Prayer for the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6)

In Sermons, The Whole Story, Year 2024 by harvest.admin

Resource by Peter Park

This weekend we are in the book of Daniel. Turn there in your bibles. God’s people are still in exile in Babylon. And Daniel and his friends, as promising young men, are chosen to spend time in the king’s court and learn the culture of the Babylonians.

As we look at Daniel, there’s so much parallel for us because like Daniel, as believers we are living in this world as exiles. And I’m not talking about expats living in a country that is not their own. I’m talking about all of God’s people who are looking forward to an eternal city, to those who have faith in Jesus and a temporary citizenship to different countries on this earth but are ultimately citizens of Jesus’ eternal kingdom. And from Daniel’s life, we can learn a lot about how to thrive in a place we’ve been sent to that is not our forever home.

By the time Daniel 6 happens, Daniel is an old man. Babylonians are out of power and the Medo-Persian empire is in charge.

Daniel 6 1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 

Notice how Daniel is being honored here. Similar to Joseph in Egypt, Daniel is being raised to second in power over the entire kingdom because he is trustworthy, skilled, and has an excellent spirit about him. And so he excelled in all he did. He could have had a rebellious spirit because of his situation as an exile, but instead he decided he was going to trust in God that even in the midst of exile and his people being disciplined for their sin, God is still at work and wants to use him in his grand plan. Because in these hard times is when God often does his best work. So Daniel doesn’t get discouraged or quit, he digs in…

And obeys God’s command to his people in exile to seek the welfare of the city – Jer. 29:7. To be engaged in the work of the city and to pray for the city because God tells his people that when the city prospers, his people will prosper. And there’s an entire sermon that can be preached on this, but for now we’ll have to leave it at the fact that we should be hard working, excellent, productive and engaged citizens/residents, and most importantly, prayerful people for KL. That means, we have to know our city and not just busy with our own lives. We have to know what is broken and where we can serve. That’s how God will bring welfare and joy to the city. That is how we will thrive. (Keep going…)

4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

So the other officials are envious of Daniel and want him out. But Daniel was so righteous and above reproach that he didn’t even have a hint of drama or dirt they could dig up on him. He’s been in public service for decades and there was nothing in his character they could go after. (vs. political leaders today)

6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

So the king, after his officials have puffed him up, foolishly buys into this plan thinking too much of himself.

10 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. 

You gotta love Daniel for this. The decree goes out that he can’t pray to anyone else but the king, and what’s he do? He goes and immediately disobeys. And he doesn’t just pray to God once, but 3x/day. And he’s apparently praying out loud or else the officials wouldn’t know who he is praying to. So Daniel wasn’t hiding anything. He wasn’t going to allow this decree to change anything about his prayer and worship of God. 

And did you catch Daniel prays a prayer of thanksgiving!? Wait. What? He’s not worried or panicked about the decree or his life. He just goes about his normal business. Because the sovereignty and faithfulness of God is at the forefront of Daniel’s mind, not his situation. 

We often do the opposite and allow our hard situations to define us, to determine our reactions, and who God is. (Ex: Job loss, lose a loved one, accident)  “God, what are you doing? God, why are you letting this happen? God, don’t you care? A loving and sovereign God couldn’t allow this! Do something!” I know cause I’ve been there. But Daniel is cool and unfazed because of his trust in God. 

And as we go through the rest of the story, I want to point out some things about how Daniel approached prayer and show you how it was Daniel’s prayer life that kept him so grounded and steadfast in his faith in God.

1. Prayer is vital for spiritual health. Notice the trap that was set was not singing a worship song or reading the Bible. Now, I’m not saying reading the Bible or singing worship songs is any less important. The Bible and the Holy Spirit illuminating the scriptures is the foundation of prayer. Because God has already spoken through his word. And prayer is a response to God’s revelation, him speaking to us first. And it should evoke a response of worship and singing to God. But prayer is our lifeline to communicate back and forth with him. And without prayer, without a prayer filled life, no one is as mature or close to God as they think because…

2. Prayer is communion with God. Daniel could have easily said, “Well, it’s only 30 days. I can wait this out. I can redeem my time by doing something else. Ministry.” But no, Daniel knows that prayer is critical to his closeness and his relationship with God. Imagine, if you weren’t able to talk to your spouse for 30 days. (Maybe some of you would be really excited about that.) Your relationship would slowly drift apart because you wouldn’t just not be talking, listening, understanding them, but you wouldn’t be spending time with them. And these things are critical for a thriving relationship with someone. (Single)

3. Prayer is discipline. Daniel didn’t start praying when the injunction came out and times got hard. No, he continued to pray “3x/day as he had previously done.” A lot of times, we live as if we’ve got everything under control and we want God to stay out of our way until a moment arrives when we need something from him, we need help or provision or deliverance. But God is not a genie who is on call for whenever we want him and in a box when we don’t. He’s the God of the universe and he’s the Lord of our lives who desires a consistent relationship with us.

4. Prayer is humility and dependence on God. The text says, Daniel “Got down on his knees.” (Me: Comfortable) Now, to be clear, there’s no requirement that you have to be on your knees when you pray. But it certainly shows a posture of a heart that is humble and desperate for God. And what I have found in my experience is oftentimes, my physical posture will lead my heart. Do I want my heart to be so humble and dependent on God that I just naturally get down on my knees before him and love to do it? Of course. But when I don’t, and I make myself get down on my knees, my heart starts to feel how small and powerless I am. It puts both me and God in right perspective. 

And my guess is that Daniel’s time in prayer wasn’t rushed. Because it’s hard to get up when you’re old. So you don’t get down for a few seconds to get right back up or it may not be worth it. Martin Luther: “I have so much to do I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” That is a posture of humility and utter dependence on God.

11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

They got him. The plan is working.

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

So the king is trying to figure a way out cause he’s been tricked into something he didn’t want to do. But there’s nothing he can do about it..

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And 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, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Daniel was so indispensable to the king, so important to him, that he’s up all night fasting and praying that God would deliver him. And again, notice that even the king knew Daniel’s faithfulness to God. He knows that Daniel is serving him continually. He has a real and meaningful relationship with God, not just in hardship. (Note: Godly people influence others around them towards God. Pull. Draw. With them.)

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

Just in case anyone thinks God didn’t actually deliver Daniel, the lions were obviously hungry. What an amazing story of how Daniel trusted in God even in the face of death. 

5. Prayer demonstrates and builds trust in God. – A couple chapters earlier in Daniel, but many years before, Daniel’s friends faced a similar test, which I’m sure Daniel heard about. S, M, A had a decision to bow down to another God or be thrown into a fiery furnace. They of course chose the furnace but what they said was truly amazing…Dan. 3 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” That’s just awesome. And Daniel, like his friends, having built up trust in God over years and years of prayer and communion with God, is able to trust God both in life and death. So what’s he do when he’s faced with his problem, even if it means death, he turns and prays to God. 

What do you turn to when you face trials or hardship? Yourself? Own ability? I’ll figure it out. Angry towards God? Worry? Despair? Those things may feel right, but they don’t ever work out well for us. For believers today, how much more can we trust the God who gives us eternal life through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus.

6. Prayer leads to deliverance. Ultimately, Daniel is delivered by his prayers and faith in God. Sometimes, and scripture makes this clear, we don’t have because we don’t ask. We don’t ask with any kind of desperation or guinness of faith. Without Daniel’s prayer life, I don’t think he rises to power in these kingdoms, has the faith to face death with confidence, or is delivered out of death. Knowing what we know about our Heavenly Father, and how he loves us and desires to give us with his Son, Jesus, all things. He’s a Father who loves to give to his children good and perfect gifts. We should ask and pray with boldness.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

Darius’ Prayer Breakdown – PJD: (Follow the text) God is…

-Global – all the peoples, nations, and languages

-Personal (Alive. Known. Loved) – the living God

-Eternal – enduring forever

-Sovereign – his kingdom shall never be destroyed

-Faithful – he delivers and rescues

-Immanent (Engaged) – he works signs and wonders in heaven and earth

-Savior – he rescued Daniel

Pretty awesome prayer itself!

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

7. Prayer produces faithfulness to God. Daniel’s continual prayer through his lifetime was the reason he was able to persevere through the hard times. His faithful prayers produced faithfulness in him. 

Chp. 1 – Refused to defile himself with food and drink. Refused to compromise his integrity and faithfulness to God for fear of man.

Chp. 2 – Seeks God in time of trouble for deliverance when all the wise men are about to be killed. And God reveals dream through Daniel.

Chp. 3 – Friends – Fiery furnace. Community is important! Can’t do it alone! Can’t live and thrive by yourself.

Chp. 4 – Interprets the king’s dream again and calls him to repentance.

Chp. 5 – Called upon to interpret writing on wall. Excellent reputation.

So in chp. 6, Daniel wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary for him. Daniel had prepared a lifetime through prayer for this moment with the lion’s den. And God was faithful in seeing him through. Military – “You don’t rise to the occasion; You fall to the level of your training.”

Do you want God to call you to do great things? Do you want to experience God like Daniel did? (Maybe not lions, but something just as awesome?) Then you have to put in the work through prayer now. If you wait until the moment of trial or temptation or trouble to decide what you will do, you will fail. You have to have made the decision long before it happens through time after time of meeting with God in prayer.

If you want to do incredible things for God that require lots of faith, you have to be faithful in the small things like prayer. Before he uses you to do big things publicly, he wants you to do the work privately. And it’s through all the consistency and faithfulness in prayer that you are preparing for the big moments.

The root is pride. Self-sufficiency. And it’s wickedness to God. At the heart, prayerlessness is the same sin Adam and Eve committed in Ge. 3 when they decided to walk away from God. They rejected him and thought they’d be fine without him.

Or let me ask you this: If God were to answer all the prayers you prayed the last 30 days…what would be different? Just your life? Would you be more comfortable? Have a better life? Have more money? Or would the world be turned upside down? Peoples and nations saved to Christ. Disciples made, churches planted, and the kingdom of God advanced in KL and the world. We’ve got to pray big because we pray to a God who is able to do far more than we can ever ask or imagine.

If you’re going to make a difference for God, you have to be different, especially in the way you pray because you’re calling God to action to do what you and I cannot do. And through prayer we will be changed to be more like Jesus and it will transform our lives, our intimacy with God, the way to work, the way we do ministry, the way we raise our kids…Everything.

As I begin to close, I want to make sure no one walks out of here thinking Daniel is the hero. Because Jesus is the better Daniel. Jesus had perfect communion with the Father because he was sinless unlike Daniel. And while he was on earth, he would regularly go away by himself to spend time in prayer. While deserved to be thrown into the lion’s den for our sin. Jesus was truly innocent and yet he willingly entered into the mouth of death for us. So we were spared the death we deserved. But God the Father would not deliver Jesus even though he was blameless. He would be crucified for our sins and his body would be buried in a tomb and sealed with a stone. So we could be guaranteed of our deliverance, lifted out of the pit of death. See, Daniel’s deliverance was a just foreshadow of Jesus’ resurrection. As Daniel was taken out of the den, Jesus would walk out of the grave having not just escaped death but having defeated it once and for all. So all who trust in Christ have victory over sin and death with him.

EOJ and devote yourself to prayer. There is no more important work that you can be doing. Don’t start off crazy. “I’m going to pray 5 hours a day.” Just start with 5mins. Do it while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re showering. Do it first thing. Make the time for it. This is how we’re supposed to live and thrive as exiles, with our relationships with God intimate and sent into the world and into our city for its good – by praying and calling on God to move. My hope and prayer: people devoted to prayer.

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