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Message Monday: Disciplines of Devotion – Discipline 2: Principled Prayer

24 Jul

Intro:Image result for prayer

  • Just a few weeks ago a group of university students at Notre Dame University made headlines as they staged a walk out to their graduation ceremony during the address of the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence.
  • Around 100 graduates out of 3171 chose to walk out of the graduation ceremony in protest of Pence’s ideas and policy positions.
  • The move was unprecedented because Notre Dame is an institution committed to the free expression and exchange of ideas.
  • The graduate staged their protest to respond to Pence’s policy positions opposition to gay rights, refugee resettlement, sanctuary cities, and his support of President Trump’s travel ban.
  • Until this protest the graduates had little power to openly oppose these positions. The choice of Pence as graduation speaker gave these graduates the power to voice their disapproval.
  • One graduate said, “We are not protesting their choice of a commencement speaker. We are unwelcoming Mike Pence Back to Indiana with the idea that nobody knows Pence’s record as well as Hoosiers do.”
  • Speaking of powerless, one parent of the graduates said of the walkout, “we think it’s in poor taste. We think its disrespectful. It’s so unnecessary.”

Hook:

  • No matter how you feel about Pence’s policies or about this walkout, there is an important aspect of this story for us to realize.
  • We live in a nation where “freedom of speech” is enshrined as the first amendment to our Constitution. So both the graduates and the parents have a right to peacefully express their beliefs and ideas without recourse.
  • Because we have “freedom of speech,” anytime we as Americans feel powerless about something that our government or another group does, we can simply speak up and express our opinions and views.
  • But just imagine living even just a few hundred years ago around the time our nation was founded. For just speaking up against the government a person could be imprisoned or worse.
  • If we go back further in history rulers had even more absolute power and death could be commanded in an instant for any offense.
  • Powerlessness is a condition that has existed for millennia, causing frustration and despondency. After the founding of our nation people could respond as publicly and passionately as they desired, so long as it was peaceful.
  • Before we assume that believers should just speak up when we feel powerless, let’s look today at Daniel’s response to a precarious situation.

Message Points:

  • The opening verses of Daniel 2show us a window into the inner workings of the Babylonian court.
  • Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and his spirit was troubled and sleep left him. In essence he was powerless over this dream.
  • No matter how powerful the leader we must never forget Proverbs 21:1, that the heart of the king is in the Lord’s hands to direct as he pleases.
  • Notice that the king all of those who his experience had taught him should be able to help him.
    • The word for magicians is used in Genesis and Exodus of the priests of Egypt who sought to determine the will of the gods by rituals.
    • Enchanters comes from a local word in the area of Babylon for “snake charmer”.
    • Sorcerers were forbidden in Israel. Leviticus 19:26 says that God’s people need not interpret omens or tell fortunes. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 expands on these words listing sorcery as a forbidden practice.
    • Finally are those Chaldeans who held the knowledge of astrology and who would eventually become the Magi of the East.
  • The kind then sets an impossible bar for these wise men of his kingdom to both tell him the dream and its interpretation.
    • The unreasonableness of his request shows just how troubled he was. Nebuchadnezzar was not used to feeling powerless.
    • If the king was suspect of the practices of his wise men, he still shows great confidence that their practices could provide an interpretation.
    • He finally accuses them finally of agreeing to speak lying words until the times change, offering them this chance to redeem themselves.
  • The wise men plead with him once, twice, and a final time saying in the end in verses 2:10-11 that no man could offer the dream and its interpretation to the king. Only a god could do what the king asked.
    • This is especially odd for these wise men to say since each group had a specific and particular method for determining what the gods said.
    • If they really believed their own practices why not do every incantation and spell seeking an answer from the gods.
    • The king seemingly had more faith in their practices than these men had in them.
  • That leads to our 1st point which is really a question (2:1-11): When we feel powerless do we assume we have no practical way to seek God’s help?
    • Just think for a moment of who or what you turn first to the moment you have a problem.
    • Nebuchadnezzar turned to the experts. Do you?
      • It is not wrong to seek human experts for the problems you face. It is wise to see a doctor if you have a medical problem. It is wise to see a lawyer if you have legal issue. If you do not do well in any subject in school it is wise to find a tutor.
      • But that is not my question. My question is to whom or what do you turn first when you feel powerless.
      • While it is good to seek expert help, the best expert that we know on life is Jesus Christ. He is the God who created everything and the God who sustains everything. Further He is the one who has Authored our salvation and eternal life.
      • If we seek our Lord’s help first, then we can more efficiently seek expert help.
        • After all we know that any human expert can fail. Even the best experts may not be up to speed on our issues.
        • If we are guided by principles from God’s Word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit we can easily weigh the counsel of an expert to what we know is God’s revealed will.
      • If we seek the Lord first, and ask for His guidance, He can help us discern which experts we should listen and heed.
    • The wise men on the other hand should have turned to their religious practices, but in the end they realized those practices were powerless.
      • I hope and pray that no one here is in that category, but I would be foolish to assume that.
      • In our day we have a huge population in America that missiologists call “de-churched”. These are people who grew up in church or in a faith tradition and no longer are in church or hold those beliefs.
      • We see that in our own church as we have at most 300 gathered on a Sunday Morning, but have on our roll over 1700.
      • Friends, when we look at the “de-churched” do we ever stop to think about why they have left the church?
      • For the wise men of Daniel’s day they had focused on learning practices to invoke the divine, but they did not seek to practice a relationship with the one true God of the universe.
      • While we do need to learn disciplines and practices of our faith, we learn them as a means towards having a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
        • Christian, I fear that the reason people leave our churches is that they see us acting as powerless the wise men of Babylon in the face of problems. LET IT NOT BE SO!
        • We have a God to turn to Christian so let us turn to him when we are in need!
      • If you are a person here this morning who struggles with how Christianity applies to your life, can I make a suggestion?
        • Do not focus on the practices of Christianity as much as on the relationship you can have with the true and living God through Jesus Christ.
        • A relationship with God in Christ is the most practical part of Christianity.
        • Pray in order to communicate with God. Read your Bible in order to hear with certainty from Him. Most importantly recognize how God is at work in your life.
        • If you are a “de-churched” Christian here today, or struggle with how Christianity applies to your life, it would be my pleasure to hear your story after the service today at this side door.
  • As we press on in our message notice that Nebuchadnezzar issues an edict to kill all the wise men (2:12-18).
  • Daniel and his friends appear unaware as there are those who come to kill them and Daniel asks why the king is so urgent in 2:15.
  • Remember that this is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Presumably Daniel and his friends were still in training until the third year of the king, and thus would not have been a part of the first meeting.
  • In the face of death, when most of us would feel powerless, notice the words of verse 2:14. Daniel replies with wisdom and tact.
    • Wisdom as it used in the Bible is the practical application of God’s Word to life. Here in particular the word references one who has received godly counsel.
    • The word tact is translated as discretion in other translations. It means that Daniel did not panic but had control or the situation.
  • What gave Daniel the wisdom and tact to handle the threat of imminent death so confidently that the captain of the kings guard would make him an appointment with the king?
  • That is our 2nd point this morning: When we have a personal relationship with God we can pray about practically anything and expect help.
    • We would be foolish to assume that Daniel and his friends only prayed when crisis came.
    • Verses 17-18 reveal that Daniel came back to his friends and asked them to pray with him as if it was a regular practice of theirs.
    • Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:17 that believers should “pray without ceasing”. Perhaps this was the same practice of Daniel and his friends.
      • How does this kind of praying work?
      • While it certainly is not the case that every word is a prayer, I think it is best to think of “praying without ceasing” as a constant conversation like what many of us carry one in text messaging.
      • We can be more intentional and make a call or talk personally, but no matter what we are doing we are in communication with God.
      • Further as we pray and God answers with principles from His Word or with events in our lives, it should give us confidence as it did with Daniel.
        • We should desire to pray about more of the practical problems we face.
        • It should increase the frequency of our prayer.
        • And perhaps most importantly is should increase the specificity of our prayer.
    • Look at how specific Daniel and his friends prayed in verses 17-18.
      • Daniel asked them to pray for mercy concerning the mystery.
      • Daniel knew that without the description of the dream and the interpretation of the dream he deserved death.
      • So he prays that God would not give him what he deserved.
      • He prayed that God give him the answer to the mystery.
    • The first time a believer asks for mercy is in the sinner’s prayer.
      • We come admitting that we deserve death for breaking God’s law.
      • And yet we ask for something mysterious we ask for forgiveness.
        • God grants forgiveness due to the substitutionary payment made by Jesus on the cross and then gives us Christ’s righteousness instead of justice.
        • Every time we sin from our salvation forward, we can confess our sin as 1 John 1:9 says and be confident that God forgives us.
    • In the face of situations that we are powerless to affect, believers can come again and again asking that God show his mercy.
      • At times the problems we face are as mysterious as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
      • How do we as Christians address those who practice homosexuality, or struggle with gender confusion?
      • How do we respond to a flood of Islamic refugees requesting to live down the road from our communities?
      • Should a Christian give “sanctuary” to an illegal immigrant?
      • Instead of feeling powerless, or protesting let us specifically pray for God’s mercy and seek His answers to these mysteries.
  • And finally notice how God answers Daniel (2:19-23).
    • Specifically Daniel in the night received a vision, presumably the same dream as the king.
    • Then Daniel blesses God.
  • This is our 3RD point: God personally answers the prayers of his people that they might offer him practical praise.
    • If you read Daniel’s prayer he praises God in four specific ways.
      • He praises God for possessing wisdom and power. Daniel knows this because he was given wisdom and tact to approach the king’s captain.
      • He praises God for changing seasons, raising and removing kings, and giving wisdom. Daniel knows about this since he saw Jehoiakim fall and Nebuchadnezzar rise. All the while God was watching out for Daniel.
      • He praises God for revealing mysteries, and for having the light. Daniel knows this is true most especially because the king’s dream was given to Him.
      • Finally he praises God for personally answering his prayer.
    • Christian can you be as specific as Daniel in your praise of God? Do you take time to recognize the answers God has given to your prayers?
      • Christian, can I challenge you to take time this week to share with someone how God has answered a prayer of yours?
      • Maybe in Sunday School today instead of taking prayer requests you can just share how God has answered the prayers of your class this week.
      • Take some time this week and record how God has specifically and practically answered your prayers.

Conclusion:

  • When we feel powerless friends, we need not turn first to protests or passivity.
  • When we feel powerless, the best course of action is to pray practically about the situations at hand.
  • In just a moment we will have the opportunity for you to pray about any of the things that trouble you this morning.
    • Perhaps you are here and you have made a decision to follow Christ for the rest of your life.
    • You may be here and be struggling to continue following Christ.
    • Perhaps there is a situation in which you feel powerless.
  • Can I encourage you to use the opportunity of this invitation to pray in your pew or come to the front and pray with me about your situation?
  • Use this time to personally ask God in Christ to help you.
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Ministry of the Word

 

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