What Was Daniel Thinking?

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When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upstairs room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10 CSB)

Have you ever wondered what Daniel was thinking? The officials of the land determined that for 30 days people should only make their petitions to the king and no one else. The decree was only for 30 days. Think about all the things Daniel could have changed to conform to the government’s rule. Daniel could have closed his windows so that no one would know that he was still praying to his Lord. Daniel could have lessened the frequency of his prayers. He did not have to pray three times a day. He could have prayed less each day to avoid detection. Daniel could have prayed quietly in his heart and not aloud so that others would not know he was still praying. Daniel could have stopped praying altogether. It was only 30 days that he would have to stop praying and then he could return to praying like he had before. He only had to wait it out 30 days.

Rather than making any modifications or justifications, Daniel returns to his home and continues to do “just as he had done before.” The injunction clearly stated that petitions were only to come to the king or else be thrown into a den of lions. Yet Daniel does not seem to hesitate for a moment. Daniel hears the injunction, goes home, and prays. Why wouldn’t he just stop praying for 30 days? Why wouldn’t he just change how he prays? Why doesn’t Daniel try to figure out a way to obey the government order while still obeying God? When the charge is made against Daniel, they state that he “pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day” (6:13 ESV). So what was Daniel thinking?

First, Daniel understood that we obey the government until it conflicts with our faith. It is clear from Daniel 6 that Daniel obeyed his king and government in all he did. Daniel had distinguished himself in the kingdom so that no charge could be found against Daniel by his opponents (6:3-4). Daniel was not a disobedient person. But when the law was given which meant that it would be illegal for Daniel to pray to his Lord, he could not obey the government. He could not change anything that he had done in his worship, service, and love for his God.

Second, Daniel understood that God was more precious than life. Daniel shows that he was willing to die for the ability to continue praying to his Lord three times a day. It is a challenging thought: Daniel would rather die praying than live not praying for 30 days. Daniel would rather die maintaining what he had always done in his worship and devotion to the Lord than live by changing his spiritual routine.

Daniel shows that God is to be our very lives. Jesus is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat (cf. Isaiah 55:1-2; John 4:13-14, 32-24; 6:55-56). We would rather die than have any aspect of our spiritual life be subtracted from us. Daniel was willing to be thrown to the lions and his friends were willing to be thrown into the fiery furnace because God was their treasure and their very lives. They belonged to a different kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, and so do we when we walk by faith like these.

Brent Kercheville