Saved—By Prayer

“Saved—By Prayer”

Dan 6 Daniel with lions

Daniel 6:22-23 – August 25, 2019

Have you ever prayed hard? I have heard from friends about people in their lives who prayed, and sincerely felt heard. Usually, it’s been someone’s grandma, or great-aunt, or perhaps their father. Or, perhaps you remember some respected person from a church where you attended as a child or young person. There was someone in that church who seemed to have a special connection to God; so much so that others in the church would notice and remark about it.

I suspect the prophet Daniel was just such a person. Daniel had a special connection to God, and he regularly prayed. Each and every day, several times a day.

Yes, Daniel was a prophet, in exile. A large number of young people—most probably from the nobility and well-to-do class—were taken captive to Babylon when the Babylonian army conquered Israel. He and his three friends were especially chosen to work in the king’s palace as civil servants. Long story short, all four were filled with integrity, honesty and an excellent work ethic. The king noticed their hard work, and promoted them.

This story about Daniel in the Lions’ Den is well-known, probably the best known among the stories of the Hebrew prophets. At this point, Daniel continues to be in great favor with the king for years, since he is always hard-working, honest and filled with integrity. Except—the homegrown Babylonian civil servants become so jealous and resentful that they hardly can see straight. We can just see them plotting and planning in their nefarious way.

Sometimes, that is the way it happens, when other people in your department or in your neighborhood see your integrity or honesty or hard work. These other vindictive people not only can grumble and engage in backbiting or smear campaigns against these honest, upright people, they may retaliate or even go one step further. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.

We can find accounts of bad things happening to good people all over the place. Not only in the Bible, but throughout history. We see people of faith, people filled with integrity, prayerful people who are persecuted, maligned, abandoned, exiled, and even martyred. The story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den does not end that way. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

We are told in Daniel 6 that the king was so pleased with Daniel that he was going to promote him to a position of great authority over the whole kingdom, like being vice-chancellor, second-in-command over all government affairs. Here is where the plotting and planning comes in. We read: “the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

Yes, Daniel was a person of prayer, too. He had the daily habit of praying three times a day, in addition to being a man of integrity. It was this feature of prayer that the Babylonian administrators were going to attack. These bad guys from Babylon cook up a scheme to convince the king to pass a law that for thirty days would condemn anyone who had the audacity to pray and ask things of anyone except the king himself.

An aside here; an important aside. Kings in those days were absolute rulers, with the power of life and death over the people they ruled. Commentator John Walvoord thought “The probability is that Darius regarded this act as a pledge of loyalty to himself and a token of their desire to respect his authority to the utmost.” [1] This was a way of ensuring that the people of Babylon were completely subservient to the king and his authority. After the law was signed, Daniel continued to pray to the Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, three times a day. He knew he would be liable to die for his actions. He not only was a man of prayer, he was also a man of deep convictions.

I suspect we all are in awe of Daniel and his strength of purpose. I do not think I would have the strength to go out on a limb, in the same way our favorite prophet did. It is a hard thing, to stand up for your faith, stand apart from the crowd, be honest, filled with integrity and prayer. The bad Babylonian administrators were delighted to find that Daniel was steadfastly praying, just as he had done before. Can you see them scurrying to tell King Darius about Daniel?

Reading from the Message:  “The conspirators came and found Daniel praying, asking God for help. They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. “Did you not,” they said, “sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions’ den?” “Absolutely,” said the king. “Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians.”

13 Then they said, “Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays.” 14 At this, the king was very upset and tried his best to get Daniel out of the fix he’d put him in. He worked at it the whole day long. 15 But then the conspirators were back: “Remember, O king, it’s the law of the Medes and Persians that the king’s decree can never be changed.”

We know that Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den overnight. The king was worried to death, and went back in the morning, afraid to peep into the enclosure. However, Daniel was sitting there unharmed. God had shut the lions’ mouths and kept Daniel safe. And the prophet was a mighty witness to God in that place and in that time. Even the king acknowledged God.

We can name countless others who were not saved from the lions’ den, who were hurt, maligned, tortured, and even killed for the faith they so stubbornly held. Yet, we also hear of occasional people for whom God did do a miracle. We do not know why some were saved, and others were not. I think we can leave that question to God. Something more to ask when we all get to heaven.

I would like to lift up Daniel as an example of faithful prayer. Jesus reminds us several times in the Gospels that prayer is like children coming to their parents. We know that children come with all kinds of things. Crazy requests as well as expressions of love that make our hearts melt. It is the same way with us and God. Just as Daniel did, we are encouraged to have regular, intimate, ongoing interaction with our Heavenly Parent.

Yes, things can be difficult in this life. Yes, life can have twists and turns, yet we can be encouraged by the witness and example of Daniel. Even though our journey through life can go through valleys, up hills, and down winding roads, we have a faithful Friend and loving Companion. We have the opportunity to have regular, intimate, ongoing interaction with our God. Just like Daniel.

Alleluia, amen.

[1] https://bible.org/seriespage/6-daniel-lions-den

https://walvoord.com/article/247  John F. Walvoord, Theologian, Educator, Author

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2019: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

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