What Do You Practice?

A couple of weeks ago, in my adult Bible class, we discussed the famous story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. It is one of those stories more famous than the Bible itself; what I mean is, even people who don’t know the Bible know this story. Daniel was a Hebrew serving at the top of the Babylonian government. He was trusted by the king, and it appears they had a close personal friendship. Of course, this stirred up jealousy among Daniel’s rivals in government, and they conspired to get him in trouble and have him thrown out.

Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t find any scandal or failure to pin on Daniel. Not one. The only hope they had was to trip him up regarding his personal and consistent devotion to God.

They convinced the Babylonian king to make a decree that no one could worship anyone but the king himself, knowing this would trap Daniel. And it did. And as a result, Daniel was sentenced to spending the night in the lion’s den, and certain death.

However, Daniel survived. God shut the mouths of the lions, they left Daniel alone, and he survived.

My contention is that the story would be better served if the title were “Daniel in Window” instead of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” because that would put the focus on Daniel’s practice of prayer.

Our spiritual self grows when we maintain spiritual practices. Practice in the sense of daily regular activities that we do for the purpose of doing them. Not out of rote or mechanical repetition. When I was younger, we called them spiritual disciplines, and the list included Bible reading, study, prayer, meditation, scripture memory, fasting, worship, and many more.

Alberto Salazar, a former world class marathon runner and current coach, has been a practicing Catholic his entire life, and in his later years, he has become more outspoken and deeper in his faith. In his memoir titled, 14 Minutes, he wrote this: “I don’t regard faith as a passive virtue but as a praxis, a habit of heart and mind, which we build through effort and over time. … In my experience, miracles grow out of faith, and not the other way around.”

I think Salazar pegged the life of Daniel. Daniel’s miracle in the lion’s den came from his faith developed over years of spiritual practice.

Even though it was miraculous that Daniel survived his night among the lions, he had very little to do with it. He didn’t use his ninja moves to fight off the lions. He didn’t hypnotize them and put them to sleep. Daniel didn’t climb the walls and stay out of reach.

No, Daniel’s strength, his “accomplishment,” came from decades of devotion to God. Daniel was known for praying in his window several times each day. He didn’t pray in his window to attract attention or to show off, but because it faced Jerusalem.

Daniel had lost his family, his name, his culture, and his social net. Daniel became a eunuch when he entered government service, so he had no family of his own.

Daniel didn’t even have a home to return to. Jerusalem, the center of his previous life and the representation of God on earth, had been leveled by war with Babylon. All Daniel had was a memory. So when he prayed, he prayed in a window that faced that memory, to connect him to God, to connect him to home.

The text says Daniel prayed every day, three times a day, for his entire life. It was that very practice that gave him strength to endure. It was that practice that deepened his character so that king after king after king sought him out to serve in the upper echelons of government.

How about you? Do you have any “Daniel in the Window” practices?

One of my longest running practices has been reading my Daily Chronological Bible. I started when someone convinced me it was a good idea to readtrail to truchas the entire Bible from start to finish. I kept at it because I wanted to learn more things about God. After I few more passes through the Bible my reason was to change who I was and how I lived. My motivation passed from knowledge to character.

It became a daily practice for me. A spiritual thin place. The daily habit itself is as important as what I actually read. It grounds me. It brings me back home to my root relationship with God. It settles my wandering mind and keeps me from rambling too far from God’s truth. The physical act of doing it brings peace. A day feels strange and empty until I have my reading.

What about you?

What are the practices that anchor your faith?

What are your “Daniel in the Window” moments?

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

Read and subscribe to my weekly blog, read daily writing on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.