We do not show our spirituality when we abstain from prayer – “letting God do what God will do” – so much as reveal our carnality. The greatest women and men of God have been prayer warriors. After all that has been spoken and written by godly men on prayer, we need something better than that which is of mere human origin to guide us if we are to perform this essential duty. How ignorant and sinful creatures are to endeavor to come before the Most High God, how they are to pray acceptably to Him and to obtain from Him what they need, can be discovered only as the great Hearer of prayer is pleased to reveal His will to us. This He has done: (1) by opening up a new and living way of access into His immediate presence for the very chief of sinners; (2) by appointing prayer as the chief means of communication and blessing between Himself and His people; and (3) by graciously supplying a perfect pattern after which the prayers of His people are to be modeled.
From earliest times it has been called “the Lord’s Prayer,” not because it is one that He Himself addressed to the Father, but because it was graciously furnished by Him to teach us both the manner and method of how to pray and the matters for which to pray. It should therefore be highly esteemed by Christians. Christ knew both our needs and the Father’s good will toward us. Every part or aspect of prayer is included here. Adoration is found in its opening clauses and thanksgiving in the conclusion. Confession is necessarily implied, for that which is asked for supposes our weakness or sinfulness. Petitions furnish the main substance, as in all praying. Intercession and supplication on behalf of the glory of God and for the triumph of His Kingdom and revealed will are involved in the first three petitions, whereas the last four are concerned with supplication and intercession concerning our own personal needs and those of others.
This prayer is found twice in the New Testament, being given by Christ both times. The language of Mathew 6:9 intimates that this prayer is given to us for a model, yet the words of Luke 11:2 indicate that it is to be used by us as a form. Like everything in Scripture, this prayer is perfect – perfect in its order, construction, and wording. Its order is adoration, supplication, and argumentation. Its petitions are seven in number. It is virtually an epitome of the Psalms and a most excellent summary of all prayer. Every clause in it occurs in the Old Testament, denoting that our prayers must be Scriptural if they are to be acceptable. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). But we cannot know His will if we are ignorant of His Word.
Daniel’s prayer in chapter nine is worthy of study. It is, as Calvin said, an “example … guide … [and] kind of common form” for prayer for the whole church. It has three parts. First, it contains a confession of Daniel’s and the people’s sin (Daniel 9:4–11). Second, there is acknowledgment that it is because of this sin that the just judgments of God had come upon them (vv.11–14). Third, there is a shift in the prayer to plead for God’s mercy (vv.15–19). These are the three necessary marks of all true prayer: acknowledgment of sin and of the fact that sin always brings judgment and a plea for God’s mercy. There is no other way we can approach God except as sinners seeking grace.
Notice one more important thing about this prayer. When Daniel prayed for his people, confessing the sin that caused God to punish them by the deportation, he did not distance himself from his people but rather identified himself intimately with them in his confession:
“We have sinned and done wrong. We have acted wickedly and rebelled; We have turned away from your commands and rules” (v.5);
“we have not listened to your servants the prophets” (v.6);
“we are covered with shame” (v.7);
“O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you” (v.8);
“we have rebelled” (v.9);
“we have not obeyed the Lord our God” (v.10);
“we have sinned against you” (v.11);
“we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins” (v.13);
“we have not obeyed him” (v.14);
“we have sinned, we have done wickedly” (v.15);
“we do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy” (v.18).
When we confess sin, we have a tendency to confess the sins of other people, or if we do not do that, we confess sin in a manner meant to excuse ourselves. Daniel was not like this. If anyone could have done this, he could have. Nothing bad is said about Daniel in all the Bible. He was only a youth at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, and he had led an exemplary life in the wicked city of Babylon for sixty-seven years. Daniel could have pleaded his innocence. Yet he took the part of his people and confessed his own sin with theirs, saying, “we … we … we … we.”
That is the kind of prayer God honors. Daniel prayed with a highly emotional and moving cry, “O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, pay attention and act! Delay not for your own sake O my God, because your city and your people are called by your Name.” It is no wonder, then, that God sent Gabriel with the revelation with which the chapter ends.