“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. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Daniel had been doing this three times a day in this same place for years. This time, though, had to feel a bit different. This was the first time he knew he was actively breaking the law by doing it. And yet, the place and the pattern were both well-worn in his life. At the time to which he was very much accustomed, Daniel got down on his knees in front of the window in his upper room and prayed. Shortly afterwards–as he knew would happen–he was arrested and hauled before the king.
You likely know or have at least heard before what happened next. He was sentenced to spend the night locked in a den of hungry lions. This was a punishment saved for people who had committed the most heinous crimes. It was for high profile criminals who had rebelled against the king directly. It was for making an example of someone in order to convince others not to take their particular path. It was about to function according to design, just not in the way the men who had him arrested thought.
Yet, let’s go back to where we started with Daniel on his knees in plain view of anyone who tried to look. What made this session of prayer so different from all the rest like it was that the king had just been tricked by Daniel’s political enemies into signing a law that would make this specific act illegal. It was tailor-made to catch him in the act of a crime against the state so they could see him removed from power in order to have his for themselves. What’s more, in light of his position in the kingdom, Daniel knew what had happened. And, given his political savvy and wisdom from decades spent on the job (he had likely been serving longer than some of his accusers had been alive), he knew the specific intent of this law. It was aimed at him.
Still, he got on his knees and prayed. What would drive him to this? Why do the very thing he knew would play into the hands of his foes? I mean, couldn’t he have kept his custom, just in a different place? Jesus said we should have a prayer closet where nobody can see us praying. Why not do that?
Two reasons. First, this was his custom. He had been doing this same thing in the same way for years. Sure, we can talk about the necessity of change and the need for wise adaptation to culture, but this was his custom. Doing this same thing in this same way was automatic. Even in spite of his great faith, Daniel likely felt some anxiety here. He knew how fickle emperors could be–he had served three. If these men had gotten the emperor on their side and against him, this could very well be the end of the road for him. In a moment of stress and tension like this, we often do the things that are automatic. We lean into those so that we can give more attention to processing the current moment. Prayer in this place and this way was one of Daniel’s most deeply ingrained customs. So he did it. Even now.
Second, because this had been a habit so long, because Daniel had been faithfully seeking the Lord for so long, he had grown very deep in his faith. Though he no doubt felt some measure of anxiety about the law signed by the king, he trusted that His faithful God would live up to His character. He had seen Him deliver his friends from Nebuchadnezzer’s furnace. He had experienced Him turning the heart of the guard assigned to him so many years ago to start him on this path. He knew that he was in good hands no matter how the situation turned out. God was perfectly able to save him, but if He didn’t, he would still trust in Him.
Faith like this doesn’t come from nowhere. More specifically, if it has not been carefully cultivated over a lifetime, this kind of faith will not happen in a moment of hardship. It will only come when it is there to come. And it will only be there to come when we have been intentional about seeking the Lord over and over and over again in the daily grind of life until it is automatic to seek and trust in Him.
Consider the lesson here: If you want to stand tall, you first have to fall. If you want to stand tall in faithfulness in the big moments of life, in those moments where everything is on the line, you are going to have to have been falling to your knees in prayer every day leading up to that big moment. If you want to stand tall, you first have to fall.
Notice well, though, that because we cannot predict when those big moments are going to come, we cannot start preparing at a certain time. Rather, our spiritual preparation must be an active, constant, ongoing thing. Daniel had been praying three times a day for years, not because he thought this moment was coming, but because it was good and right to seek the Lord. It was only because this was already his pattern that he was able to lean into it and benefit from it. If you want to stand tall, you first have to fall.
So then, how are you going to fall? Where will you do it? What is your plan for seeking the Lord through His word and through prayer? Without a steady diet of both you will necessarily be filled with things other than the power of the Spirit meaning that when the big moments come, you will have only a shallow well from which to draw. Make a plan and set it in motion to seek the Lord regularly and intentionally. Start it right now and continue it on into the kingdom so that should you find yourself in one of those big moments, you will be ready. Your faith will be strong and you will naturally lean into the only source for more. If you want to stand tall, you first have to fall.