Pleading With God

A Prayer for

December 2005


John Owen wrote, “What a person is in secret on his knees before God, that is who he really is, and no more.”  Lord, this is a great principle:  What we are in prayer is what we really are.  What a different way of thinking?  This altogether changes our way of evaluating greatness.  The great among us are those who are great in prayer.  Teach me to be great, mighty God.

Lord, we read how wicked men entrapped the prophet Daniel, because they knew he prayed regularly.  Make me subject to such a trap.  Help me to be a person who engages consistently in prayer.

In chapter 9, as Daniel's prays for his people, we find two prayer principles that we need in our own prayer lives.

First, prayer is grounded in Scripture.  When we have enough spiritual discernment to want to pray, we turn to the Bible.   We pore over the scriptures, searching for the truth of God, even as a woman in the desert searches for water.

That is what Daniel was doing in chapter 9.  He was studying the Bible, studying the prophecies of Jeremiah.  Daniel finds there a promise that he can depend upon. 

Teach us Lord to turn to your word and cling to the promises.  Thus reassured we will come ever more often to the throne of grace.  We will plead in prayer that you will pour out your spirit upon us.

A second prayer principle is that true prayer is motivated by love of God.  That is the real reason that Daniel is able to plead with God.  Daniel is able to pray with power because Daniel loves God.  We sometimes ask mournfully, why don’t we pray with emotion and intensity?  Because God is not our beloved.  If we loved God, we would be jealous for the name and glory of God.  But because we are so concerned with ourselves and with the things that have to do to ourselves, we do not dwell much on God, and our prayers are weak, pathetic things.  We are concerned about trifles and we pray trifling prayers.  We need to learn that prayer is not primarily about us; Prayer is primarily about God.

Our greatest sin as believers, O Lord, is that we once vowed that zeal for the things of God would be our main interest.  Yet that zeal has faded and now we forget that you are the motivation of our lives.  This is a spiritual principle that we need to understand: The extent to which we love you, Lord, is the extent to which we can be a people who plead with you in prayer.

Most people only act from themselves, to themselves, for themselves—even in religious matters, this is true, even among preachers.   A question every minister should ask is: Am I preaching because I want people to think well of me?  If so, that is just more human sinfulness; it has nothing at all to do with God. 

Show me, Lord, that I don’t matter, you matter.  The secret of prayer is to be consumed with passion for you, Lord.  Teach me this secret.  Teach me to love you more, Lord.  Amen.

We see that in Daniel's prayer.  Daniel is a man consumed with a passion for God.  That is the way we should be.

That leads to a third principle: Intercessory prayer, prayer for others, is rooted in a genuine concern for people.  This means that we are not praying about them, we are praying about us.  Concern for others means that we identify ourselves with others.  We do not says, “God, save those rotten people.”  We say, “We are the rotten people, God, save us.”

Here we come to the great secret of ministry.  The secret of ministry is not the ability to preach or talk to people.  The secret of ministry is the ability to pray for people.

We are called to be many things in this life, and to do many things, but above all we are called to be a people of prayer.

Then there is the fourth principle.  All true prayer for people, all intercessory prayer, is rooted in, founded on, derived from, God’s mercy.  We are the sinners.  We are exiled from God’s presence by our sin, but we can be confident that when we approach God through Jesus Christ, God is faithful in his mercy.

Sometimes people say that they wish for the older days, when ministers preached more “fire and brimstone” sermons that threatened the wicked sinner with hell.  God forbid.  We know too much already about our sins and the hellish consequences of sin.  We need less preaching on hell and more preaching on your sweet mercy, O Lord.

But the most beautiful thing about prayer, Lord, is they way you expand our prayers.  In Daniel 9, the prophet was concerned about the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah for the term of the exile of Judah.  You took him beyond seventy years to reveal to him your whole grand purpose to send the messiah to save the world from its sins.

We need to focus our lives on God's word.  We need to love God more, and be more concerned about people.  Above all, we need to trust God’s mercy.  Then we will be people who are greatly beloved of God.  We will be people who can plead with God.  Amen.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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