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A PRAYER OF PRAISE
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Based on Dan. 2:19-23
The point of interest in this passage is not the fact that Daniel and his friends prayed. This is neither unusual nor surprising under the circumstances. Their lives were at stake unless they had a direct revelation from God. One would be shocked if they did anything else but pray. One does not need to be a unique person of prayer to cry out to God when the danger is great. Even unbelievers pray when they face grave danger. The text, therefore, does not even give us the prayer he offered for help. It gives us the response he made in prayer after God granted the help by revealing to him the dream and its meaning.
When he prayed for help his prayer was a solemn matter of petition, and his heart would be heavy. He would be on his knees, or flat on his face earnestly pleading for God's mercy. But in this response we see a totally different aspect of prayer. It is a matter of praise, and his heart would be light, and his body so filled with grateful joy that it is likely he would be standing or walking with eyes uplifted to heaven. The posture of prayer and the nature of prayer varies with the circumstances. There is no best way, for it is such a personal matter of one's own relationship to God that the best is relative to the individual. Two Christians going to prayer may be very different, and one may desire to fall on his knees before God while the other wishes to stand. Daniel goes through both of these in one night, and it is his shout of praise that is recorded.
Richard Llewellyn in How Green Was My Valley has this conversation. Mr. Gruffydd, a minister, tells a boy to keep his spirit clean, and the boy responds, "And how shall it be kept clean, Mr. Gruffydd?" He said, "By prayer my son, not mumbling, or shouting, or wallowing like a hog in religious sentiments. Prayer is only another name for good, clear direct thinking. When you pray, think well what you are saying, and make your thoughts into things that are solid. In that manner, your prayer will have strength, and that strength shall become a part of you, mind, body and spirit. I think the author has gone to far here in ruling out sentiment and the role of emotion, but what he does say is good. It fits the character of the prayers of the Bible.
Some of our best thinking and theology, and practical guidance for life comes from the prayers of the Bible. Daniel's prayer of praise is a prayer of solid things and clear thinking. We want to examine if from the point of view of what it teaches us about God. The first thing this prayer of praise teaches us is that-
I. GOD IS WORTHY OF PRAISE.
Someone has said, "There is something sweeter than receiving praise, the feeling of having deserved it." God alone is always deserving of praise, and that is why Jesus begins the Lord's Prayer with the adoration, "Hallowed be thy name." Daniel also begins with adoration: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever." Adoration of God is the highest attitude one can have in His presence. Someone has written, "In adoration the soul comes to God sensible of His love, majesty, holiness, and infinite greatness; feeling, and seeking more fully to feel the awe, reverence, and holy affection due to His great name; it transcends admiration and wonder; it is a blending of love with the fervent desire that all the world should know and magnify the glory of the Lord."
Our praise and adoration cannot exalt God objectively for He is already the highest and ultimate in majesty, but it does exalt Him subjectively by placing God in His rightful place in our lives and thinking, and that is right at the top if first place. And attitude of adoration and praise is essential if we are to have an adequate concept of, and relationship to God. God alone is worthy of the very highest of our emotional responses, and if He does not receive them then we are lacking an allegiance to Him. Or if someone else or something else receives them we are idolaters.
The occupation of heaven is praise someone said, and this is because those who are there are fully aware of the majesty of their Maker. On earth we often slip into an unawareness of the greatness of the God who loves and saves us. Because of this it is important that praise be a part of our prayer life, for praise tends to keep us conscious of our smallness and God's greatness. In petition and intercession we are usually focusing on self and others and human needs, but when we praise we are caught up to heaven to focus on God and his all-sufficiency for every need. In praise we focus on the Giver and not just the gift.
God does not need the creatures praise for he is self-sufficient, but the creature needs to praise the Creator to keep himself conscious that he is not self-sufficient but dependent upon the grace and mercy of the Creator. Praise is a benefit to man for both now and in preparation for eternity. Andrew Melville said, "Praise is the best auxiliary to prayer. He who most bears in mind what has been done for him by God will be most emboldened to ask for fresh gifts from above." To neglect praise does not injure God, but id injures your own soul and cuts your blessings in half because you lose the joy that comes with praise. Thomas Chalmers said, "One of the most essential preparations for eternity is delight in praising God." Man will be at his highest when his whole being expresses adoration for God. Faber looked into eternity and sang Father of Jesus, love's Reward! What rapture will it be, Prostrate before Thy throne to lie, And gaze and gaze on Thee!
The twenty four elders that John saw falling down before the throne of God were singing and this was their song in Rev. 4:11: "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power..." We praise God because he is worthy of our praise. Daniel in lifting his voice in praise to God makes it clear where his ultimate loyalty is placed. God is indeed his God, and he longs for his name to be blessed forever and ever. The second thing this praise prayer teaches us about God is-
II. THE ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE HIM WORTHY OF PRAISE.
The two that impress Daniel at this point are God's wisdom and might. These are called His omniscience and omnipotence. He is all knowing and all powerful. Daniel is praising God for showing these attributes in his own life. In verse 23 he says he thanks and praises God forgiving him wisdom and strength. All the wisdom and power we have comes from God, who is the source of all wisdom and power.
Daniel is especially conscious of this, for let us remember, at the time that he is praying he has had a full revelation of the king's dream. He knows what history is going to bring forth in the future. He knows there will be many changes, and kings will rise and fall. This is what he is speaking of in verses 21 and 22. In verse 20 he names the two attributes, and then in 21 and 22 he spells out how they effect history. The first he explains is God's might. He changes time and seasons, and he removes kings and sets them up. Changing times are not mere accidents. They are a part of God's plan. Behind progress is a planner with a goal. God works in history through changes. We need to be among the optimists who believe that God is working even in the rapid changes of our time. It is easy to talk about God as a sovereign and powerful God of history, and then turn around and talk as if history was in the hands of men or Satan.
William James visited Thomas Carlyle in 1856 and afterward wrote this to a friend: "Carlyle, the same old sausage frizzing and sputtering in his own grease, only infinitely more unreconciled to the blessed Providence which guides human affairs. He names God frequently an alludes to the highest things as if they were realities, but it almost looks as if he did it only for a picturesque effect, so completely does he seem to regard them as habitually circumvented and set at naught by politicians." His belief in a sovereign God was only theoretical but not practical. He never carried the doctrine into reality, but kept it strictly in the realm of words.
I fear that Carlyle is not an isolated example, and that all of us tend to fall into this trap of keeping belief and action in water tight compartments. The Greek word for believe is so much a matter of action that there is an actual record of a farmer who believed his seed to the ground, he committed it and trusted it the ground. He bet his life on the fact that it would grow. Christian belief has got to be practical, or it is powerless. To believe seed will grow and never to act on it by planting the seed is not faith, but it is folly. So also to believe in a God of history who is sovereign, and yet to talk of only the despair and act as if it was only a meaningless mess is to deny in action what you profess in words.
Like Daniel we must not only say it, but live as if we really believed in God's power. We need to understand that being all powerful does not mean that he can do anything. Thomas Aquinas said, "Omnipotence is the power to do whatever does not involve a contradiction." This means that there is much in history that is not God's will, for He cannot let man be a free agent, and then make sure he does not use his freedom to do anything contrary to God's will. Evil will have consequences that are not God's will, but evil can only postpone God's plan. It cannot stop it, and so the Christian can always be hopeful, and they can always praise God because he will accomplish his purpose.
Daniel is greatly impressed also with the omniscience of God. He has all wisdom. There is no mystery so deep, or no question so dark that his light cannot penetrate it and make it clear. Daniel has just had it revealed to him concerning the great empires that will follow the Babylonian Empire, and he marvels at God's knowing the end from the beginning. Some poet has written, Eternity with all its years, Stands present in Thy view; To Thee there's nothing old appears, Great God, there's nothing new.
James says that if we lack wisdom we need to ask God, for He is the source of all wisdom. Daniel is praising God for the wisdom He is giving to him, and we are all wiser if we will follow his example and constantly praise God in prayer.
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