DANIEL: PATTERN FOR PRAYER
It’s never too late to become a person of conviction. Or too early. When the dust had settled and the teenaged Daniel took stock of his situation, it probably didn’t look too hopeful. His hometown had been destroyed, his family decimated, his dreams crushed. Even his identity was to be swallowed up in a new name. How many of us are as keenly aware of being absorbed into an ethics-compromising worldview by the events of our lives?
I want to look at the Biblical record of Daniel’s life. I want to glean from God’s Spirit some practical wisdom useful for my life. I sense there is a pattern of prayer to be observed from Daniel’s life. I think it starts here.
In one sense I think it starts here in Daniel’s youth at the apex of upheaval in what had been a normal life. But it also starts here in our present situation. Our lives are at an apex of change too. We are on the cusp today of something new. Something big. This is a moment in time in which we may become people of conviction. It’s neither too late nor too early.
Look for yourself at the book of Daniel. Read Chapter One. Daniel finds himself in a situation that calls for conviction of principles or absorption into a culture of compromise.
His name, Daniel, means ‘God is my judge’ in Hebrew. A Babylonian official in charge of re-civilizing the young captives changes it to ‘Belteshazzar’, ‘Prince of Bel’ (Babylonian for ‘Lord’). Take comfort, Daniel. Your new name is a Babylonian translation of your old one. Almost.
The king also assigns Daniel and his friends food and wine from the king’s table. Sounds good on the surface. Your sustenance will be a Babylonian version of your Jewish diet. Almost.
But Daniel is alert. He is intimately aware of what is happening. He knows the Law of his God and he can see the implications of compromise. The gods of this world often masquerade as replicas of the Almighty One.
Daniel resolves “not to defile himself”: he comes up with a plan to avoid eating the royal food, and in his autobiography (the book of Daniel) he avoids referring to himself as Belteshazzar. He remains loyal to his convictions regardless of the consequences. His resolution is to remain obedient to the God of his fathers. It is not an easy resolution. He is at the mercy of his captors. But more importantly he sees he is at the mercy of the Almighty One, and he chooses to remain true to Him.
This prologue to Daniel’s story reveals to us a pattern for prayer worth considering. Later we will see how Daniel’s prayer life is integral to his unique experience as a captive-for-life in Babylon. Something must be in place as a foundation for a Daniel-like life of prayer. There must be resolve.
We must resolve to be true to the authority of God in our lives. We must choose to live lives that are undefiled by compromise. We must see the places where we must draw a line in the sand and not cross it. We must open our eyes to see God’s direction for us as unique from our culture’s expectations of us. This is the foundation for prayer. Are we ready to resolve?