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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Discipline Unto Prayer # 5

Unmoved and Undismayed (continued)

The Power of Prayer

In the third place Daniel had learned complete confidence in God's ability to answer prayer. Nothing could deter him from waiting on God, for he knew the power of prayer. Daniel was well acquainted with power; he had lived at the seat of it for many years. As a lad, he had seen in his own land the  amazing things that could be done by this world-power. Together with his fellow Jews he had been taken captive by the mighty emperor, the "head of gold" surmounting all the Gentile kingdoms; and now for a very long time he had had his place at the heart of that terrifying world authority. He knew all about the decrees of an absolute despot and about the "law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (verses 8, 12). And when he had considered it all, he was more than ever convinced that one man on his knees was more than a match for it all, that there is more power in the simple prayer of faith than in the greatest empire that this world can ever produce. He had learned his lesson. To him it was no mere theory, as, alas, it often is to us. He had  proved it in the past and he was content to go on proving it. It was a special occasion, but he sought for no special remedy. He just went on praying "as he did aforetime."

When a man is up against something of satanic origin, he is forced back to prayer, for only God can deal with the great enemy. It is significant that the signed decree was based on a lie. Darius put his signature to it because of deliberate untruth. Those who brought it to him insisted that it had been agreed among "all the presidents of the kingdom ..." (verse 7). Daniel was a least equal to his fellow presidents, and he had no part in it. Had Darius known the truth it is certain that he would never had agreed to pass the law. Wherever there is a lie, satan is not far away. And when we get involved in his activities we do well to stand back for a moment, to consider the whole thing, and to decide - as apparently Daniel did - that only God can deal with this situation. Of course we may need to state the truth or point out the lie, but how often God's servants have only got themselves into greater difficulties by trying to grapple with something that was too much for them, too strong or too subtle, when the very presence of a lie in the situation could have warned them that this needed not carnal but spiritual weapons. This is not a matter of opinion or judgment - we all make mistakes - but of an untruth in the realm of facts. What do we tend to do when we meet such a lie? Usually we want to fight it, to argue about it, to try to deal with it by our own actions. What did Daniel do? He went straight back to God, got on his knees and found a place of spiritual authority over it. He dealt with it all in the place of prayer.

That is where it was all done. The rest was simply the outworking. A painful outworking if you like, for it did not relieve him from the necessity of going down into the lions' den to the great distress of his friend, Darius, who spent a wakeful night worrying about him. He need not have worried. His own power had failed to deliver Daniel - human power always does fail in the face of spiritual opposition - but the man on his knees is the man in touch with the Throne. We are not told what sort of a night Daniel had, but it may well have been one of great inward rest. And this not because he had prayed about himself, but because he had devoted himself to the Lord's interests and could therefore afford to leave his own needs in the Lord's hands. He did not pray because he was a praying man. He believed in the supreme power of prayer, and he practiced what he believed. If only we would do the same!

Daniel had had to pray in order to obtain his vision. A man is no prophet unless he is first a man of prayer - "...he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee..." (Genesis 20:7). But that was only the beginning. We must not think that revelation as to the will of God is an end in itself; it is but the first phase of a prayer ministry. When Daniel had prayed through to an understanding of the ways of the Lord, he then set himself three times a day to persevere in prayer for their fulfillment. His prayer ministry took him into the lions' den, but it also brought him out again, and he was able to see the thing right through to its glorious end. "So this Daniel prospered ..." (verse 28). So - by praying through, unmoved and undismayed by plots and threats - this Daniel prospered. This Daniel - not the Daniel of the presidential office, but the Daniel of the lions' den - this Daniel prospered, not only in the reign of Darius but also in the reign of Cyrus the Persian, who was the liberator and restorer of Jerusalem.

This all happened in the last years of his life. That may be because the time of Jerusalem's liberation was at hand, and satan the more fiercely attacked the man who was standing for it in prayer. If so, there is a special message for us, who surely have our testimony to give in the closing days of the dispensation. The kingdom for which we labor in prayer is not earthly, but heavenly: it concerns "the Jerusalem that is above" (Galatians 4:26). Let us therefore encourage one another not to be moved by the things which threaten to quench or divert our prayer life. And let us remember that this very experience was the way by which Daniel was brought to his appointed advancement. He went to the Throne by way of the lions' den. Our Saviour ascended to the Throne by way of the Cross. We can only reign with Him if we suffer with Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6 - (Windows Open Toward Jerusalem)

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