Every great, strong, inspiring Bible 12/ character depended much on prayer. Concerning the prophet Elijah, the apostle James writes:
"Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit." James 5: 17, 18.
The prophet Daniel was a man of prayer, and through prayer won many glorious victories. He has left on record some of his experiences in winning these victories, and from them we may learn most important and helpful lessons. One of these experiences is recorded in the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel:
"In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Males, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession." Dan. 9: 1-4,
In this statement of Daniel's experience we have two important facts: First, from the books of the prophets who had preceded him, Daniel learned the purpose of God regarding the captivity of Israel in Babylon and Persia, the length of time to be covered by the captivity, and of the return of the children of Israel to their own land.
Second, with the clear understanding and full realization of all that was involved, Daniel resorted to earnest, importunate prayer. The great burden of his prayer was that there be no delay in the fulfillment of God's promise to free His people from their captivity and bring them back to their own land at the end of the seventy years. He saw that in two short years from the time he made the investigation of the prophetic books this great deliverance must be wrought, but he knew that the only possible hope of its accomplishment was in the power of God to fulfill His promise. As an example of earnest, prevailing prayer, the words of Daniel as recorded in verses sixteen to nineteen, of the ninth chapter, are unsurpassed:
"O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake. O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; open Thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Thy name: for we do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies, Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, O my God: for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name."
The answer to this earnest prayer came two years later, when the seventy years terminated and Israel's captivity came to an end by the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, as recorded in Ezra 1: 1-4. This proclamation by Cyrus not only ended Israel's bondage, but it opened the way for them to return to their own land and provided them the necessary help for the rebuilding of the house of God at Jerusalem. From the standpoint of statesmanship, this proclamation must have been looked upon as a most foolish and undiplomatic move on the part of King Cyrus. But he was compelled to do it. The Lord took him in hand, and caused him to cooperate in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and promise.
Herein is the lesson for us: Daniel recognized the true God; he was identified with God's people and God's cause. He was a man who had understanding of the times and knew what Israel was expected to do. But to all human appearance, this was an impossible task. God had promised that it should be done, Daniel believed that promise, and gave himself up to unceasing prayer for its fulfillment. His prayer was answered. To-day God's people face a greater crisis than in the time of Daniel. Through the prophetic books we also understand the significance of the times. We know that in the year 1844 we came to the close of the great prophetic period of two thousand three hundred years, at which time events transpired which are far more important than those in Daniel's time. We are now brought to the last hour of human history, to the last generation, to the closing of the gospel work. The last call of mercy to a lost world is to be given, the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour is to be set up, and the redeemed of all ages are to receive their eternal reward.
If the situation of Israel in Daniel's time called for prayer, how much more is prayer needed in this our day! The example of Daniel, in making earnest supplication to God for the speedy fulfillment of His promise, was a call to all Israel to unite in prayer. And surely the hour in which we live, and the work to be done, make appeal to the people of God everywhere to unite in unceasing prayer.
Prayer helps those who pray to come into right relation to God and their fellow men. When Daniel prayed so fervently that the Lord would fulfill His promise, there must have been in his heart a willingness to do anything the Lord required of him for the hastening of that work. He committed himself without reservation to the cause for which he prayed, and the same is true of all Israel who sincerely prayed that God's purpose might be fulfilled. And so it will be now. Earnest, continuous supplication will make God's people ready to respond without hesitation and reservation to His call for their co-operation in service and means for the finishing of His work.
May the Lord pour upon us at this time the spirit of prayer and supplication. There is much to pray for. Every individual needs a personal blessing — a richer, fuller experience in the Christian life. All have loved ones — husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters — who need our earnest prayers for their salvation. Our brethren and sisters in temptation, trouble, and sickness need our prayers; our ministers and gospel workers of every class need our prayers, and the lost souls for whom we labor need that " effectual fervent prayer " which the apostle James says " availeth much." And in connection with all this, it is our privilege and our duty to pray that the Lord will not permit anything to delay the finishing of His work. Through earnest prayer, our desire for the speedy finishing of the work will be deepened, and hence we shall place and hold ourselves on the altar of service, ready to be used in any way that the Lord shall indicate.