Dear Christian Sisters and Brothers,
During this pandemic, I am writing. Before I write book 2 in the Faces of Abortion Series, I feel compelled to turn the Worship to End Abortion prayer booklet into a book, providing the teachings that explain why we should pray in this way.
Day 17 in the 40 daily prayers is “Pray for Your Country,” in whichever country you live. I’m including my draft of that chapter below because it feels so appropriate that we pray like Daniel right now during the pandemic.
Screams and yelling were heard as foreign soldiers drove advisors, legislators, and royalty of every age to the leader of the raid, King Nebuchadnezzar. He commanded and the soldiers obeyed. The captives were herded north and then followed the Euphrates river down to Babylon. It was a long walk, perhaps two months’ time.
The Babylonian roads were littered with people. The palace was a marvel to see. A beautiful garden seemed to hang on the tier. Oh, but to rest in that splendor!
The captives were given water while the king barked orders. His words were unfamiliar, but it was clear that he ordered Ashpenaz to choose from among the men—royalty, good-looking young men who showed knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Among those chosen were Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel.
Before the raid, the young men had their whole lives ahead of them. They had studied the scriptures, their history, and how to govern. They were destined to advise the King of Judah and administrate under his leadership. Until the raid, that was King Jehoiakim.
The chosen young men quickly learned the language and literature of their captors. King Nebuchadnezzar sent food and wine from his own table and commanded that after three years, they would serve him.
Eating the king’s food and adding to their scholarly endeavors was better than the exile for most of their fellow Judeans, but they missed their families, the holy city of Jerusalem, and the beauty of Solomon’s temple.
And they were given new names, names that honored the foreign god Bel (Baal). No longer Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah but instead Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednigo. Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar—from “God is my judge” to “Bel’s treasurer.” (Daniel 1:1-7)
The Daniel Diet
Daniel knew that the king’s food was unclean according to the Law of Moses, and he did not want to dishonor God. Daniel approached Ashpenaz, asking permission to eat food that allowed him to keep his promise to God.
“Daniel, you are my favorite, but do not ask this of me. I cannot lose favor with the king. He assigned your food. Why should he see you weaker than others your age. It is my life that I may lose.”
“Please test my friends and me for ten days. Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare us with the young men who eat the king’s food. See how we look. After that, treat us according to what you see.”
The chief official agreed. After 10 days, he was surprised. Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel looked healthier than the men who ate the royal food. So from that time on, they ate vegetables and water to honor God.
God gave the four young men knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and wisdom. To Daniel, He also gave understanding of visions and dreams.
At the end of the three years, Ashpenaz presented all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar, but he was most impressed by Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel, so he chose them to serve him.
In every matter, the king found the four men to have understanding and wisdom ten times greater than all the Babylonian magicians and astrologers. (Daniel 1:8-20)
Daniel served the king while remaining righteous in the sight of the Lord. He interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams and served him well.
After the king died, King Belshazzar ruled for a short time before the Persians conquered the Babylonians.
By this time, Daniel was over 80 years old. King Darius, the Persian, ruled and quickly observed the wisdom of Daniel, making him one of the three top administrators. Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel became even more distinguished, so King Darius planned to put him above all, only second to the king himself.
The administrators and those who reported to them were jealous and began looking for evidence that Daniel was corrupt but to no avail. They said, “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.”
They devised a new plan and approached King Darius, saying:
“King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” (Daniel 6:6-8 NASB)
Their appeal to the king’s pride succeeded, and King Darius signed the injunction.
Daniel, knowing the document was signed, entered the roof chamber of his house and knelt before the west windows, which were open toward Jerusalem, three times a day, praying and giving thanks before God just as he had done before. He was easily caught. (Daniel 6:1-11)
The administrators and those who reported to them approached the king again.
“Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?”
The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.”
Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.”
Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”
Then the king gave orders, and (80+ year old) Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”
A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel.
Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.
Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.”
Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land:
“May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel.
“For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (Daniel 6:12-28 NASB)
Daniel was over 80 years old when he was put in the lions’ den, yet the Lord sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths because Daniel was found innocent in God’s eyes. 80 years to sin and confess, sin and confess, and he had nothing left to confess, no one left to forgive—he was innocent.
Identifying with the People
Yet around the same time, Daniel fasted in sackcloth and ashes praying, “We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside from Your ordinances, and have not listened to Your prophets” (Daniel 9:5-6) and “Open shame belongs to us” (Daniel 9:8).
Daniel was clearly a righteous man, so innocent that not one scratch from a lion was found on him (Daniel 6:23), yet he did not pray saying “the people have sinned” nor “open shame belong to them.”
Instead, he identified himself with his people as he confessed their sins and petitioned the Lord to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, not for any merits of his or the people’s but because of God’s great compassion (Daniel 9:18).
Let us be like Daniel: innocent yet identifying with our country full of people who have sinned.
The following prayer is from Daniel 9:4-19 but adapted to today’s abortion pandemic.
Lord, You are my great and awesome God. You keep Your covenant of love with those who love You and choose Your ways.
Lord, we have sinned and done wrong.
We have been wicked and have rebelled;
we have turned away from Your ways.
We have not listened to You or those who speak in Your name.
Lord, You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of our country and Christians both near and far in all the countries where you have scattered us. We, our political leaders, and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you through extra-marital sex, unfair treatment of those caught in adultery, and abortion.
Lord our God, You are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against You. We have not obeyed You or kept Your ways of purity before, during, and after marriage between one man and one woman “until death do us part.” We have turned away, refusing to choose You.
Therefore, the consequences have poured out on us because we have sinned against You. Consequences have come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your truth. You are righteous in everything You do, yet we have not obeyed You.
Lord our God, who broke us free with a mighty hand and who made for Yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned. We have done wrong.
Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from us. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Christians an object of scorn to all those around us.
Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of Your servants. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate people. Give ear, our God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the desolation of our country. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
Lord, hear and act!
For Your sake, my God, do not delay, because your people bear Your Name.