Once upon a time, I was blogging through the book of Daniel…
Most recently, a phrase I use very loosely, we were working through Daniel 6. Then came a couple “fly-across-the-country” trips for work; a holiday of thanks; a two-week, out-of-town stint on a jury; a holiday of lights, family love, and more fly-across-the-country travel (most places I want to go from Edge of Nowhere, USA, are “fly-across-the-country”); the decline and death of a strangely dear friend; and a host of other things one doesn’t (or shouldn’t) blog about.
In seasons like these, it can be hard to maintain a routine that keeps life in decent order, but I get the idea this is not something Daniel struggled with. In fact, he was so good at his routine that his enemies knew they had an ironclad way to entrap him. Three times every day, Daniel knelt, prayed, and gave thanks at his open window. Three times. Every day. No matter what.
Although the narrator doesn’t tell us what Daniel prayed, he includes a couple details that help us make a good guess.
First, he tells us that Daniel knelt in prayer. You may think everyone in the Bible knelt in prayer (in my memory, most flannelgraph figures did), but in fact, Daniel is one of only three Old Testament characters who is said to do so. The first is Solomon, who knelt with outstretched hands during his great prayer of dedication of the temple, which lay in ruins when Daniel prayed in exile (1Kgs 8:54; 2 Chr 6:13). The second is post-exilic Ezra, who knelt with outstretched hands in a great prayer of confession for national sin (Ezra 9:5). The content of Solomon and Ezra’s prayers is similar, as well as their posture, suggesting the two stories are related. Solomon had prayed for Yahweh’s forgiveness if the people should be unfaithful, lose their land, but then confess their sin. On the other side of exile, in which the people lost their land (and temple) on account of their unfaithfulness, Ezra confessed the nation’s sin and pleaded for mercy. What Solomon had anticipated did happen, and when it did, Ezra stepped up and confessed for the people.
So, Daniel’s kneeling may suggest a connection to the prayers of Ezra and Solomon, but it’s still a pretty tenuous connection. But a second detail in the narrator’s description helps us get there. The narrator reports that Daniel’s open window faced Jerusalem. The image of someone praying toward Jerusalem is an image straight out of Solomon’s prayer, in which he repeatedly implores Yahweh to hear the prayers of his people when they prayed toward the city and the temple (1 Kgs 8:29–30, 35, 38, 42, 44, 48).
If Daniel’s daily routine relates to Solomon’s prayer from centuries earlier, we have a good idea what Daniel may have been praying for:
- 1 Kgs 8:46–53. “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly’; if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to You toward their land which You have given to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are Your people and Your inheritance which You have brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace), that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and to the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You.”
Daniel’s faithfulness in his routine reflected his faithfulness to the God of a broken covenant (broken by Israel, not God). He clung to the covenant, the God behind it, and the hope that He would mercifully attend to the prayers of His people…even in exile.