What do you know about Daniel? I think we are all familiar with the story before us this morning – Daniel being tossed into a den of lions – but what do you know about the man himself? Daniel was a man of politics. He started out in Jerusalem and had a budding career in government ahead of him when he was whisked away, taken as an exile to Babylon. There Daniel was recognized as a talented man and was groomed to be a leader in the Babylonian government, a civil servant. Eventually, the Babylonians were taken over by the Medes and Persians, and the Medes and Persians thought, “This Daniel is pretty good, let’s make him in charge of some things.” And they did. King Darius, the king, during the time of our lesson he set up this system of 120 satraps or governors of a sort, and over them appointed three overseers, one of whom was Daniel. Daniel was a powerful man. More than that, Daniel was honest, a hard worker, he had good character – he was kind of a bid deal. Yet here he is doing a seemingly small and humbling thing. Daniel, we read, is on his knees, and he is praying. His window is open. He’s looking out toward where Jerusalem would be, and he s praying. Let’s talk about Daniel and his prayer life for just a moment.
Notice what Daniel is praying. He was “giving thanks to his God.” We will come back to that a little later. Notice also how this praying thing is a habit for Daniel. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed.” Daniel made prayer a part of his daily routine. And on this occasion in our lesson, it was no different. Daniel was praying “just as he had done before.” It was just a small thing. This reminds me of Dr. Jordan Peterson, a well-known professor of psychology who has written books and done podcasts, and that sort of thing. Dr. Peterson has often said, the way to organize your life, the way to build up to greatness and success, is to do the small things. He often says to start with your own bedroom. “Make your bed,” he will say. “Put your clothes away.” These are small things, but when done they can be that first step to much bigger and better things. In a way, that can be said of prayer.
Prayer might at times be a small thing to us, one of the last things we think about doing. We look ahead at what’s coming for the week, or we lay in bed worried about an election or about a family member, whatever – and we all do it – but had, before we looked ahead, before we made plans, before we worried, had we prayed. Had we lifted our voice to God for help and guidance and relief, maybe those supposedly huge looming events and problems would seem not so big compared to our loving, and caring, and all-powerful God. A small thing, like a moment in prayer, suddenly, is huge. Prayer, today, for Daniel was huge.
Here is why, that act of prayer was against the law. So, now, go back to what Daniel prayed. We are told he was “giving thanks to his God.” Which maybe seems a bit strange in the context of this story. Remember, Daniel was kind of a big deal, but not everyone liked that. King Darius loved Daniel, the other administrators, and satraps, not so much. And, they tried to find something, anything they could use to bring Daniel down, but Daniel lived his faith, and they could find nothing wrong with the guy – another good lesson for us. Remember how important it is that we as Christians live above reproach. That makes it hard for people to speak ill of us. So, finally, Daniel’s prayer habits and his faith were used against him. These other leaders convince Darius to sign a law, an edict, that said for the next thirty days prayers could only be made to the king, to Darius. The king liked that it stroked his ego, and the edict was signed. It was done.
So, what could Daniel have done? He either could have stop praying entirely, prayed to Darius, or, perhaps the most obvious choice, he could’ve closed his window. He could’ve prayed in private. You think about that for a moment. Daniel close your window, right?! That would have changed this story entirely. That would have saved him from all this anguish and anxiety. So, why didn’t he? Daniel knew he was being watched. He knew he had enemies who loathed him and wanted him gone. Hide your prayers for 30 days, Daniel. Say them quietly in your head, Daniel. He couldn’t do that. Abruptly hiding his prayers, his faith, amounted to denying God. It would have shown a lack of trust. So, Daniel prayed “just as he had done before.”.
The law changed, but Daniel’s prayer life did not. He kept his window open, he fell on his knees, and he thanked God for this opportunity to remain faithful. And that small habit of prayer became everything as it now meant life or death. This makes me think of Martin Luther. On this day as we celebrate the Reformation, we often think of what? Luther nailing those 95 theses on that church door. And this scene has almost become mythical as if Luther strode up to those doors, and, tossing heathens aside, hammered those papers to the door while bellowing, “Bring it on, Rome!” But it was really a much smaller thing than that. Luther likely didn’t know what kind of controversy he was about to create. He simply was looking for dialogue and discussion on what he thought were some problems within the church. Had he known what his actions would cause maybe he wouldn’t have been so bold. Yet, sometimes it is those small things…Remember that today, the small things.
Here is why I say that because I’m not Daniel, and you’re no Luther, but, honestly, that doesn’t matter. What made Daniel great, and what made Luther famous was that they did what many today might think is small and unimportant, they remained faithful to God and his Word. They didn’t let that great pressure of the world, of society, or of fitting in be something that would influence their life of faith. They didn’t budge on the small things. They studied the Bible. They prayed. They worshiped. And they refused to close their window. They kept their window of faith open so all the world could see. And this is stuff you and I can do too.