Fast forward to the past’s future. Now in his seventies, Daniel has spent his life serving in the Babylonian palace. Many of his contemporaries have gone, and Daniel is living in relative obscurity. Nebuchadnezzar is dead. The king’s grandson, Belshazzar, has been slain in a military coup by the Medes and Persians, and Cyrus has placed Darius king over Babylon. It hasn’t taken Darius long to observe Daniel’s exceptional qualities of integrity, courage and reliability. The king plans to promote Daniel to CEO status, but envious administrators scheme a plot to discredit the Jewish exile. Daniel, aged man of prayer, is about to face his darkest night at the hands of the enemy of his soul. His adversaries will stop at nothing to destroy his influence.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe not the empire, the coup and the plot, but maybe you have felt like you are living in obscurity. Maybe you’ve tried to live a life of integrity, but your colleagues haven’t appreciated the contrast to their own work ethic. Maybe you can’t put your finger on the cause, but you sense you are in your own ‘dark night of the soul’.
Daniel has been modeling for us what a life of earnest, resolute prayer looks like. There is no room here for whimsy. The man or woman who chooses to live out prayer has determined to be characterized by RESOLVE, AWE, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, TRUST and HUMILITY. We now observe Daniel adding STEADFASTNESS to the formidable list.
Daniel is steadfast in maintaining a routine that puts God first. This routine puts Daniel on his knees praying to God three set times each day. His knees have become calloused, maybe even arthritic, but that doesn’t stop him. His window opens south toward distant Jerusalem, beloved city he will never again see, yet somehow his prayers include thanksgiving to God. He perseveres even when he knows his kneeling posture will earn him the death penalty.
Ironically it is king Darius who is unnerved. It is he who is distressed with the unalterable edict, he who spends a sleepless night fretting over his impotency to save Daniel. Daniel remains steadfast. He is snatched from his knees by delighted adversaries, and thrown into a pit from which none have ever escaped. Those knees have served him well in the past, and no doubt he lands in the dark pit in prayer-ready posture.
Do we? When we are thrown into life’s upsetting pitfalls do we land on our knees? Is our first reaction to bow before the One who holds our lives in His hands, and pray? Are our eyes open to the Eternal Father’s presence when the night is long and dark and cold?
We are told little of Daniel’s dark night other than that he survived. The presence of God was palpable to Daniel, and his leonine adversaries could not touch him. Not this time. Other God-followers would someday fall to the death-grip of ferocious beasts, but that would be their story. Their steadfastness would protect them in other, equally meaningful ways. So it is with us. We are given the opportunity to choose to add steadfastness to our soul’s development. It might start today. Have we knees upon which to bow today, and commit to do so until our final day?