When things seem out of control

You may be feeling unsettled at the moment. That’s understandable. So many of our normal routines that gives our lives a sense of rhythm and certainty are out of order. Maybe you’re working from home; projects are being delayed; schools and universities are suspended; shops and restaurants are quieter; virus precautions bring a sense of isolation from people. This new and hopefully temporary routine is an uneasy reminder that we’re not really in control.

What can we do? Maybe we can learn something from the story of Daniel.

Daniel experienced his whole life being thrown out of order. He was extraordinarily successful, rising to the top of the Babylonian and Persian bureaucracies. But then out of religious hostility and professional jealousy, his rivals tricked the king into signing an edict forbidding people to pray to anyone but the king. They knew about Daniel’s regular habit of prayer. If Daniel continued this habit of a lifetime, his life would be forfeited.

Events were out of Daniel’s control, but he resolved to trust the God who is in control of all things, regardless of the outcome.

So how did Daniel respond? When Daniel heard about the edict, ‘he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before’ (Daniel 6:10).

Notice three things. First, Daniel’s prayer life was habitual. Other aspects of Daniel’s life might have been thrown out of schedule, but prayer wasn’t. Prayer is an incredible resource for fixing our eyes on God; for consistently finding our peace and rest in him.

Second, his prayer was focussed. Daniel prayed towards Jerusalem. That was a way of helping him to look to God’s promises, which at that stage in Israel’s history, still included that city. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we reorientate ourselves towards him. We remind ourselves of all the promises that God has fulfilled in him.

Third, Daniel’s prayer demonstrated his priority. Daniel knew the consequences, yet straight away he goes home, and prays to God, just as he had done before. He could have said to himself, ‘The decree is just for 30 days. No big deal. I’ll just hold off praying until it’s over.’ Daniel’s decision to continue praying was his answer to the question, ‘What matters most in my life, worshipping God or my own personal safety?’ When he keeps on praying it’s like he’s saying: ‘I will not make an idol out of control or safety.’

Events were out of Daniel’s control, but he resolved to trust the God who is in control of all things, regardless of the outcome. In our current circumstances, we need the same reminder.