, is present already when Daniel is first thrown into the lions' den. We see that victory by comparing the prophet to the king. Tell me, where is true majesty to be found – in the lions' den or in the palace?
Look at the king returning to his palace. He is not able to get any rest. He neither eats nor sleeps, and he is irritated when anyone suggests the usual pastimes. We read,
(Dan 6:18) Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. Very early in the morning, as soon as the sun began to peak over the horizon, the king rises from the bed on which he has tossed and turned all night, and hurries to the lions' den.
Now look at Daniel. I dare say he spent a far more peaceful night than did the king. He is not tormented by images running through his mind. Instead, Daniel sees an angel. "My God sent his angel," he says to the king. His voice is calm and respectful: "O king, live forever!"
B We see peace and tranquility on one side and trouble and anxiety on the other. We see fear and restlessness outside the lions' den and peace and hope within it.
This is the second great victory of prayer. Whoever puts his trust in God Almighty, as does Daniel, remains completely calm in the midst of the greatest dangers. I cannot help but think here of the words of the psalmist:
(Ps 46:1-2) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea ...
The believer does not easily become nervous and anxious. When he does become fearful, it is usually because he is not clinging as he should to God in faith. On the other hand, someone who does not take God into account is always tormented by anxiety – as is Darius.
III By Grace Through Faith
A How exactly is Daniel saved? The apocryphal book, "Bel and the Dragon," gives one explanation. It tells us about the prophet Habakkuk in Judea. He was taking food to reapers in the field. But the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head, lifted him by his hair, and set him down in Babylon, right over the den. Habakkuk used the reapers' food to save Daniel's life. Immediately afterward the angel of the Lord returned Habakkuk to his own place.
Is this what really happened? Is this how Daniel's life is spared? That's not what the Bible says.
B We know that in all the troubles of life Daniel always turns to God in prayer. There is no reason to expect that now would be any different. There is no doubt that Daniel prays about himself while in the den. And God hears his prayer. God sends His angel to guard Daniel and to shut the mouths of the lions.
However, we can still say more than this. When we turn to the New Testament, the book of Hebrews, we read there of those
(Heb 11:33) who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions ...We must take this as a reference to Daniel.
By faith or through faith Daniel is kept safe from the hungry lions. Here we see prayer's third victory. Daniel prays out of faith. Daniel believes what he is saying. And God keeps him safe.
It is truly amazing what a believer can accomplish through prayer. Angels are called down from heaven, as in the case of Daniel in the lions' den. Think also of Peter in his cell, and the congregation in Jerusalem praying fervently for his release (Acts 12). Through the prayer of a believer, the mouths of lions can indeed be stopped. Never can a believer expect too much of prayer. Remember the words of Jesus?
(Matt 21:21-22) "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. (22) If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
Many believers live in a state of spiritual and emotional poverty because they don't dare to pray and to ask out of faith. It's nothing short of astounding what we can gain and accomplish through prayer if only we have the faith to try. Yet, many believers do not dare to find out. Many believers doubt the power of prayer. Let me retell a story I first used 9 years ago.
Topic: PrayerWe smile at this story, but it suggests how faithless we sometimes are in offering our petitions to God.
Subtopic: Conditions of Successful
Title: Who Believes?
The story is told of a small town in which there were no liquor stores. Eventually, however, a nightclub was built right on Main Street. Members of one of the churches in the area were so disturbed that they conducted several all night prayer meetings, and asked the Lord to burn down that den of iniquity. Lightning struck the tavern a short time later, and it was completely destroyed by fire. The owner, knowing how the church people had prayed, sued them for the damages. His attorney claimed that their prayers had caused the loss. The congregation, on the other hand, hired a lawyer and fought the charges. After much deliberation the judge declared, "It's the opinion of the court that wherever the guilt may lie, the tavern keeper is the one who really believes in prayer while the church members do not!"
C Now a note of caution. Daniel was saved through prayer and by grace. But, we must not hold the illusion that God always rescues His children in their hour of trial. The life of a believer does not always take such favorable turns as Daniel's life does here. Things often turn out much different for us than for Daniel.
Why, then, is Daniel kept safe? Why is his life spared? We have to add that God wants this outcome. It is His will for Daniel to stay alive. It's not a question of what suits us best but a question of what suits the Lord best. So Daniel is kept alive, his life is spared, through faith, through believing prayer, and BY GRACE. As Darius himself says about God,
(Dan 6:27) "He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions."
Prayer's victory. Believing prayer's victory. That's what we have in front of us this evening.
One final note about prayer. Today many Christians seem to be blind to God's answers to prayer. They pray for God's light, and they ignore the light He has supplied in abundance through His Word. They pray for strength; yet God's Word tells them they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them (Phil. 4:13). They pray for more love, although Paul says that God's own love is already poured out within their hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). They pray for more grace, although the Lord says the grace He has already given is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). They pray for peace, although the Lord has given them His own peace, "which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). It is expected that when we pray for such blessings we take what is already given as God's answer.
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