Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open towards Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, ‘O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?’ The king answered, ‘The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Then they responded to the king, ‘Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.’
When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, ‘Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.’
Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’ A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
We don’t know whether Daniel’s window opening towards Jerusalem was a deliberate choice on his part or coincidence. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that his decision to pray at that window, and, therefore, to be seen to be praying at that window, was a deliberate choice. He didn’t do this just occasionally, but continued to do this three times a day, every day – presumably at regular times of the day. So there’s no doubt that he knew it would be noticed and that his actions were in contravention of the edict signed by King Darius, an edict which, in their tradition, could not be countermanded or withdrawn. Darius respected Daniel’s leadership and had intended to promote him over all the satraps (viceroys/governors) but was forced to carry out the ‘execution’. All he could do was express his hope that Daniel’s God would deliver him from the lions. Darius spent the night fasting and, no doubt, tossing and turning, as he wondered how Daniel was doing in the lions’ den. Stories like this make me stop and wonder how I would behave under such circumstances. The fact of the matter is that God is not only interested in how we react to the major events in our lives, He is also interested in the ordinary and everyday stuff – our work, our leisure, our holidays. The question you and I need to ask ourselves is not whether we can match up to some grand gesture (like Daniel and others in the Scriptures) but whether we continue to make sure that God is part of our everyday life and that means that we should, like Daniel, make prayer a regular daily habit and not worry about who knows about it.
Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times when busyness crowds you out of our day and we are forced to carry on in our own strength. Help us to find those precious moments to spend time with you each and every day, to listen for your voice, your guidance and your wisdom, to rejoice with you for the good times and to feel your comforting presence when things are not going well. Amen
The Rev’d Sheila Coop, Minister, Macedonia URC, Failsworth and Oldham Town Centre Chaplaincy
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