Position yourself for prayer by reading Scripture first. “In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years” (v. 2).
Follow Scripture’s lead toward what you should pray for. (If prayer’s the train, make Scripture the rails.) “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition...” (v. 3)
Pray humbly, recognizing your utter unworthiness before an all-holy God. “...prayer and petition in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” (v. 3)
Begin by praising God for His attributes, His greatness and faithfulness. Let God’s character provide the context for prayer, so He’s the center of gravity, not you. “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands...’“ (v. 4)
Confess your sins, taking full responsibility, without rationalization, spin or self-exemption. “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.” (v. 5-6)
Permeate prayer with affirmations of God’s amazing grace and your profound gratitude—never asking for what you deserve, but thanking Him that He’s given you infinitely better than you deserve. “Lord, you are righteous but we are covered with shame...you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you...we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled; we have not obeyed...All Israel has transgressed your Law and turned away, refusing to obey you.” (v. 7-11a)
Before bringing your requests, repeatedly affirm God’s worthiness and your unworthiness—never forget who you are, and Who you’re talking to. “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the law of Moses...have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you! You have fulfilled the words spoken...by bringing upon us great disaster...just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us.” (v. 11b-12a)
Never blame God for sin, its consequences or for life’s hardships. “Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD is righteous in everything; yet we have not obeyed him.” (v. 12b-14)
Make requests in light of God’s past acts of faithfulness. Rehearse those acts to God, as demonstrated in Scripture, history, and your own personal and family life. “Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned and done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem...” (v. 15-16)
Pray for God’s sake, His glory, and His reputation, reminding yourself it’s all about Him, not you. “Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. ...O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (v. 17-19)
Pray with a heartfelt recognition of God’s undeserved grace on behalf of you and others. “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” (v.18)
God hears our prayers and starts responding to them (when we pray with Daniel’s attitude and perspective) before we can see results, and even when we can’t see results at all. “While I was still in prayer Gabriel the man came to me in swift flight. “I have come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given...which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” (v. 21-23)
God deploys angels on missions in response to humble, biblically-based, God-centered prayers. “I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks...I looked and there was a man...”I have been sent to you”...Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.’“ (10:12)
Prayer mobilizes righteous angels, who engage in intense turf warfare against fallen angels, with kingdom claims at stake. Answers to prayer may be hastened or delayed as a result of this warfare. “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come [in response to prayer, having been immediately dispatched, but delayed three weeks in warfare]...Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the King of Persia...Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come...No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince...” (10:13-14, 20-21)
Prayer isn’t passive, it’s active. It’s really doing something. Prayer isn’t the least we can do, it’s the most.
Prayer is supernatural. It’s reaching out of the visible world into the unseen world, and tapping into powers beyond this dimension. (Prayer picks fights with demons—and empowers righteous angels to win those fights.) “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
Prayer is never secondary, it’s always primary. It’s not the last recourse, when options run out, it’s the first and best recourse. Prayer is the central work which causes all other work to bear fruit. (No prayer, no power.) “Therefore put on the whole armor of God...take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the gospel...Pray that I may declare it fearlessly” (Eph. 6:13, 17, 18-20).
God’s greatest works, accomplished through prayer, are often invisible to us for now. (What’s visible to us, except in rare moments of clarity, are not God’s greatest works.)
We pray now in faith, believing our prayers are making an eternal difference; we anticipate heaven, where we’ll learn God’s breath-taking answers to our prayers, including many that seemed unheard and ignored.
There is no greater ministry, no higher calling, no better investment than prayer. (It’s not just right, it’s smart.)
Prayer is trusting God that He can accomplish more when I’m on my knees than I can accomplish on my feet.
Note from Randy Alcorn: If you’re new to our website, please ignore this. We are just glad to have you here! For our regulars, giving to EPM is significantly down this year, over 39% compared to previous years, which means more has been going out of our account than coming in. If you feel led by God to support us, we would greatly appreciate any gifts to our general fund. We aren’t worried, as God has faithfully provided for our ministry for 33 years. But if you’ve found our resources to be helpful, we invite you to consider making a one-time or recurring gift to help fund our eternity-shaping work.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). It’s our joy to share freely what God has so graciously entrusted to us. We are here to serve everyone without cost, so please do not feel pressured to give!