By Scott J. Ward
The Prophet Daniel has, since my teenage years, been a primary role model and inspiration for such important qualities as his wisdom and integrity. But as I contemplate the significant changes regarding marriage and religious liberty that have already occurred in North America over the past decade, not to mention an apparent trajectory that (although vastly over-stated by the media and others) does not look encouraging, Daniel looms even larger as an ideal guide precisely “for such a time as this.”
Daniel (and his friends) lived through enormous cultural and political changes. As teens, they were yanked from a familiar and nurturing culture, indeed, from their native country, and transported into an utterly alien and even hostile society. (Dan. 1). Daniel lived and served through multiple legal disruptions and regime changes, at times violent (e.g., Dan.5:30-31), that make our present shifting cultural and legal sands look positively hospitable in comparison. And Daniel faced adversaries who sought not merely to marginalize or discredit him, but even to have him killed. Yet in the midst of all this, Daniel peacefully, patiently, prudently, and powerfully served God. In doing so, he promoted the good not only of God’s people but also of the wayward culture in which they lived.
Several qualities that Daniel displayed seem very relevant and quite helpful to our present legal and cultural moment. First, Daniel lived with utter integrity at all times. His worst enemies knew that the only “weakness” they could use to attack him was actually a great strength – his faithfulness to God. “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.” (Dan. 6:5) (italics added).
Second, Daniel perceptively discerned the ultimate objectives of the ruling legal authorities more accurately than the authorities themselves did, and he came up with creative ways to more effectively accomplish those objectives by remaining obedient to, rather than transgressing, the law of God, as Daniel chapter 1 recounts. Third, Daniel and his friends had unwavering clarity about their priorities, even in the face of the idols of their age and no matter the cost. As Daniel’s three friends eloquently explained, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:17-18).
Most of all, Daniel had great faith in a great God – and he prayed like it. Daniel was wholeheartedly devoted to prayer. He prayed and gave thanks regularly throughout every day and he did so without regard to what others might think or do. Indeed, his primary response to hostile legal changes – changes specifically designed to use his faithfulness to God as a weapon against him – was simply to pray to God, just as he had always done. “Now when Daniel knew that the document [requiring that all people, on penalty of death, worship an idol of the present ruler] was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” (Daniel 6:10) (italics added). But Daniel not only prayed regularly, he engaged in deep, prolonged, fervent, humble intercessory prayer, repenting of his people’s sins and imploring God’s grace and mercy upon them. Daniel 9 recounts one example of Daniel’s prayers and of God’s powerful response.
Daniel saw that God is always at work at a much deeper level than we can understand or even see. Daniel also found that God always works powerfully for the glory of His Name and for the ultimate good not only of those who trust in Him now, but also of those who will come to trust in Him in the future, often as a direct result of the faithfulness of His people.
May we all follow Daniel’s example in engaging in regular and deep prayer for our nation, humbling confessing and repenting of our sins and fervently imploring God to pour out His mercy, forgiveness, and grace through His Holy Spirit on our culture. May we enter into a season of concerted prayer leading up to Supreme Court oral arguments on April 28, 2015, and a decision expected by the end of June, asking God to guide the Justices of the Court to decide in ways that preserve biblical marriage and that protect the religious liberty of all Americans. And may we all, like Daniel, have a great faith in a great God Who does great things for the good of all who will trust in Him.
Scott Ward serves as Chancellor of the Anglican Church in North America and Chancellor of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic. He is Chancellor and a member of The Falls Church Anglican in Falls Church, VA.