Monday, September 3, 2012

When to Pray

Today I am beginning a new series on my blog, "Devotional Thoughts." (Some of you may know that during my junior year at Wheaton College, I served as Symphonic Band Chaplain - some of the devotionals I wrote in that role will appear here, as well as new ones based on my personal reading of Scripture.) They will all be tagged under "Devotional Thoughts," so eventually you will be able to browse the whole series by selecting that tag from the right sidebar. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


Read: Daniel 2:1-30

Synposis of the text:

  • Nebuchadnezzar is greatly troubled by a dream. He demands its interpretation from magicians, sorcerers, et al., in his court, though he refuses to actually tell them the contents of the dream. When they are unable to fulfill his command, he orders their immediate execution. (verses 1-13)
  • Daniel, informed of the recent events behind the king's decree by the captain of the guard, requested an audience with the king, "that he might show the interpretation." (verses 14-16)
  • Daniel gathers his companions and asks them to "seek mercy from the God of heaven" in Daniel's task. That very night, God reveals the dream's interoperation to Daniel, and Daniel in turn offers a hymn of praise. (verses 17-23)
  • Daniel is brought before the king, and when Nebuchadnezzar asks whether Daniel can offer an interpretation, Daniel replies that only God can do so, and God has chosen to reveal the interpretation to Daniel that Daniel might give it to the king. (verses 24-30)
Consider the actions of Daniel. When his task is set, his first action is to gather his companions and ask for their prayers (v. 17-18). When God provides aid, his first action is to offer the hymn of praise (v. 19ff). Only then does Daniel go to offer his services to Nebuchadnezzar.

How often, when set a task, do we immediately start using our own knowledge and skills to find a solution, instead of first taking even a moment to ask God for wisdom and strength, let alone the solution itself? Do we instead wait until after we have asked the audience, phoned a friend, and searched Wikipedia? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us to "let [our] requests be known to God" (4:6), with no instructions whatsoever to do anything else first.

And then, when God in His mercy provides aid, how often do we immediately go to implement the solution, without again taking even a moment to offer thanks? Sure, we may offer thanks once things have settled down and we have filed our final report, clocked out, driven home, had dinner, and watched TV, but what does our relationship with God lose when we do not immediately turn to give Him praise? In the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (5:17). (In fact, I just realized as I was writing this the similarities between the concluding passages of Philippians and I Thessalonians.)

Today, if you face a difficult task (or really, any task) will you ask for the strength and wisdom that only God can provide? And will you offer your own hymn of praise and thanksgiving when God does provide?

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