Dr. David L. Olford, Stephen Olford professor of expository preaching at Union University, shares, “Just after the Second World War, sensing a deep spiritual hunger, my father [Dr. Stephen F. Olford (1918-2004)] was refreshed and revived during a time of personal retreat with the Lord. Shortly thereafter, he met Billy Graham (1946). Due to young Billy Graham’s similar spiritual hunger, the two arranged to meet in Wales for a time of retreat together. It is my understanding that one of the subjects discussed during this time together was the devotional life or the ‘quiet time.’”
Dr. George Sweeting, former president of Moody Bible Institute, explains, “The Christian’s quiet time is the time he spends sharing with God the Father. It is, more specifically, the definite time set aside each day for prayer, meditation, and the study of God’s Word. It is from this quiet time with God that we derive strength, wisdom, and guidance for each day. Without a daily devotional life we remain spiritually anemic, hungry, and an easy prey to the devil.
The quiet time is like a spiritual shower or bath. It washes, refreshes, and revives us. It helps protect us from the moral corruption around us. It prepares us, as Christian soldiers, to engage in spiritual warfare.
Yes, my friend, the daily devotional life of the believer is an indispensable ingredient for a successful Christian life.”
There are three things for us to learn from Daniel’s devotional life.
I. First, there is reading God’s Word.
Daniel 9:1-2 reads, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
Chronologically, remember when the Book of Daniel began, Daniel was about age 16, now Daniel is an old man, about 90 years old. He saw many changes. No doubt Daniel read these words from the scroll of Jeremiah, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the LORD; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation. . . . Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and its princes, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, a hissing, and a curse, as it is this day. . . . For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 25:11-12,18 and 29:11-14). The most complete prophecy about the nation of Israel in the Bible is given in Daniel 9:24-26. In his book titled, The Coming Prince (1895), Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) explains the command to rebuild the temple in Nehemiah chapter 2, then in 490 years Messiah will rule and reign. On 445 BC he commenced the count for his calculation. 483 years times 360 days is 9 Nissan AD 30, the day on which the Lord Jesus rode in on a donkey. This prophecy is the most specific unfolding of God’s plan. Dr. Henry M. Morris III, warns, “Prophecy is not just for entertainment but for alignment of our lives with God’s purpose. The Word of God was a rock for Daniel in confusing times. God will not reveal something to us supernaturally through visions and dreams if it is already recorded in His Word. Daniel is wondering about the end of the Babylonian Captivity.
Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) explains, “The book of Proverbs is intended to do for our daily life what the book of Psalms is intended to do for our devotional life. They are filled with practical wisdom for all ages but, in a special way perhaps, should be taught to our young people.”
Reading God’s Word is one of the three r’s of a devotional life.
II. Second, there is requesting God’s will.
Daniel 9:3-19 reads, “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. ‘O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. ‘As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly! ‘O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.’”
Prayer is general while supplication is the specific asking of God for petition in behalf of ourselves or others. Fasting is practiced when you are so burdened for something and like Daniel you have no appetite anyway. This is when food doesn’t interest you. Sackcloth and ashes involves humility but the Pharisees made a mockery of it.
Daniel prayed according to the will of God. Matthew 6:10 reads, “Your kingdom come.
Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer is the alignment of our life with the will of God.
We are told to ask anything according to God’s will. Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon writes, “It is sure to be well with us when we feel and know our own folly and are genuinely willing to be guided by the will of God.” Rev. Richard C. Trench (1807-1886) explains, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness.” 1 John 5:14-17 reads, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” If God’s Word contradicts our prayer we should stop praying in that direction. James 4:1-5 reads, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’?”
Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon declares, “Oh! That our prayers could get beyond praying, till they got to agonizing.” James 5:16b-18 reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” James comments on the events recorded in 1 Kings 18:41-19:8. Elijah’s prayer was based on 1 Kings 8:35-36, “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.”
A-C-T-S is an acrostic of the key elements of prayer.
Adoration is the first key element of prayer. This is illustrated in Daniel 9:3-4. Psalm 66:3 reads, “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.” Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).
Confession is the second key element of prayer. This is illustrated in Daniel 9:5-15. Dr. J. Edwin Orr (1912-1987) gives a good principle to govern confession: “If you sin secretly, confess secretly, admitting publicly that you need the victory but keeping details to yourself. If you sin openly confess openly to remove stumbling blocks from those whom you have hindered. If you have sinned spiritually (prayerlessness, lovelessness, and unbelief as well as their offspring, criticism, etc.) then confess to the church that you have been a hindrance.”
Dr. Orr describes how in the 1952 revival in Brazil a woman in a crowded church confessed, “Please pray for me, I need to love people more.” The leader told her gently, “That is not a confession, sister. Anyone could have said it.” Later in the service the lady stood again and said, “Please pray for me. What I should have said is that my sharp tongue has caused a lot of trouble in this congregation.” The pastor leaned over to Orr and whispered, “Now she is talking!”
Nothing negative is written in the Bible about Joseph or Daniel. They were blameless and served the Lord with distinction. We know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), therefore, they were sinners like us. Daniel 9:20 reads, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God.” (Emphasis mine) Daniel is making a personal confession of his sin and a vicarious confession of sin for his people. Notice he says, “we” (Daniel 9:5-6). Sin does not affect the status of our relationship with God but it does affect the state of our fellowship and hinders our communication with God. Psalm 66:18 reads, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” Proverbs 28:13 reads, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”
Thanksgiving is the third key element of prayer. This is illustrated in Daniel 6:10-11, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.” Dr. Ron Rhodes shares the following: “Daniel 6:10 tells us Daniel ‘got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks as he had previously done.’ Notice that Daniel began his prayers with thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:20 reads, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:6 reads, “. . . with thanksgiving. . . .”
Supplication is the fourth key element of prayer. This is illustrated in Daniel 9:16-19. Also in Daniel 2:17-18, “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” Philippians 4:6 reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Dr. Joe T. Odle (1909-1980) former editor of the Baptist Record, writes, “Cultivate your devotional life through Bible study and prayer. The Bible is God’s Word to us. . . . Prayer is God’s child in conversation with him. . . . We cannot grow spiritually if we do not develop the devotional life.”
Reading God’s Word and requesting God’s will are two of the three r’s of a devotional life.
III. Third, there is receiving God’s way.
Daniel 9:20-27 reads, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision: ‘Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. ‘Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. ‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.’”
His prayers were answered as we read in Daniel 9:23. One of the most wonderful thoughts is that God answers prayer. Daniel 10:12 reads, “Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.’”
It is amazing that we can communicate around the world and further and further into outer space. But the most amazing thing is that we can communicate with God on His throne in the third heaven.
Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) warns, “Before entering into any alliance—taking a partnership in life, going into a business with another, yielding assent to any proposition which involves confederation with others—be sure to ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord. He will assuredly answer by an irresistible impulse—by the voice of a friend; by a circumstance strange and unexpected; by a passage of Scripture. He will choose his own messenger; but he will send a message.” Too many Christians read the Word of God, request the will of God and sing, “I did it my way.” May we with Sam Menaham revise the lyrics of our life to read, “I did it God’s way.”
Reading God’s Word, requesting God’s will, and receiving God’s way are the three r’s of a devotional life.
Are you reading God’s Word, requesting God’s will, and receiving God’s way? Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes, “The best of men are, conscious above all others, that they are men at the best.” Dr. Stephen F. Olford explains, “I would state quite categorically that one’s devotional life is the spiritual barometer of one’s true condition.”
Recently, I heard they made Mother Theresa a saint. Are you a saint? According to the Bible, if you genuinely know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you are a saint. As a believer we could honestly put the abbreviation “St.” in front of our name. Saint Franklin, I like that! I am eternally grateful to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, for making it a blessed reality! To be a saint is to be a holy one! Are you a devoted saint? Daniel was not just a saint he was a devoted saint. Though he was not sinless, he was blameless in a godless age. Daniel maintained his devotional life. Let me encourage you to maintain your devotional life. Dare to be a Daniel and follow the three r’s of a devotional life!
- Stephen F. Olford, According to Your Word: Morning and Evening Through the New Testament. WORDsearch Corp. (Nashville, TN: B & H, 2008), 1. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
- George Sweeting, How to Begin the Christian Life Revised (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1993), 88.
- Henry Morris, III, Adapted from Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis http://www.icr.org/unlocking .
- John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures: An Overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (1965), 100. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
- Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning by Morning (New York, NY: Sheldon and Company, 1867), 243.
- Tyron Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors, Both Ancient and Modern (New York, NY: Cassell Publishing Company, 1891), 431.
- Charles H. Spurgeon, “Daniel: A Pattern for Pleaders” (Daniel 9:19).
- Mathew Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings, “Confession, Repentance and Restoration” (Proverbs 28:13), Accessed: 09/29/16 http://www.byfaith.co.uk/paul200141.htm .
- David Guzik, “Nathan Confronts David” Sermon Notes (2 Samuel 12).
- Ron Rhodes, The Key Ideas Bible Handbook: Understanding and Applying All the Main Concepts Book by Book (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2016), 188.
- Joe T. Odle, Church Member’s Handbook Revised Edition (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1962), 11. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
- F. B. Meyer, Joshua, and the Land of Promise (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1893), 119.
- Frank Sinatra, “My Way” (original lyrics by Paul Anka) Accessed: 08/29/16 http://www.drmenahem.com/songs/God_s_Way_song.pdf.
- Sam Menaham, “God’s Way” Accessed: 08/29/16 http://www.drmenahem.com/songs/God_s_Way_song.pdf.
- Spurgeon’s Gold: New Selections from the Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Selected by Edmond Hez Swem (Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler, Printers, 1888), 191.
- Stephen F. Olford, Expository Preaching Outlines – Volume 2. “The Preacher and His Preparation” (1980). Database © 2013 WORDsearch Corp.
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