Reading Daniel 6 today I recalled an old hymn from my childhood days:
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command,
Honor them, the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
Verse 10 just takes your breath away. Here is where I get the insight that Daniel’s prayer was daring and defiant and disciplined.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
Notice six daring things:
1) He did not act in ignorance, he acted in full knowledge of the law and the consequences.
“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went…” to pray. Don’t forget, Daniel is right on the brink of being promoted to the main ruler over Persia. Think of the rationalizations that must have rushed to his head—“my influence would be so great if I held that position … I can do more for God alive than dead … it’s only thirty days, and then I can pray again … legalism is surely a worse sin than expediency1 … etc.” But he rejected all the rationalizations. He knew the law. He knew the penalty. And he went to pray.
2) He did not go to the woods to pray, he went to his house.
He could have kept on praying to his God without putting himself at risk if he had just gone underground for thirty days. There is no law that says you have to pray in your house where your enemies will be looking for you.
3) He did not go to the secret inner chamber of his house.
He went to the room with windows (open windows)—the one in the second story of the house, the one most visible, the one that faced Jerusalem and not the palace in Babylon.
Do you begin to catch on to why I call this act of prayer defiant? Daniel is not just praying contrary to the king’s decree. He is making a public statement. We would say today, he is demonstrating. He is doing an act of public civil disobedience. And he is doing so in a public way that no biblical law requires.
4) He did not pray once, early in the morning when no one might be looking, but three times a day and every day.
He would make sure that he is not missed in his refusal to obey this law.
5) When Daniel prayed, he did not use words that were vague and ambiguous that some clever defense attorney could argue were really made to Darius because they didn’t specify which god was addressed.
It says, “He gave thanks before his God.” Not Darius. And not the gods of the Medes and Persians, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
6) He did not change the way he prayed or do anything different to yield to the pressures of the law Darius had made.
It says at the end of the verse that he prayed “as he had done previously.” There were many ways to pray that might not have been detected and that would have fulfilled the law of his God. But Daniel prayed daringly, defiantly and in his usual disciplined way of three times a day.