CALL TO PRAYER: Dare to be old Daniel

EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is part of the call to prayer issued by Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, to pray for revival and spiritual awakening for our churches, our nation and our world.

PHOENIX (BP) -- A lot of us remember the story of Daniel in the lion's den as a great Sunday School lesson for kids. And it is!

But did you know that Daniel was about 80 years old when he was tossed to the lions? Eighty years old.

Daniel is not just an example for children. He is also an inspiration for all of us older folks who long to "finish the race" well, as the Apostle Paul would say.

Here are three truths from Daniel in the lion's den that will help us cross the finish line with a strong stride -– no matter what our age! Daniel the octogenarian glorified God by:

1. Maintaining a robust prayer life. Why was Daniel thrown to the lions anyway? Because he was a man of prayer. His crime? He refused to pray to the state-sanctioned idol. Instead, he went into his prayer closet and lifted his voice to God. The winds of political correctness never altered his devotion to God. Daniel, the 80-something prophet, made prayer a daily priority.

When we were missionaries, we had a prayer supporter named Marge. Marge was an elderly woman who lived in Vermont. She had limited mobility and an unlimited desire to serve the Lord. Her ministry tools consisted of two baskets. One was empty and the other was filled with more than 100 photographs. Each photo was of a missionary serving God in a foreign field.

Her ministry began the same way every day. The basket to the right of her chair was filled with pictures and the basket on her left was empty.

Marge would take a missionary family in her hands, lift it up in intercession and, when done, gently place it in the empty basket. One by one she would pray through the entire stack of photos until the basket that was once empty was full. Her intercession was constantly sharpened by the hundreds of prayer letters she received from her missionaries.

It is a wonderful thing to observe the wordless testimony of a seasoned soul with uplifted hands and a gaze toward heaven.

2. Resisting the world through prayer. Daniel knew better than anyone that his prayerful civil disobedience would lead to his death. He was a high-ranking politician, after all. Yet he chose to prostrate himself before God rather than an idol. And his radical faith was richly rewarded. God miraculously delivered Daniel from the Persian lion's den, just as he had miraculously delivered his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, from the Babylonian fiery furnace.

Theologian David Wells says that petitionary prayer is, "in essence, rebellion -- rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God."

It is a wonderful thing to observe a mature believer, a witness to history and a long observer of lost men and their perverse ways praying, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

3. Developing an unassailable character through prayer. A lot of mistakes can accumulate during eight decades of life. For many, there are enough skeletons to fill a walk-in closet. But this was not the case in Daniel's life. Even his enemies "could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent" (Daniel 6:4b). This is all the more amazing considering that Daniel was a politician, surrounded by politicians who devoted themselves to digging up dirt on Daniel.

Undoubtedly, Daniel's devotion to plumbing the depths of God on his knees enabled him to stand on his feet with an unassailable character. Jesus said, "But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).

It is a wonderful thing to observe a senior saint's weighty wisdom that flows from a well-worn path to the fount of secret prayer.

It has been said that in the kingdom of God there is neither retirement nor unemployment. This is especially true in the realm of prayer. Though the passage of time may erode our physical strength, it must stoke our spirit even more to prayer, especially as the day of Christ's return draws near.

Won't you join me in praying the prayer that has been on my heart lately? "Lord, may my latter years be more fruitful than the first. Amen."

Ralph Tone is a Phoenix-based church partner for LifeWay Christian Resources and blogs at
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