I started walking recently after almost a year and a half lay off for many reasons. This started with a health scare during the first year of COVID. Although I walked a few times on the beach and on a game farm, laziness took over and soon my eating was irresponsible and coupled to no exercise I started to gain weight. So after this last health scare and spurred on by my doctor, I put on the walking shoes and did a moderate 3.3 kilometers in 37 minutes. This seems like snail pace compared to running just on a 40 minutes ten kilometers, doing comrades (about 90 kilometers), 100 kilometers and 100 mile races. However, I got back on the road and am determined to walk off some of the weight gained. Most of us understand that weight loss is not easy. It takes grit, determination, discipline and hard work. May be you have become spiritually unfit because you have stopped praying for whatever the reason. Your soul’s health is struggling and without doing something to bring you soul back to health, you could experience spiritual strokes, heart attacks or some other spiritual declension that limits you as a Christian. May I suggest if this is you that you “Dare to be a Daniel” and learn from his prayer in chapter 9.
(3) Daniel prays to God.
Da 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed.
He knows without a doubt that there is One, True, Living God. He is surrounded by many pagan idols / gods but he has the True God in his corner. Most of the Israelites abandoned God for pagan gods. This was the chief reason for their being in exile. They deserted God for idols. Daniel and a few others were different. Daniel came from a royal line. He was a prince and he knew what the Scriptures taught about God. His doctrinal belief as to the God of Scripture, Creation and Israel was orthodox. He prays to the God who is the Lord, God of Israel … the one who sees, hears, understand and answers according to His superior will. What is your doctrine of God like? Is He God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? Do you have an intimate and active relationship with Him? When you pray, do you know whether you are making contact with God or not? When you pray are you praying prayers based upon the teaching of the Bible … or are you demanding and commanding … insisting that your wants be met? Allow me to say that the closer you are to God, the more ready and eager He is to answer your prayers. Prayer is all about relationship, relationship, relationship.
(4) Daniel petitions God. These prayers are special and specific as well as urgent.
(i) In saying this is special prayers means it is not the normal type of prayer you would pray.
(ii) Specific prayers means the prayers are targeted. Generally one item is presented to God.
(iii) These prayers are urgent. Help is needed for one or more of God’s people because the environment cannot be changed by man. Only God can rescue the situation. If you read through verses 4 to 19 and look for words like “we” and “our” you will quickly see the central focus of his prayer is the people of Israel. They are “under punishment” in a foreign land, far from their homeland and without their temple and without their priests and sacrifices. Couple this with Daniel’s studying part of the writings of the prophet Jeremiah where he understands … the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years … and these seventy years are almost expired. What is it that ought to drive you to a special, specific, urgent petition directed towards the loving, caring heart of our God? Are you struggling with a relationship? Is your marriage going through trying times? Are your finances out of control? Are you having particular difficulty with a sin issue? Are you facing hardships in your career? Maybe your health is not as good as it ought to be? Consider petitioning God! Daniel does not leave it there though …
(5) Daniel fasts. One of the most misunderstood graces is that of fasting. Too many think this act only applies to ceasing to eat food or maybe even taking water or another liquid (tea, coffee, fruit juice) for a period of time … for the period of the “fast”. The Biblical idea of fasting is to direct one’s full attention on God, presenting the need (petition) to Him on a regular basis or for a protracted period of time. During such times, one would stop any activity such as intimacy, sports, entertainment, consumption of food or drink, work … so that there are no distractions. All your energy, time available and focus is upon God. Jesus put it like this:
Mt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
It is possible that more than one person could engage in a “fast” together, such as a group of Church people (there are Scripture references for this) … but mostly such fasting will be an individual like Daniel. Motive and purpose are important when it comes to fasting. If one engages a “fast” to diet or to try and get God’s attention or if it is fasting from certain foods or practices only, then it is not a Biblical fast because fasting is firstly an attitude of the heart. Where I encourage fasting I also advocate caution. As an argument, some fast once a week or once a month and it becomes a ritual which misses the meaning completely. Daniel fasted as he petitioned God. This shows the intensity of his petition … no distractions to prevent his seeking God losing its momentum, urgency and pointedness. Should you engage in fasting, I would encourage you to follow these lessons to prevent misunderstanding what this grace means in Biblical Christianity! One last thought here … when you are fasting, Jesus implies in the Gospel that you not let other know you are fasting by looking shaggy and untidy.
(6) Daniel uses ashes. This act might be seen by others but chiefly it was an external act for internal sorrow seeking to live in repentance. Ashes are dust and we read:
Ge 3:19 … “until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
This is because of sin and dust reminds us of death because of sin. Ashes would then be an external demonstration to God that one grasps the gravity of sin, hence the fasting and petitioning. We don’t use ashes today because in Christ we know our God looks at the heart and knows our thoughts, desires and intentions. Tomorrow we will start looking at the prayer. If you have not, please read the prayer before hand.
Our wonderful God, thank You for the variety You give us to seek You earnestly when our situation is crucial and urgent. Amen.