Daniel, a man of Prayer

Daniel was a remarkable man who possessed enormous ability and rose to a position of great importance. He had arrived in Babylon as a captive from his home city of Jerusalem and never returned. From that destitute position he became the administrator of the greatest empires of his day.

The secret of his greatness was simply that he obeyed God and took prayer seriously. He interceded with God, but his prayers were more than just a series of requests. This is clearly seen in chapter two of his prophecy where we read of him returning from the king and gathering his three friends to engage in intercession. Their prayers were answered when it says, “Then was the secret revealed” (2:19). That was a marvelous moment as they recognized the greatness of God in hearing their prayer and giving them an answer. There was relief in their hearts as they, together with all the other wise men of Babylon, no longer had the threat of death hanging over their heads.

Yet Daniel did not immediately rush to give the news to the king but spent time in considering the greatness of God. First, he blessed God and highlighted the fact that God is a God of knowledge, the omniscient One who knows everything. He is also the God of power, the omnipotent One who is mighty. Indeed, he said, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His” (2:20).

Then he gave thanks and praise to God before he went to see the king. He said, “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might and have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king’s demand.” (2:23). He did not forget to thank and praise God for answered prayer.

The Secret of Greatness

Daniel’s life revolved around prayer, and nothing could stop him from communing with God. Three times each day he knelt at an open window facing west towards Jerusalem “and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (6:10). That was his settled routine and with consistent discipline he never missed those times of communion with the Lord. It was his prayer life that led him unwittingly into a danger which was life threatening. By this time the Babylonian Empire had been overrun and was now part of the Medo-Persian Empire under the rule of King Darius, with Daniel as the chief administrator.

Daniel’s enemies in court were so jealous of his high rank and influence with the king that they conspired to remove him from office. However, he was so faithful and conscientious in his duties that they could not find anything to accuse him of, “except …concerning the law of his God” (6:5). Therefore, Daniel’s devotion to God and His laws were what they used against him.

The counsellors met with the king and worked upon his pride and ego by suggesting a new law, which would only be enacted for a month. It stated that no one should pray or make petition to any god or man except to the king. Presumably this was suggested as a way of focusing people’s attention on the power and greatness of King Darius. The king signed the decree, and it became law, and the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be amended, broken, or rescinded. When Daniel heard about this new law, he never stopped praying but continued with his daily devotions.

There are times when we must obey a higher law than the law of the land. In the New Testament when the disciples were prohibited from preaching the gospel, they answered that they should obey God rather than men. They willingly broke the law so that people could hear the good news of the gospel. Here Daniel answered to a higher authority and refused to obey the king’s decree. He continued to pray to God three times a day and we are given a glimpse of the principles of prayer that enabled Daniel to be so effective for God (6:10).

  1. His Prayer was Humble:
    “He kneeled upon his knees.” He knelt before God. Powerful statesman that he was, he still recognized the infinite greatness of Almighty God. He needed God and before the awesome God of creation, glory, and greatness, he was small, just a man. Pride and prayer do not go together as we are reminded in the parable Jesus told of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax-collector. It was the humble man who went away justified (Luke 18:9-14). We must always approach the throne of grace humbly, even though paradoxically we can approach confidently. That great missionary pioneer, Hudson Taylor, had a similar, humble approach to God and it is said that the sun never rose in China, but it found Hudson Taylor on his knees in prayer.
  2. His Prayer was Regular:
    “Three times a day.” He made it a matter of daily routine to spend three times a day with God. It would have required discipline, perhaps getting up before the workday began, leaving important government work at mid-day, and then last thing at night communing with the Lord. His daily routine was saturated with prayer and that made him effective in all he did. We must never miss our daily quiet time with God.
  3. His Prayer was Personal:
    This was not corporate prayer but personal prayer as he engaged with God in the quietness of his own home. We must never neglect the vitally important prayer meeting as it is the cornerstone of our church life, but the daily foundation of our spiritual life is personal prayer.
  4. His Prayer was Known:
    His window was open, and people could see him pray and perhaps even hear his words. Though his prayer life was personal it was not secret, and he would have been utterly unashamed for people to know that he was a man who communed with the true and living God. Are we known as people of prayer? If so, one of the things we can sincerely say to people who are going through crises is that we will pray for them.
  5. His Prayer was Constant:
    Even the edict of the king that outlawed such activity did not deter him from praying. He was willing to die rather than stop praying. Daniel therefore faced the penalty for disobedience to an earthly edict which was to be thrown into a den of lions. Simply because he prayed to God, he had broken a law of the land. There was nothing he could do about it and even the king was helpless to save Daniel from execution. The sentence was carried out, but God upheld and protected His servant. The power of God held back the lions and Daniel was miraculously saved from death. God does not always intervene to protect His servants from a “premature” death. In the New Testament, James was killed with the sword while Peter was miraculously saved from death. Many Christians through the ages have died the martyr’s death but some have also been spared in amazing ways to continue their work for God. That was Daniel’s experience. So, whether we live or die, let us be determined to obey the Lord and uphold His name and keep close to Him in prayer because our lives and our eternity are bound up in the person of the Savior. The challenge is to be faithful despite the possible consequences. In the words of Louis Zamperini which apply to prayer, “Never give up and never give in.” That was exactly the attitude and practice of Daniel. May we follow in his footsteps and bring glory to the name of the Lord.