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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Supreme Vocation # 2

Heaven-Affecting Prayer

Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: 'All this sounds very high, very exalted and beyond us. This is not the simple life.' But, dear friends, listen. The fact is that this is the very nature and explanation of the Church's existence. We have failed, utterly failed, to grasp the real significance of our calling in this dispensation if we have not apprehended this fact: that, just as much as Daniel, in another dispensation and another relationship, but with the very same setting, was called into this realm of things, so are we. This is definitely shown to be the case in Ephesians, and it heads up in chapter 6:10-20.

Now, if these things which I have mentioned are examples of hat is contained in this phrase: "O man greatly beloved", I am sure you will agree that there is very much in it. If all that was true, then Daniel certainly stands for something.

Let us then consider the basis and nature of Heaven-affecting prayer. I believe that this is a key to everything. Everything hangs upon and circles around this whole matter of Heaven-affecting prayer - the prayer that really gets right away and touches things at their ultimate source, get right through to the throne, to the place where "the heavens do rule." That is a phrase, as you know, peculiar to this book of Daniel.

The following passages indicate something of the estimate placed upon Daniel because of his prayer influence:

"Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to humble thyself before thy God, thy words were heard: and I am come for thy words' sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there" (the margin says "was not needed", because the other one had come to help) "with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days; for the vision is yet for many days" (Daniel 10:12-14).

"When a land sinneth ... though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God ... Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they should deliver neither son nor daughter; they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezekiel 14:13-14, 20 A.R.V.).

What is the basis and nature of such prayer? Well, to begin with, as we have already intimated, it is intelligence as to God's purpose, and as to the meaning and portent of the present situation. That is essential as a basis to this kind of prayer.

The Place of the Word of God in Daniel's Understanding

Now notice first of all the place of the Word of God in Daniel's understanding. If you look at chapter 9:2 you will grasp it. "I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet." As I said earlier, he was reading what Bible he had, reading it prayerfully, thoughtfully, devotedly; and as he was seeking, not to get Bible knowledge as such, but seeking to know what God was really after, what God really intended, what God's purpose really was, and how the immediately present phase of things stood in relation to that - as he so sought, and through the Word, intelligence and understanding were given. It is not my intention at this point to spend time on how to read the Bible or how to study the Bible. What I am seeking to indicate is this: that before you can touch the powers on high, you must know what God wants to do. Before this kind of prayer - whether it be of the individual or of the company, or (would to God it could be!) of the whole Church - before this kind of prayer which had the effect that Daniel's prayer had, can be made, there must be this intelligence and understanding as to God's purpose, God's intention, and where we stand at this time in relation thereto.

Dear friends, I cannot be stronger. It would be, I think, impossible to be too strong in emphasis upon the importance of this matter. I must leave you to consider it in the light of the whole situation. Here it is. Tremendous things issued from Daniel's prayer, things in heaven and in earth, but nothing at all would have happened if Daniel had not known what he was praying about, if he had just flung out petitions and requests and longings and desires into the air without knowing quite clearly and definitely what God was after, and therefore what he himself was after. It is strange that, while so many will devote themselves to the subject of the fulfillment of prophecy - Daniel's included - so very few will seek to discover what God has revealed concerning His eternal purpose and the character of their own dispensation - the meaning of the present condition of things in relation to God's eternal purpose.

Yes, there are many, many, who will study the Bible along the lines of prophecy and its fulfillment, and yet there are very few who devote themselves to the understanding of God's eternal purpose, and the peculiar character of the dispensation in which they live. Fulfillment of prophecy lies so very largely, although not exclusively, in the future, in what is subjects, but they all belong to the future. The most important thing of which we can conceive is: What is God after now, and what does the present situation say as to that? You see, there can be  wonderful knowledge of prophetic truth without in the first place the spiritual life of the student being affected at all; and what is the good of that? Though I know all about prophecy, if it does not come right home to my own spiritual life and make tremendous differences in me now, it is nothing. That is the estimate of all your prophetic study. It is possible to have this great knowledge of prophetic truth, and yet for the great purpose of God in this present dispensation not to be served at all.

Oh, how many side-tracks there are, side-tracks of secondary interest; whether they be true or whether they be false, they are side-tracks. What effect do these things have upon the spiritual life of those occupied with them, and what effect upon the present aspect of the eternal purpose of God do they have? None! They count for nothing in the spiritual life where there is a touching of things heavenly. For the most part they are neither future or earthly.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

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