One of the most dramatic testimonies in the Bible is from Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel said, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me…” (Daniel 6:22) In today’s world, that would be like standing before a firing squad at close range, and feeling all the bullets swerve out of the way!
Sometimes when we read experiences like these, we mentally disengage from the person because he seems superhuman. You won’t wield government authority like Daniel. You might not experience such intense persecution. You will not see visions like those God revealed to Daniel.
But do you realize that in four of the major events of Daniel’s life, his practice of prayer is recorded as well? All Christians can pray, and we can learn from Daniel’s example. What could Daniel tell you about praying?
1. “I pray regularly and in a regular place.”
“He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” (Daniel 6:10b) Daniel was methodical in praying. He set aside regular times to pray. He must have guarded those times, because he had tremendous responsibilities. When a busy man weighed down with work sets aside three times a day to pray, what does that tell you about the need to pray regularly? It also helped him to have a private place to pray, away from distraction. D. Edmond Hiebert:
“It is a common observation that those who have no regular habits of prayer very seldom do much praying…Those who do not cultivate the practice of regular prayer may find that their praying does not sustain them in the hour of crisis.”
2. “My attitude is respectful when I talk with God.”
Daniel was very aware of the One to whom he was talking. We don’t know the tone of his voice, but we do know his body language: he knelt when he prayed. His physical posture reflected his heart. The Bible does not prescribe one specific way for praying. People prayed standing, bowing down, sitting, and lying face down. Your physical posture in prayer does not determine your attitude, but the act of kneeling can help to prepare your mind before God.
3. “I am persistent in my praying.”
“I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” (9:3) Also: “I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.” (10:3) Later verses show that he was seeking the Lord for understanding and encouragement during this time. Here is Daniel—gaunt, smelly, exhausted—agonizing in prayer so persistently that he put aside the luxuries and even the necessities of life to seek the Lord.
4. “I pray according to God’s will.”
Jeremiah was a contemporary of Daniel, and Daniel had learned that the “seventy years” of captivity in Babylon was almost over. Jeremiah had predicted that Babylon would be overthrown. With great changes looming, Daniel was most concerned for what God was most concerned. Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 sounds like an echo from God’s law in Deuteronomy. He was passionate not only for his people, but for God’s will to be accomplished. Daniel’s example reminds us that we must learn to use the Bible as our guide for praying.
5. “When I talk with God, I know He will answer!”
One reason Daniel was persistent in praying for three weeks was that he expected God to answer. And what did God reply through His messenger: “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.” (10:12) When we pray, do we really believe God will respond?
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (I Peter 3:12) God heard Daniel, and He can hear you. He has given us examples to learn how to pray effectively. Let’s keep learning…and praying!