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The Priority of Prayer

On Sunday mornings I've been teaching through the Book of Nehemiah as God's people are rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The city had been destroyed by the Babylonians some 150 years before Nehemiah came on the scene. It has been such a powerful study looking at this godly leader. We get insight into his character and commitment to God and the calling that was placed on his life. He was a man of great integrity and exemplified what a godly leader is. One of the important marks of Nehemiah's life was that he was a man of prayer.

As we consider the great men of faith in scripture, we know they had a similar quality about them and that is they were men of prayer. As I was reading the Book of Daniel, in that familiar chapter where he was thrown in the lion's den (chapter 6), we see Daniel setting his heart to pray even when he knew that the leaders of Persia had plotted against him. It was the decree signed by King Darius that no one was to pray to anyone else but the king himself. In Daniel 6:10 we read:

"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."

Daniel was taken away from his home when he was just a teenager into captivity in Babylon. He was now in his eighties, knowing the decree had been signed and he would be cast into the den of lions. He opened his window, as was his custom, and prayed to his God which was the God of heaven and earth. We learn so much from this one verse about prayer.

First of all, notice that Daniel had a place. As Christians, we know that we can pray anywhere. We can pray at church and in our cars. I've prayed with people in the grocery store or when taking a walk. We can come to the throne of grace in prayer anytime and anywhere, but we should have a place where we meet with our God consistently and daily like Daniel. Abraham had a place where he sought the Lord called Bethel. Moses would talk to the Lord in his tabernacle of meeting in the wilderness. We all should have an upper room or a Bethel where we regularly meet with the Lord.

Secondly, Daniel had a time, as he prayed three times a day as was his custom. It was David that wrote in Psalm 55:17, "Evening and morning and at noon I will pray and cry aloud." All those years Daniel, I'm sure, prayed for wisdom and protection and blessing. I believe he prayed for Nebuchadnezzar's salvation. Do we have a time where we go to that place of prayer? I always remind my church that daily prayers and devotions are very important: to start your day praying and to end your day praying. Dads and moms, do you have a time where you are praying with your kids and for your kids? Husbands, do you have a time where you are praying for your wife? I have counseled many couples throughout my years of ministry and when I ask if they are praying for each other and with each other the vast majority say no! It should be a priority in our lives to set aside a time for prayer.

Thirdly, Daniel had a position, a posture. We can pray sitting, standing, or while we're walking. It's not just the position or posture of your body but rather your heart. Daniel got on his knees and I can't imagine what it was like for him to get on those 85-90 year old knees! Jesus would rebuke the Pharisee that prayed boasting in himself and He commended the tax collector who humbled himself and prayed, "forgive me, a sinner." So, the emphasis is the position of your heart because it is a reflection of your heart.

Then fourthly, what we learn from Daniel about prayer is the attitude of prayer. He prayed with a heart of thanksgiving. Even though he is going to be cast into the den of lions he gives thanks to God. He didn't say, "Woe is me and why are you letting this happen, Lord? I've been faithful to you all these years and this is what I get?!" No, but rather, he gave thanks to his God. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul, who was in prison chained to a Roman guard, not knowing if he would be put to death when he faced Caesar Nero. Paul would take pen to parchment and write the book of Philippians, and in chapter 4, he writes:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Then the fifth point we can make in this one verse of Daniel 6 is he had a direction. He opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem, toward home. Before Daniel was taken captive as a young teenager, he was in his home in Jerusalem. Daniel, no doubt, had a family, parents, perhaps grandparents who talked to him about the things of God and taught him the Word of God. He would face home and remember the Godly influence of his family, whom he hadn't seen for 70 years and were long gone. It is a battle out there and the enemy, Satan, wants to take your family captive and we must make it a priority to be praying for them and with them. It is never a waste of time to bring them before the Lord as you get on your knees and pray for your kids, spouses, and those who are in your life. I'm reminded of what Nehemiah said to the people in the fourth chapter of that book when the enemy was coming against the people of God:

"Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.  And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

Fight the good fight of the Spirit and make it a priority to pray because our God is great and awesome and, as Nehemiah goes on to remind them, "God will fight for you."

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