Daniel 6:1-28 – A Time and a Place for Prayer

Daniel in the Lions Den by John August Swanson

Darius decided to appoint one hundred twenty chief administrators throughout the kingdom, and to set over them three main officers to whom they would report so that the king wouldn’t have to be bothered with too much. One of these main officers was Daniel. Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel soon surpassed the other officers and the chief administrators—so much so that the king had plans to set him over the entire kingdom. As a result, the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption.

So, these men said, “We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice.”

So, these officers and chief administrators ganged together and went to the king. They said to him, “Long live King Darius! All the officers of the kingdom, the ministers, the chief administrators, the royal associates, and the governors advise the king to issue an edict and enforce a law, that for thirty days anyone who says prayers to any god or human being except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a pit of lions. Now, Your Majesty, issue the law and sign the document so that it cannot be changed, as per the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled.” Because of this, King Darius signed the document containing the law.

When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem. Daniel knelt, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did. Just then these men, all ganged together, came upon Daniel praying and seeking mercy from his God. They then went and talked to the king about the law: “Your Majesty! Didn’t you sign a law, that for thirty days any person who prays to any god or human being besides you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into a pit of lions?”

The king replied, “The decision is absolutely firm in accordance with the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled.”

So they said to the king, “One of the Judean exiles, Daniel, has ignored you, Your Majesty, as well as the law you signed. He says his prayers three times a day!”

When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy. He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could do to save Daniel before the sun went down. But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, “You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed.”

So, the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and hurled him into the pit of lions.

The king said to Daniel: “Your God—the one you serve so consistently—will rescue you.”

A single stone was brought and placed over the entrance to the pit. The king sealed it with his own ring and with those of his princes so that Daniel’s situation couldn’t be changed. The king then went home to his palace and fasted through the night. No pleasures were brought to him, and he couldn’t sleep. At dawn, at the first sign of light, the king rose and rushed to the lions’ pit.

As he approached it, he called out to Daniel, worried: “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God—the one you serve so consistently—able to rescue you from the lions?”

Then Daniel answered the king: “Long live the king! My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty.”

The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God. The king then ordered that the men who had accused Daniel be brought and thrown into the lions’ pit—including their wives and children. They hadn’t even reached the bottom of the pit before the lions overpowered them, crushing all their bones.

Then King Darius wrote the following decree:

To all the peoples, nations, and languages inhabiting the entire earth: I wish you much peace.I now issue this command: In every region of my kingdom, all people must fear and revere Daniel’s God because:

He is the living God.
    God stands firm forever.
His kingship is indestructible.
    God’s rule will last until the end of time.
He is rescuer and savior;
    God performs signs and miracles in heaven and on earth.
Here’s the proof:
    He rescued Daniel from the lions’ power.

And so, Daniel was made prosperous during the rule of Darius and during the rule of Cyrus the Persian. (CEB)

“If your day is hemmed in with prayer, it is less likely to come unraveled.”

Cynthia Lewis

When Daniel learned about King Darius’ decree, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had always done. (Daniel 6:10).

It was Daniel’s regular habit of prayer which gave him the strength to ignore the king’s edict. Daniel was kept safe, not by being saved from the lions’ den, but in the lions’ den. Daniel is our best model in the Bible of one who consistently prayed, no matter the situation. Two characteristics of Daniel’s prayer stands out: a planned approach to prayer; and perseverance in prayer.

We need a plan for prayer.

Daniel had an intentional plan for prayer. He also prayed spontaneously throughout his life – all the time. That, however, was not his bread-and-butter daily life of prayer. Daniel had set times in which he prayed three times a day. 

I am not insisting we all ought to pray at the set times of 6am, 12pm, and 6pm, as Daniel did every day (although that is good biblical plan to emulate!). Yet, I will insist there needs to be some planning behind carving out time for prayer every day. We need to approach prayer with the same deliberate discipline we approach anything else – like housework, writing a paper, sports practice, or getting work accomplished on the job.

Prayer is the way we escape the gravitational pull of our fleshly lives and enter God’s orbit. It takes much planning, energy, commitment, and focus. And it is all worth it.

We need a set time and a set place to pray. Just as we set aside a special room in our house for sleeping (bedroom) and a particular place to sleep (bed) so we need a sacred space just for prayer. We understand the value of a good night’s sleep. So, we plan to go to bed at night and arise in the morning. In the same way, we must arrange a time and place for prayer. The value we place on prayer is demonstrated by our planning for it.

We need perseverance in prayer.

Daniel was a teenager when the Babylonians came to Jerusalem, tore down the wall, and took the best young people of the city into captivity. When the lions’ den event unfolded, Daniel was an old man of about 80 years old. For over sixty years, Daniel prayed three times a day, every day, without fail. His prayers were consistent and sustained. He never gave up. 

The reason Daniel always opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem is that he was praying consistent with God’s promise. The exiles would someday return to Jerusalem. So, Daniel looked out his window every day, three times a day, praying repeatedly for God’s help and peace.

Daniel was so consistent about prayer that when the jealous rascals in the king’s service went after him, it did absolutely nothing to deter him from his usual routine. Daniel maintained his focus without being sidelined by all the drama. He kept up his regular practice of prayer in the same place at the same time. It is interesting his enemies knew exactly when and where Daniel would be praying every day, and they set their trap according to that knowledge.

Daniel was incredibly calm in facing the lions because of his planned, deliberate, and consistent practice of prayer. Daniel’s ability, confidence, courage, and lack of worry was not simply because he was some extraordinary person. Rather, he had decades of practiced prayer which equipped him for just such an encounter.

Daniel’s posture in prayer was consistently on his knees. It reminded him of his true position, not as a high mucky muck in the kingdom of Darius with all its rights and privileges, but as a humble servant in God’s kingdom with all its joy and responsibility.

Considering Daniel’s example of prayer, it would be wise for us to do some solid planning. Identify and set aside a dedicated space for prayer. Arrange your schedule so that prayer is a priority. You’ll be glad you did!

Our Beloved Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms,
    may the glory of your name
    be the center on which our lives turn.
Manifest your kingdom realm,
    and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth,
    just as it is in heaven.
We acknowledge you as our Provider
    of all we need each day.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we ourselves
    release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
Rescue us every time we face tribulation
    and set us free from evil.
    For you are the King who rules
    with power and glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13, TPT)

Daniel 9:15-25 – A Prayer of Confession, Part 2

“But now, my Lord, our God—you who brought your people out of Egypt with a strong hand, making a name for yourself even to this day: We have sinned and done the wrong thing.” My Lord, please! In line with your many righteous acts, please turn your raging anger from Jerusalem, which is your city, your own holy mountain. Because of our sins and the wrongdoing of our parents, both Jerusalem and your people have become a disgrace to all our neighbors.

“But now, our God, listen to your servant’s prayer and pleas for help. Shine your face on your ruined sanctuary, for your own sake, my Lord. Open your ears, my God, and listen! Open your eyes and look at our devastation. Look at the city called by your name! We pray our prayers for help to you, not because of any righteous acts of ours but because of your great compassion. My Lord, listen! My Lord, forgive! My Lord pay attention and act! Do not delay! My God do all this for your own sake because your city and your people are called by your name.

While I was still speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sins of my people Israel—while I was still praying my prayer for help to the Lord my God about my God’s holy mountain— while I was still speaking this prayer, the man Gabriel approached me at the time of the evening offering. This was the same Gabriel I had seen in my earlier vision. He was weary with exhaustion.

He explained as he spoke with me: “Daniel, here is why I have come: to give you insight and understanding. When you began making your requests, a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you because you are greatly treasured. So now understand this word and grasp the meaning of this vision! Seventy weeks are appointed for your people and for your holy city to complete the rebellion, to end sins, to cover over wrongdoing, to bring eternal righteousness, to seal up prophetic vision, and to anoint the most holy place.

“So, you must know and gain wisdom about this: There will be seven weeks from the moment the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until a leader is anointed. (CEB)

We learn to pray through praying the prayers of the Bible. One of the great wrestlers of prayer in Holy Scripture is Daniel. His prayer when disaster overtook the people of Jerusalem is apropos for us in our national disasters of egregious sin. Today I take the second part of Daniel’s prayer and use it as my own prayer (this is a continuation from yesterday’s prayer of confession).

Prayer is an act of subversion. It challenges the status quo. It looks evil in the face and gives it a name. Real change begins with the step of real prayer, and real prayer is modeled after the great prayers of Scripture. The season of Lent, with its focus on repentance and spiritual discipline, is the appropriate time to offer prayers of confession and express fealty to the God who deserves it.

Our Lord God, with your own mighty arm you brought our forefathers from religious harassment to a place of religious freedom. You graced us with liberation to become what we could not in other places. Through this you made yourself famous to this very day, but we have sinned terribly.

We turned around and did to others what they did to us.

We have been unequal in our treatment of all people. In our pride, we think we are better than others, even though we have been called to treat others better than ourselves.

We keep killing one another with words and then with guns, all the while justifying our behavior through inaction and spiritual gerrymandering. Meanwhile, our children and our neighbors keep dying. 

In the past you treated us with such undeserved kindness. We now beg you to stop being so terribly angry and hear our plea for your grace to awash us again. Although we have suffered public disgrace from our own stupidity, we throw ourselves upon your great mercy.

I am your servant, Lord God, and I beg you to answer my prayers and bring honor to yourself by having pity on our grieving families as well as the people who have forgotten you. Please show mercy to us, not because we deserve it, but because of your great kindness. Forgive us! Pay attention to us, even though we failed to give you the time of day. Hurry and do something, not only for us, but to bring honor to yourself through Jesus Christ our Savior in the might of your blessed Holy Spirit. Amen.

Daniel 9:1-14 – A Prayer of Confession, Part 1

Daniel the Prophet by Sefira Ross

In the first year of Darius’ rule—Darius, who was Ahasuerus’ son, a Median by birth and who ruled the Chaldean kingdom— I, Daniel, pondered the scrolls, specifically the number of years that it would take to complete Jerusalem’s desolation according to the Lord’s word to the prophet Jeremiah. It was seventy years. I then turned my face to my Lord God, asking for an answer with prayer and pleading, and with fasting, mourning clothes, and ashes. As I prayed to the Lord my God, I made this confession:

Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps the covenant, and truly faithful to all who love him and keep his commands: We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and your laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our leaders, our parents, and to all the land’s people. Righteousness belongs to you, my Lord! But we are ashamed this day—we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all Israel whether near or far, in whatever country where you have driven them because of their unfaithfulness when they broke faith with you. Lord, we are ashamed—we, our kings, our leaders, and our parents who sinned against you. Compassion and deep forgiveness belong to my Lord, our God, because we rebelled against him. We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God by following the teachings he gave us through his servants, the prophets. All Israel broke your Instruction and turned away, ignoring your voice. Then the curse that was sworn long ago—the one written in the Instruction from Moses, God’s servant—swept over us because we sinned against God. God confirmed the words he spoke against us and against our rulers, bringing great trouble on us. What happened in Jerusalem has not happened anywhere else in the entire world! All this trouble came upon us, exactly as it was written in the Instruction of Moses, but we did not try to reconcile with the Lord our God by turning from our wrongdoing or by finding wisdom in your faithfulness. So, the Lord oversaw the great trouble and brought it on us, because the Lord our God has been right in every move he has made, but we have not listened to his voice. (CEB)

The world’s sins are legion. Our own sins are too many to count. They are a crushing load. Put all together, the heap of sin is piled all the way up to heaven. We all have sinned against God and one another in the things we have done, and those things we have left undone.

Devout believers are to remember they belong to God and enter this season of Lent with focused prayer, repentance, and fasting. I have always encouraged folks to adopt the prayers of the Bible and use them as their own.  I also often personalize the prayers for contemporary use. This is what I am doing today with Daniel’s prayer of confession.

Denial is not an option. Simply wishing things were different does not make it so. For the Christian, change begins with looking evil square in the face, calling it what it is, and confessing it. Daniel did just that because of his people’s indifference. I have taken the liberty to form Daniel’s prayer as the basis for my own. It is not the entire prayer of Daniel. The rest of the prayer comes with tomorrow’s reading. But for today, it is confession…

Please, my Lord—you are the great and awesome God, the one who keeps your promises and is truly faithful to all who love you and keep your commands. 

There is no good way to say this: We have sinned and done wrong. We have brought guilt on ourselves and rebelled, ignoring your commands and your laws to love you, and love our neighbors.

We have forsaken self-care and rest, tossing the notion of Sabbath aside as an antiquated observance.

We have dishonored our parents by turning aside from their instruction. They taught us better than we are living. And we have ignored our ancestors in the faith who kept your commands and followed your ways.

We kill one another with guns we have stockpiled like cans in a pantry, not to mention the murderous words we continually breathe on those we hate.

We have failed to keep fidelity with our spouses and treat them like second-hand items.

We steal land and resources, lie through our teeth, and cheat others with an envious eye which is neither satisfied nor content with the blessings right in front of our faces.

We have not listened to your Son, the Lord Jesus, or to your Holy Spirit speaking to us in your Holy Word. The people of this land have given you the stiff-arm through the allowance of systemic evil, structural racism, inattention to the poor and needy, and calling injustice justice. 

Righteousness belongs to you, Lord! But we lack seeing our own guilt. We, the people of this created world, have broken faith with you by insisting on our own way of doing things.

Our uncivil words and unloving behavior have drowned your voice to us. Our ears have become deaf to the teachings you gave us through your messengers.

We all have broken faith with you by not heeding your warnings to forsake hate and embrace love.

A curse has swept over us because we sinned against you, God, with impunity. Our children are at risk, even dead, yet we continue to bicker and fight amongst ourselves while destruction continues to abound through the hands of unstable people.

God, you have brought great trouble on us. This dangerous morass of immorality and injustice is our own doing, and yet we stubbornly remain independent and do not seek divine reconciliation by turning from our wrongdoing or by finding wisdom in the faithfulness of your loving character and compassion. 

Lord, you have been right in every move you have made in giving us a clear moral code with the Holy Spirit to help us, but we have neither heard nor heeded your voice of truth….

Daniel 9:1-19

            Daniel was one of the godliest persons in the whole of Scripture.  It was not so much because he was wise and insightful, savvy and ingenious.  He was certainly those things.  But what made Daniel godly was his tremendous sensitivity to sin.  It drove him to prayer.  It led him to fast.  It caused him to cry out to God with a great penitential confession.  Now, mind you, Daniel did not have all this concern because of his own personal failings; he was not the one running from God.  Yet, he identified so closely with his fellow Jews that he was totally distraught over their disloyalty to God’s covenant stipulations.  In other words, Israel simply did not care to obey God and they were not concerned to offer any kind of prayer of confession.  Daniel did for them what they either would not or could not do for themselves.
 
            The Lord Jesus told his disciples what truly characterizes a person of righteousness.  He said that God’s stamp of approval rests upon those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Genuinely godly people react emotionally over sin – not only theirs, but the sins of others.  Dwelling in the light of God’s presence will always cause us to discern the blackness of sin in all its foul depravity.  To not grieve over sin and disobedience is to not know God.
 
            Every human being is rushing toward eternity, and will be judged according to God’s gracious revealing of himself and his ways for humanity.  The person who grasps this reality cannot help but grieve over sin.  He mourns over the sins and the callous disregard of God in his nation.  He mourns over the greed, the hate, the cynicism, and the base lack of integrity around him.  Indeed, such a person mourns that there are so few mourners.
            Merciful God, I confess to you the sins of your people – their inattention to the things that are most important to you.  I grieve over the state of so many that do not know your grace and goodness.  I am ashamed before you that so few are sensitive to sin, even in your church.  To you, Lord God, belongs mercy and forgiveness.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.  To you do I plead on behalf of the sins of many so that your grace will become operative through Jesus Christ.  Amen.