“The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life that they could use against him, but they couldn’t dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy.” (Daniel 6:4 MSG)
“When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray as he had always done…Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.” (Daniel 6:10 MSG)
My quiet time readings lately have been in the book of Daniel. I have thrilled once more at Daniel’s openness in prayer knowing it would activate an irrevocable death sentence. Perhaps motivated by a toxic combination of racism, religious discrimination and jealousy, Darius’ administrators and satraps manipulate Darius himself and the laws of Medes and Persians solely to target Daniel. It’s a familiar story which leads to the Sunday School favourite: Daniel in the lion’s den. What has caught my eye though and given me pause for thought is the intentional, concerted campaign to “find some old scandal or skeleton” with which to discredit Daniel. The measure of the man is that his harshest critics and deadliest enemies, relentlessly use every resource at their command, but found nothing they could use against him. Nothing that could even be ‘spun’ to make Daniel look bad. His enemies – mark that: his enemies – came to the conclusion that Daniel “was totally exemplary and trustworthy.” As I have reflected on this, I have found myself on a spiritual rollercoaster of a journey. I have plummeted downwards in the realisation that even a cursory scrutiny of my life would find many a ‘scandal or skeleton’ that could be used against me. (No: this is not about to turn into ‘Confessions of a Baptist Minister’!) If I compare myself to Daniel, I hang my head in shame. But I have then found traction in Daniel’s story that pulls me upwards. I have found in his story the encouragement to believe that a straight walk in a crooked world is possible after all: a person of faith can do it. A life of truth in a world of lies is attainable after all: a person of faith can do it. A clean spirit in a dirty world is feasible after all: a person of faith can do it. I have realised afresh that staying on the heights and avoiding plummeting again comes down to the simplest of steps. It’s Daniel’s habitual, steady, routine, disciplined prayer life that lies at the heart of his faith. The foundation of his exemplary and trustworthy life is his life of prayer. A person of faith can do it. So I invite you, for a moment, to measure yourself against Daniel. What ‘scandal or skeleton’ would your foes find? How disciplined and consistent is your prayer life? Praying we all rise to be Daniels for the days we live in.