Do you have the habit of private, regular prayer? I am not asking if your prayers are perfect, whether or not at times you are negligent. But I am asking this: Do you have regular times each day for private, personal prayer? I know that you have habits – habits of sleeping, eating, personal hygiene, the time that you go to work, go to school, take your shower, shave. Do you have regular, set, planned moments each day for personal prayer? Do you, yes or no? If the answer is No, why not?
Habitual, private, sincere prayer is the calling and need of every one of the children of God. Prayer, personal and regular, is not merely a recommended idea. It is not merely a suggestion of the living God. But it is the command of God and is our need. It forms the very backbone of our spiritual life. We must come personally before the face of God, for we are pilgrims and strangers. And we cannot walk here below on this earth without seeking often the face of our Father in heaven.
A Christian is not simply one who has different opinions about moral issues. A Christian is not simply one who has different preferences or a different temperament. But a Christian is one in whom is implanted the life of heaven, by the grace of God. That life needs to look up to God for its refreshment. That life must go to Jerusalem. It must talk with God. It must receive grace through prayer. Do you have the habit of private, regular prayer? Answer that question before God. And if not, why not?
The message today is taken from the book of Daniel, chapter 6:10. The book of Daniel shows the continual struggle between the church and the world, between Christ and Antichrist, between the believer and the unbelieving world. It shows how Satan and the wicked world seek to overthrow and to destroy the church and the believer. And it shows how vain these attempts are.
In chapter 6 of the book of Daniel we see the most dangerous attempt that Satan makes upon our spiritual lives. In this chapter, Satan goes for the jugular vein. He attempted to outlaw prayer. Specifically he attempted to interrupt and abolish the private, personal, regular prayer-life of Daniel.
That demonic attempt goes on today. There are mighty foes aligned to keep you from the secret place of private prayer. And may now the exposition of this word of God in Daniel 6:10 be used of God to give us repentance and to inspire us to maintain habitual, private, heartfelt, sincere prayer.
It was prayer that stood at the heart of Daniel’s life in Babylon. A plot had been laid against Daniel. Its intention was to get him to disrupt his regular, private practice of prayer. That was Satan’s plot and Satan’s motive. Understand when you read that chapter that the princes and presidents of Babylon who were so envious of Daniel’s position laid their trap for another motive. They were jealous. Their intention was to get rid of Daniel and to take his place. They were moved by envy. They wanted to remove a rival so that they could ascend to greater positions of power. They were not so concerned about Daniel’s personal habits – only so far as those habits provided an opportunity for them. They wanted him removed from a position of prominence.
But that was not the thing the arch-fiend, the devil, was after. To Satan it did not matter if Daniel became the prime minister or even the king himself. What mattered to Satan was to render Daniel prayerless. Therefore it was the devil, through the use of men’s jealousy, who was plotting against Daniel. The devil’s purpose was to stop prayer. At the top of his list of priorities is the disruption and destruction of our prayers. He did not want Daniel dead. Certainly he did not want Daniel dead on his knees praying to God. He did not want Daniel thrown into a lion’s den and there in that lion’s den meet his end while he was in prayer to God. The devil did not want that! He wanted Daniel prayerless, not dead. He did not want Daniel’s life, his flesh and his blood. He wanted his soul. Yes, he is willing to use a threat to his life. Or he is willing to lure before Daniel the prominence and the positions of power. But his object was to remove prayer from Daniel’s life.
In that chapter we read of the wicked princes who were motivated by jealousy against Daniel. These princes and presidents supervised the revenue or the taxes that were received into the kingdom. And we gather, from the reading of the passage, that very often that tax money which they were entrusted to regulate would stick to their fingers. The king would often suffer damage or loss. But Daniel, who was exalted to prominence among them, was a faithful man. Daniel was the leading member of a triumvirate, a prime minister, so to speak. And his enemies could find no fault or error in him, for, we read, there was an excellent spirit in Daniel. Daniel lived in a glass house. But he was faithful. He did not say, “Well, I’m working at higher levels of government now, and I suppose I had better do business. I can’t avoid all the corruption around me in this office. After all, business is business. Just don’t let me know about it. I’ll turn my face at the appropriate moment.” Oh, no. Daniel did not take that approach. There was an excellent spirit in him. And at its heart was prayer. He applied that habit of prayer also to his workplace and to his life in the midst of the world.
Are you a man, a woman of an excellent spirit, of the integrity of God? Or has the plot against prayer been successful to a great measure in your life?
The secret of Daniel’s holy walk in the world was prayer. And the devil knew that. That is what he was after in Daniel’s life, and in your life.
We look at the characteristics of Daniel’s prayer-life. First of all we see that it was habitual. We read that Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” There was in his life regular, fixed, set times of prayer. This was something which his enemies knew before and which even the king knew. For they report to the king that Daniel makes his petitions three times a day. And the king says to Daniel in verse 16, “Thy God whom thou servest continually.” These scheming princes did not have to stake out Daniel’s house to find out when Daniel was going to pray. They could not miss it. They knew exactly when he would be praying. So they convinced the king that, for thirty days, anyone who is found praying to any god but to the king should be put to death. They knew Daniel’s habits of regular prayer. For Daniel was faithful in private, personal prayer. It was a fixed pattern in his life.
So is the will of God for our lives. Yes, there are in our lives prayers which are occasioned by crises. Sometimes there is prayer which is occasioned when our conscience is troubled and bloody under the weight of our sins. But there must also be, as the backbone of our life, planned, predictable moments of prayer. We are to have fixed habits: as we sleep, as we eat, shower, shave, and comb, as we leave for work or school. Daniel, three times a day as before, even after the king made his decree that no prayer could be made, Daniel prayed at these set times.
We read in the Scriptures, Psalm 55:16, 17: “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.” We read again in Psalm 88:13, 14, “But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?” There the psalmist is in the deep hole of despair. He saw no light. He was tempted to give up on prayer. He found no profit in his prayer-life. He had yet no light. But he says, “Nevertheless, I will continue to pray. I am committed to pray. In the morning Thou shalt find my prayers ascending to Thee, O Lord.”
Daniel’s prayer-life was not only habitual. But Daniel’s prayers engaged his heart. We do not have time right now to enter into all the detail of this important element of prayer. But it was very obvious that Daniel was intense in his prayers. He kneeled on the floor. He opened his windows toward Jerusalem, the place on earth where all the promises of God were centered. And his prayer was a prayer in which he gave thanks and made supplication before God and came before God to worship God as God. He directed his heart toward God. Consciously, by faith, he prepared himself actually to come before that throne of God and to worship. In his prayers he would list God’s goodnesses and virtues. He would confess his sins. He would lay open his heart in all of his needs to God. He would plead the promises that God Himself had made. He was engaged in his prayer! He was not just rattling off routinely various words. He was focused, he was intent. His mind was upon what he said. In Psalm 62:8 we read: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” As water is poured out of a glass, so our hearts are to be tipped over and the deepest thoughts and fears and the essence of all of our needs are to come before God.
So Daniel lived the life of habitual, personal, and wholehearted prayer.
It was this that Satan attacked. He wanted to keep this child of God from praying altogether, or to make his prayer into a ritual, or to make his prayers proud. The devil hates prayer. He wants to disrupt communion with God. He knows how God condescends to us, how God sees us as weak and pitiable sinners, and how He will come to us.
You hear the lion’s roar in Daniel’s life as you read chapter 6. The lion’s roar is heard long before the cover is removed from the den of lions and Daniel is thrown into that den. When that actually happened and Daniel was thrown in to those lions, Daniel could smile when he heard those growls. Those lions had become kittens to him by that time, because Daniel had already faced the lion. He had already heard the roar of the lion. The real danger to Daniel’s spiritual life was not in the pit of lions. There was no danger there. But the battle was fought in Daniel’s room. The battle was fought when Daniel must go home that first day after the king has made his edict against prayer. The battle was fought when the time was come, the set time to open his windows and look to Jerusalem and to kneel in prayer. Then Daniel heard the roar of Satan, the snarl: “Don’t you pray for thirty days. Think it over, Daniel. Wouldn’t it be better, Daniel, just to interrupt your habit right now and maintain your position of influence in this kingdom as a Christian? Can’t you do more good in your prominent position? Can’t you just make your prayers a very private thing. You can pray, you know, Daniel, without folding your hands. So, if the king makes this edict, is it really going to hurt too much if you go along with it? If you pray as you always have, you’re going to lose this position of prominence.” There was the lion’s roar.
Beloved, there are times in our spiritual walk when to think about performing our spiritual duties is fatal – that is, to entertain the question whether or not we should do them is fatal. Now, when Daniel, we read, “knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house … and he prayed … as he did aforetime.” Circumstances did not change his habit of prayer. Those circumstances put them to test. Those circumstances confirmed his habit. God showed His work in Daniel.
God’s Word tells us that our lives, as His redeemed children, must be centered in regular, personal, heart-engaged prayer. Satan wants us to conceive of prayer as something entirely spontaneous. Satan wants you to think of prayer as a vague, devotional mood into which somehow you fall. And when you fall into it, you pray, but if you do not really fall into the mood of prayer it is rather hypocritical to pray and you should not pray. You should pray only when you are moved to pray. God says, “The time of prayer is not determined by your mood, but by faith and commitment.” The psalmist says, in Psalm 5, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning … in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Let us be warned against praying simply after our own moods.
There are all kinds of things which would make us avoid prayer, that moment when we must enter into the closet and come to our Father in secret. Perhaps it is a quarrel in the home or in marriage or in the church. We get so upset. Satan is baiting us. He wants us to get into a hundred little tussles. And he wants words to be flung about to hurt in marriage, in family, in church. Not simply because he enjoys seeing the purchased ones of Jesus Christ going at it. He likes to see that, but there is something more. He knows that such disruption in the lives of believers on the horizontal level breaks communion with God on the vertical level. If in my heart, says the psalmist, I sin regard, my prayer He will not hear. So Satan loves those little tussles, those arguments, because he knows it will disrupt sincere, personal prayer.
Or, when you are under trial and temptation, it was Satan who wanted you to look inside, or it was Satan who wanted you to look outside of you to others. But he did not want you to look up to God.
Be determined, by grace, to engage in an all-out war to maintain private, personal prayer. What comes first for you in your daily routine? What comes first: the newspaper, the phone, the TV? God has called you as His child to habitual prayer. There have been generations that have lived without newspapers, phones, TV. You will not die without that. But there has been no generation of God’s children that has lived without habitual prayer.
Would you find it intolerable, would you find it difficult, if prayer were banned for a thirty-day period? Could you live without praying? Do you? Repent if you are and can. Perseverance in prayer is our calling. Look unto Jesus Christ and do not give up the throne of grace.
The Lord conducts a survey right now concerning you and me. He knows what that survey reveals concerning our prayer-life. He says, “Seek ye My face. Call upon Me. And I will answer thee.” Daniel prayed as aforetime.
I simply cannot stress enough today how important a life of regular prayer is. Daniel in the lion’s den is simply a fruit of his daily walk with God in prayer. The battle of the Christian life is won or lost, not in a spectacular moment, but in the trenches, in the basic duties of our calling as Christians. It is won in the daily habits. The Christian life is found in daily prayer. Go forward in your calling out of the strength of prayer, out of the spirit of prayer.
What a victory God gave to Daniel. We read that in that night, as the king spent an anxious night in the palace walking the floors, Daniel experienced peace – peace while surrounded by wild animals, peace granted to him through the habit of prayer.
Look now to God. He has opened the way for us through the blood of Jesus Christ. And He bids us to come. We shall find grace at His throne to help in time of need. At His right hand there are pleasures forevermore. His Son intercedes for us and draws us. He says, “Look unto Me, draw nigh, pray without ceasing.”
May God give to us the consciousness of the need of habitual, private prayer. May we be found as regular worshipers in His courts. Then we, too, shall experience something of that peace which is found in the presence of God. Our lives will reveal that we have been with God. And we will live as those who have the light of God’s countenance upon us.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word, pure and holy. Work in us that discipline of regular, habitual, private, personal prayer. Amen.