“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10
One of the dangers of our faith is that we would turn the practices of our faith into a formula or breakthrough key as opposed to a way of living. It’s tempting to look for the quick fix for our problems like a fad diet or a TV-shop product that will instantly transform us.
The invitation from God the Father, Son and Spirit is to be bearers and reflectors of the divine image in the world. This means that as our identity and calling we are to announce and demonstrate the universal reign of God in Christ by the way we live. The challenge however is that if God is love and we are to reflect his love in the world we then must possess this love in our life in order to offer it. If God is gracious then we must experience and then offer this grace to the world and so on.
You and I know however, that we do not always reflect with our lives the life of Jesus. We therefore, use practices to help form and shape us for our calling as God’s representatives in the world.
The Apostle Paul says to his apprentice pastor Timothy, “train yourself to be godly” 1 Timothy 4:7
“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally.” 1 Timothy 4:7 The Message, Eugene H. Peterson
The essential tools or practices of our faith include prayer, scripture reading, worship, communion and other spiritual practices such as silence, fasting, solitude and service. The problem however is that we often revert to old religious mindsets whereby we see these practices as the things that will get us God’s attention and favour if we do them i.e. If we pray the right way we will get the answer because God will be impressed. This is oppressive and damaging to our faith and witness. God is already for us and the invitation to pray and read and be formed by these practices is not meant to be a rule but rather a tool to serve us in becoming the person we desire to become.
So when Daniel prays three times a day on his knees facing Jerusalem, he is not doing this in reaction to the new laws of the land or as a way of guaranteeing that he will be safe. He does what he has always regularly done. He prays morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:17) because in prayer his physical body (kneeling), heart and mind are focused (Jerusalem) on God’s presence and purposes. This is what shapes Daniel to be the man of integrity and faith that he is.
When I treat spiritual practices like a rule to fulfil or a formula key for breakthrough, I may be immediately motivated to action but the result is that I become driven and I don’t live as a child of God, beloved and free. However, when I treat spiritual practices as a tool to help me restore, reshape and refocus my life on reflecting God’s image in the world I am transformed and reoriented towards being who I’m called to be and that is very satisfying and liberating. The focus is then on my being present with God rather than striving to get the practice correct in order to earn God’s favour.
So be encouraged to pray three times a day like Daniel if this serves to restore, reshape and refocus your soul. Let the practices be like an experiment where you try different ways of connecting with God. I’m practicing prayer and reading the Scripture three times a day via the app and book “Common Book of Prayer for Ordinary Radicals” which is a liturgy to guide us. This is not something I’ve been drawn to in the past but in this season of my life it is serving me well to restore, reshape and refocus my soul on a regular basis. I need this. My wife knows I need this. My co-workers and friends know I need this because otherwise it doesn’t take me long to get distracted and my heart to become a little calloused.
Why don’t you give it a try. Nothing to lose. God is for you already. This will only serve to help form you. I’d love to hear what works for you because my experience tells me we grow in different ways and in different seasons.
Oh Lord, restore my heart with your grace, peace and love.
Reshape my life to look like that of Jesus.
Refocus me on your agenda of cross-shaped love and new creation.