“Prayers for Desperate Times—Daniel’s Prayer”
Daniel 6:1-23 February 8, 2009
SI: We’re in the middle of a nine week study of prayers for desperate times.
We’re looking at nine different believers in the Bible who were facing
an overwhelming crisis, and they prayed, and God answered.
This morning we’re looking at a story you all know—Daniel in the lion’s den.
INTRO: I browsed through a book recently called Unionists of Lawrence County.
It was a history of families and individuals in Lawrence County, Alabama
who were loyal to the Union during the Civil War.
If you grew up in Alabama, and studied Alabama history, then you remember
the story of the Free State of Winston. When Alabama seceded from the Union,
Winston County seceded from Alabama.
And throughout this part of the state, not just in Winston County, but also in
Lawrence and other places there were people who were loyal to the Union.
They were Alabamians and Southerners and they had put down their roots here
and they loved north Alabama, and at the same time they were Unionists.
It’s not that their loyalty was divided, they would say they had a higher loyalty.
They believed that preserving the Union was best for Alabama.
They believed were being good citizens of their State by being loyal to country.
But because the majority of people in the State did not agree with their values
and loyalties, it was almost as if they were living in two worlds.
They were not considered Alabamians and Southerners but scallywags and traitors.
Sometimes they paid the price with their property and their lives.
A Christian is someone who is living in two worlds—
this world and the world to come.
Or, you might think of it as being a citizen of two kingdoms or two cities—
the Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of heaven,
the City of Man and the City of God.
A Christian is someone who lives in this world—he doesn’t withdraw from it.
But at the same time he affirms that his highest loyalty is the Kingdom of God.
He believes in the values and causes of Jesus Christ.
As Jesus says in John 17, we are in the world but not of the world.
Daniel was a man living in two worlds.
He lived in the great city of Babylon.
In the Bible Babylon is symbolic of the values of this world.
Even so, Daniel lived in that city and worked in it and had influence in it.
But where was Daniel’s heart?
What city did he think about three times a day?
He would kneel and pray with his window open to Jerusalem.
And even though Jerusalem was too far away for him to see,
and even though it was at that time in ruins—that’s where his loyalty was.
Jerusalem of course, is also symbolic in Scripture.
It’s symbolic of the Kingdom of God.
Jerusalem is where Jesus Christ will reign over all kingdoms of world.
So to long for Jerusalem, and pray toward Jerusalem is a way of saying—
even though I live in this world and work here and care about things here—
my highest loyalty is to the Kingdom of God.
What we see in this story is that this loyalty to the Kingdom of God
creates tension and sometimes conflict.
As a Christian you are loyal to Jesus Christ and the values of his Kingdom,
and the world doesn’t understand that. It’s weird to people of the world.
And there are times when the world demands your allegiance.
Its demand that you live by its values. If you don’t, then you pay the price.
The title of this sermon series is Prayers for Desperate Times.
Sometimes the desperate times Christians face are when they have to choose
between the values of the city of God or the values of the city of Man—
Babylon or Jerusalem. Have to choose to be accepted or rejected.
That was the choice Daniel faced.
And prayer played a crucial part in this crisis.
It was a sense prayer that got Daniel in trouble—
but it was also prayer that saved him.
Look at this story under three headings:
1. Living in the world
2. Conflict with the world
3. Triumph over the world—Role prayer plays in all of this.
MP#1 Living in the world
How should a Christian live in the world?
When Jerusalem was destroyed and the Israelites carried off into captivity
in Babylon, they responded in two different ways.
There were some Jews who assimilated. They bought into Babylonian values.
They lost their identity as Jews and believers and finally disappeared.
But there was a large majority who were determined not to assimilate.
They said: This place is so evil, we don’t want to have anything to do with it.
We’ll just sit tight until Babylon falls, and then we’ll go back to Jerusalem.
But God didn’t want them to do that either.
So had the prophet Jeremiah send them this message, Jeremiah 29:
Build houses, settle down, plant gardens.
Work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon.
But don’t forget, one day I’m going to bring you back to Jerusalem.
In other words, maintain your identity as my people
but don’t segregate yourself from this place. Work to make it a better place.
And all the while, keep your eyes on my kingdom and my promises,
and my great salvation plan for the world.
It’s an Old Testament version of Jesus saying that we are to be in the world,
but not of the world. Or when he says we are to be salt and light.
That’s exactly what Daniel did. He worked in the highest levels of both
the Babylonian and then the Persian government. And he was distinguished
by his excellence. He saw his work in government as a way of blessing
the people of Babylon and advancing the Kingdom of God.
And the thing that people noticed about Daniel—both admirers and enemies—
he was incorruptible and diligent. More than just saying he was honest and
hardworking. He refused to buy into the values of the political culture.
Persian officials used their positions to achieve wealth and power.
Daniel didn’t care about those things. And that made him tremendously effective.
Daniel wasn’t a young man. He was in his 70s or 80s at this point.
So for decades he had served in pagan government, kept his loyalty to the Lord.
How did he do it? How did he resist the pull of Babylonian values year after year?
He prayed. Three times a day he prayed.
As I’ve already pointed out, the reason Daniel opened his window,
and prayed toward Jerusalem was to remind himself and to affirm
that his highest loyalty was with the Kingdom of God, not with Babylon—
even as he lived and worked for the good of Babylon.
Prayer that kept him grounded in reality.
It reminded him that Babylon was not the center of the universe.
It reminded him that one day Babylon and all it stood for would be gone.
But God’s kingdom would last forever. And even though Jerusalem was far away,
and he could not see it, Daniel trusted in the promises of God, loyal to His cause.
I recently read an interview with Truett Cathy who is the founder and chairman
of Chick-fil-A. He was sharing his thoughts on being a Christian in business.
Let me just read you a few little things Mr. Cathy said that stood out.
He was asked about his favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 22:1.
“In elementary school—which was a public school—students were required to bring a Bible verse to homeroom on Monday morning and one student’s verse would be selected as the verse for the week. With help from my mom, I selected Proverbs 22:1, ‘A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.’”
People think that if they have wealth, it brings all the happiness in the world. But in my dealings with business people, I find that people who are successful in business are often total failures when it comes to family and friends, and—far more important—a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe that being in the restaurant business is an opportunity to serve people—their physical and emotional needs and sometimes their spiritual needs. A lot of people come out to eat who aren’t even hungry; they’re just looking for a pleasant experience. We believe that God is glorified in the service that we render.
I am dependent on prayer. We are to turn our problems over to the Lord. We need to trust him. He knows best, but sometimes it’s difficult to see how something good can come out of something bad. Many years ago I lost two of my brothers in an airplane accident, and that has been tough. One great thing about being a Christian is the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us.”
The Lord wants you to live in this world. He wants you to work for the peace
and prosperity of Babylon but not to buy into the values of Babylon.
He wants you to remember that your loyalty is first and foremost his Kingdom,
and seeking his glory. One of the great means for reminding you of that is prayer.
Thanking him for his blessings, asking for his help, relying on his promises.
But when a believer is loyal to the Kingdom of God, it sometimes brings him
into conflict with the world. That’s what happened to Daniel
MP#2 Conflict with the world
Why did the other administrators and satraps become hostile toward Daniel?
It says that Daniel so distinguished himself that Darius planned to set him
over the whole kingdom. And “at this” the others turned against him.
At first it was probably professional jealousy.
They just didn’t like the idea of one of their colleagues being over them.
So they responded by trying to dig up dirt on him.
They thought he was like them. Motivated by money and power.
If they just dug deep enough they would get something on him.
But then when they looked into it, they found out that he wasn’t like them at all.
They discovered that money and power didn’t drive him,
and that difference had something to do with his God.
That was when they really took a dislike to him.
There is something about Christians that is strange to the world.
The world can’t understand Christians. Christians seem weird.
To some people Christians seem arrogant or holier-than-thou.
And here’s the thing, it makes perfect sense for the world to see you that way.
You shouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. You need to understand it.
In The Lord of the Rings there are four characters from a place called the Shire.
Four hobbits. The Shire is a little world to itself. Hobbits who live there
don’t know much of anything about the outside world, don’t want to.
But these four hobbits caught up in adventure that takes them far away from Shire.
And they discover that the whole world is being threatened by a great evil.
They just want to go back to the Shire but they realize they can’t.
They have to join the fight to save the world in order to save the Shire.
So they triumph over evil. And then the return to the Shire.
But when they get there, they realize that they have changed.
All the stuff that the people of the Shire worry about and get so uptight about
is like nothing to them. It’s just little stuff to them. Doesn’t bother them a bit.
So they are able to solve problems that paralyze everybody else.
But at the same time, everybody thinks they are strange.
They don’t fit in like they used to.
They laugh too loud, they weep too hard.
They sing songs nobody has heard, talk about things people don’t understand.
And this is the reason—The relationships and experiences they had on their
great adventure changed them.
Their hearts no longer yearn for the Shire—but for another place.
And that’s what makes them at the same time so effective and so weird.
The reason Daniel was so effective in Babylon was because his heart did not yearn
for Babylon but for the Kingdom of God. And that’s also why he was hated.
And it’s the same with you. You live among people who have bought into the
values of this world. So when they have money problems or relationship
problems or whatever it is—they are paralyzed, because that is their world.
As a Christian you are able to rise above that because you know Kingdom of God is
so much bigger. You know life is not money or looks or popularity or health.
It’s knowing Jesus and serving him.
And you also know that our real problem, and the only thing we need to be afraid
of is sin. Because God hates it and it separates us from him.
In other words, the things that bother Christians, don’t bother people of world.
Things that bother people of world don’t bother Christians.
But you need to know that this is also the thing that makes you seem strange.
And sometimes people will even hate you because of it.
Jesus said that. Men will hate you because of me.
Interesting that these men focused on Daniel’s prayer. Punished for praying.
When you say: I know God loves me. I’m God’s child.
When you talk about your relationship with Jesus Christ, the world often hears
that as arrogance. Hears that as being holier-than-thou.
Because the world doesn’t understand grace. Doesn’t understand the Gospel.
For the world, religion means I do good and God blesses me. So when a Christian
talks about the Lord in this way, world hears him saying—I’m better than you.
You know that’s not true. Only by grace, only by what Jesus has done saved.
But no matter how you say it, will often be misunderstood.
Message of Daniel’s conflict with world, you will have that conflict too—
shouldn’t try to avoid it, shouldn’t be afraid of it.
If never experience, probably covering up and working too hard to fit in.
But that conflict won’t overwhelm you. Let’s look now at . . .
MP#3 Triumph over the world
Daniel could have told himself—I’ll just pray privately till the 30 days are up.
I’ll keep the window shut so nobody can see me.
It doesn’t matter where I pray or if I pray out loud—God will hear me.
He could have said to himself: God has put me in this position.
Best for Jews in Babylon if I keep my life and stay in the court.
He could have done any number of things to get out of this trap.
But he had already decided long before to be loyal to the Kingdom of God.
That decision had been reinforced by years and years of regular prayer.
So Daniel prayed, just as he had always done, three times a day.
He gave thanks to God and asked God for help.
He prayed knowing that he would be caught and sentenced to death.
But because of his trust in the Lord, he was delivered from the lions.
It’s a heroic picture isn’t it. It’s inspiring.
But if we stop with that—be like Daniel, pray like Daniel—missed the point.
Because God is the hero of every story, not man.
How was Daniel delivered from the lions? What happened?
Daniel said: My God sent his angel and he shut the lions’ mouths.
Who is this Angel of the Lord?
He appears earlier in the book of Daniel, in chapter 3
when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace.
On that occasion Nebuchadnezzar said he looked like a son of God.
And that’s who the angel of the Lord was.
Old Testament appearance of the Son of God.
Various key times in Old Testament history, Jesus Christ appeared as the Angel
of the Lord when his people were in great need.
And he would give them a little foretaste of his coming and salvation.
How does Jesus save Daniel? He doesn’t save him outside the lions’ den.
Just like he didn’t save Shadrach outside the fiery furnace.
He could have. He could have struck the guards dead, kept satraps away.
Instead he went into the furnace and into the lions’ den.
He was showing his Old Testament church—this is how I will save you
I will go into the fire. I will go into the lions’ den.
Psalm 22 is a prophecy of Jesus’ death on the cross.
It’s the Psalm that says: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And the Psalm also describes the Messiah’s death this way:
“Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.”
Roaring lions in the Old Testament are a symbol of suffering and disorder—
and they are also a symbol of the justice of God.
On the cross, Jesus faced the ultimate lions’ den.
He faced the lions of suffering and wrath for sin.
And he prayed. He prayed better prayers than Daniel ever prayed.
He trusted God more than Daniel ever did.
But he was not delivered, was torn by those lions, his body was broken, blood shed.
Because he was, you can go into little lions’ dens of your life with confidence.
The only way you can deal with the lions’ den of disease is to know that the
ultimate disease of sin and death was dealt with by Jesus.
The only way you can deal with the lions’ den of your debts and financial problems
and not be pulled down by them is to know that he paid the ultimate debt.
And the only way you can deal with the lions’ den of your loneliness
is to know that Jesus was abandoned by God on those dark hours on cross.
Because of that, you will never be cast away.
The only way you can deal with insults and rejection and disappointments,
and the only way you can teach your children to face them with grace,
is to know that Jesus was torn by all of those lions for you.
So you can go to him and he will give meaning to your suffering.
C.S. Lewis said:
“You will never tame the lions in your life, unless you let God be the untamed lion in your life.” Unless you fear God, and are in awe of what he has done for you—
you will be afraid of lots of other things. But if you are in awe of what he has
done for you, you can walk into any lions’ den and say, this nothing compared to
what Jesus has done for me.
That is how Christians triumph over the world.
You can face anything and say: Roar away, you lions. Roar all you want.
The only lions that can really hurt me have already torn Jesus.
When you believe that, can live in this world, and be loyal to kingdom of God.
And the things that the people of Babylon think are important
will mean very little to you. And when you are singled out you will
count that as an honor.
How do you press it home? You pray.
Three times a day with your window open toward Jerusalem.
You understand that was Daniel’s pattern, might not be yours, that’s ok.
But the principle is you pray in the good times, and in the desperate times,
and in the in between times.
Thank the Lord for his blessings.
You long for his kingdom to come, for Jesus to be king in every heart,
starting with your own heart and then your family and your church and
your friends and people near and far away.
And you ask the Lord for his help—because you need him.
And as you do that, you will know more and more that even though you live here,
and work here, and care about things here—this world is not your home.
Your loyalties lie with Christ’s heavenly kingdom.