At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a series on the spiritual realm. The Scriptures tell us our prayers can move the spiritual realm, and forces in the spiritual realm can move us – for better or worse.
You can watch the entire series at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
Here is the message John Burke shared:
John Burke shared the following insights:
“The Scriptures talk about the spiritual realm that is all around us, but we don’t see or often feel it. Many of us think of God in our own finite understanding, which discourages us from prayer. Like, how does God listen to the prayers of billions of people? Many of us presume that God’s just a bigger version of us. We think He can’t possibly keep up with billions of requests, needs, cares or concerns so why bother!?
I want to stretch our tiny imaginations and perspectives during this series because I’ve seen something amazing: I’ve seen prayer move heaven and earth. I’ve seen God respond to prayer. I’ve chronicled my personal prayer journey for 3 decades now, and I’ve learned some things the hard way that I hope will help you during this series. There really is a realm beyond what our 5 senses pick up, and our prayers matter in that realm.
What if instead of getting something from God, prayer is really about relating to God? Maybe like any relationship, it takes time. Maybe I have to commit to it and stick with it to understand it?
The point of prayer is not just to get from God, but to live with God. Not to get what we want, but to become who we were meant to be.
We have 40 days to Easter—traditionally it’s called Lent. I want to challenge you to commit from now to Easter to carve out time each day to spend in prayer with God. And write down what you’re praying about and what you’re discovering. Each week, we will give you some different ways to pray—so you can find your own rhythm.
Most all civilizations pray, believe in God, angels and demons—but why? Why is this so ingrained in us intuitively? Over the last 100 years, we started to believe that science dispelled all that nonsense. We know that all those billions of people before us were just stupid and wrong. We now know that there is no invisible realm—when you die you become worm munchies—that’s it.
But despite all our superior knowledge, all our scientific advances don’t help us with more important matters like—loving our families, finding peace in our hearts, stopping wars and violence, feeding hungry children, ending drug abuse or sexual abuse or addictions that rob us of life. We think that there is no spiritual realm, yet our spiritual depravity is strangling us.
We exist in 3 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time. Time goes forward in one direction for us, but if God exists in even 2 dimensions of time, He has all the time in the world for every creature at every 1 dimensional point in time. Even enough time to attend to billions of people personally. If God exists in 3 dimensions of time then He experiences the beginning, end, and every point of time in between in a single moment of Eternity. Maybe that’s what he meant in the book of Revelation saying:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life…and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:6
We interact with this world where God lives, the Kingdom of God, through prayer. In about 480 BC Daniel was praying, and something happened that tore open the veil between our world and heaven to let us get a glimpse of how prayer actually moves the spiritual realm. For skeptics, it also gives some concrete evidence that this is real—not fairy tale. Let’s look at what happened, and what Daniel prayed, and I want to challenge you to pray like Daniel prayed this week.
So the Jewish people kept turning away from God, they were doing horrible things, like sacrificing their children to these gods that were not gods at all. God kept sending prophets to warn them—turn your hearts back to me, listen to me. They didn’t listen. Finally he sends Jeremiah the prophet, who warns them for 23 years that if they keep ignoring God’s will and ways they will go into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. That’s what happened, and Jerusalem and the Temple of Yahweh were wiped out. Daniel knows the 70 years is over, so he’s praying and asking God what’s next for the Jewish people.
I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. 21 As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. 23 The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision. Daniel 9:20-23
The Angel Gabriel says “The moment you began praying—God responded and now I’ve come.” As we will see in a few weeks, sometimes God answers our prayers, but we experience delays in seeing a response because there are other things going on behind the scenes. Realize that God responds to prayer and not just Daniel’s prayers. You don’t have to be some super saint or religious leader. God rewards all his children who pray according to Jesus.
So what’s an angel? They are servants and messengers for God. Some can appear like humans and go between our world and God’s Kingdom. So we are not to pray to angels or seek out angels as spirit guides.
Daniel was asking about the role of the Jewish people, and Gabriel came to tell him the exact date that the Messiah (God’s self revelation) would come for the whole world through the Jewish people. Interestingly, the next time Gabriel shows up is to announce Jesus’ birth. Gabriel says to Daniel:
“Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One [Messiah/Christ]—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times. After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple.” Daniel 9:25-26, (535 B.C.)
In response to a prayer, Gabriel comes to say exactly when Messiah will come and what will happen to Jewish people.
Right about now, some of you might be thinking “Wow—heaven, God, prayer, angels—throw in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy why don’t you! This is myth, make believe!”
Actually, this is verifiable history showing a realm we should pay very close attention to. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found more fragments of the book of Daniel than any other book. They were carbon dated from 125 BC, so we have proof this was written way before Jesus was born. The angel tells Daniel that when the decree is given to rebuild Jerusalem then a countdown to when Messiah will come begins. Ezra records that decree in the 7th year of the Persian King Artexerxes which is the year 458 B.C. From that date when you subtract the 483 years mentioned by the angel Gabriel, the Messiah will come in 26-27 A.D. This is during Jesus’ 3.5 years of ministry. Just as Gabriel predicted, Jesus the Messiah was killed then a ruler came and wiped out Jerusalem and the Temple a 2nd time. That ruler was the Roman General Titus who leveled Jerusalem in 70A.D.. To this day, the temple still has not been rebuilt. Here’s a chart showing these details:
Decree to Restore & Rebuild Jerusalem
Artaxerxes 458 B.C.
[-49 yrs-][—-434 years—-]
[458 B.C. – 483 yrs = 25]
+ 1 (no yr “0”) = 26]
and is killed
2nd Temple in Jerusalem destroyed
So Daniel’s prayer set things in motion in the spiritual realm. Let’s look at what he prayed and how Jesus taught us to pray. I want to challenge you to set a time and a place to meet with the God of the Universe daily for 40 days. I want to give you an acronym that Daniel’s prayer loosely follows to use it this week.
P.R.A.Y. Praise – Repent – Ask – Yield
PRAISE – In Daniel 9, Daniel begins by praising God for who He is.
“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.” Daniel 9:4
Daniel starts by acknowledging who God is: He keeps his promises, and He has unfailing love for us. The reason it’s good to start your time of prayer with praise is not for God’s sake, but yours. All beauty, all fun, all laughter, your ability to enjoy anything are gifts from God.
- Reflect on the beauty of earth and praise God for how much more beautiful and awe inspiring He must be.
- Reflect on things you enjoy—praise Him as the One who gave you that ability and enjoys you enjoying his creation.
- Reflect on all the love you’ve ever felt. It’s all from Him. God’s love for you is greater still!
Look what Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount about prayer and who God is:
“When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you…Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?…Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:6-33
God is not only the most powerful, beautiful, awe-inspiring Being ever, He’s your true Father. He loves you and knows you inside and out, and He wants to be with you. Prayer is making time to be alone and quiet with your Heavenly Father.
Even if you’re not sure you believe all this, pray about it. Say, “God if you really are this way, I want to know you. Show me.” Watch what happens, and write it down.
REPENT – To repent just means to do a 180 degrees turn back to God when we’ve turned away. Daniel says:
“We have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. We have not obeyed the Lord our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets…refusing to listen to your voice.” Daniel 9:8-10
As you come to God, just do a quick moral inventory like we talked about in our Unchained series. Pray: “God, where have I gone against your will or your desires for me?”
If you do this daily, it’s a path of growth.
God is merciful and forgiving because of what Jesus did. He died to remove all condemnation. So if you’ve told God: “I want what Jesus did to count for me. I want you to be God of my life” then you will never be judged or condemned. You stand forgiven. So turn back and walk forward with God.
ASK – Daniel is not afraid to boldly ask God:
Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary…Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! Daniel 9:17-19
History proves that God did listen and act. This prayer set in motion the rebuilding of the city and the temple.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:9-10
You too can ask of God. If you don’t ask specifically, you’ll never know if He answered specifically. Sometimes his answer is “Yes,” sometimes “No” but sometimes it’s “wait.” Ask Specifically, so you see God’s goodness specifically.
YIELD – It’s always good to end your prayer re-submitting yourself to God’s will. Daniel prayed:
“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake….” Daniel 9:17
Daniel says, “I’m not God. You are. I’m here to serve you, not the other way around, so I’m asking. But I’m also willing to yield to Your will, believing your good.”
It’s what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemene: “Take this cup from me Father, but not my will, but your will be done.”
When we don’t get what we ask for, but we yield to God, in the long run you get to see God’s goodness. Yield to God’s “No” or “Wait” even if you don’t understand it. Sometimes you won’t see why for years, but He’s always good.
This week, work through the Next Steps and set a time, a place, and put it in your calendar and then PRAY. Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield. Write it down, and watch what happens.”