A Lifestyle of Fasting and Prayer

In the Book of Daniel in the Bible are the inter-twined stories of a king named Nebuchadnezzar and a young Israelite man named Daniel.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

In the Book of Daniel in the Bible are the inter-twined stories of a king named Nebuchadnezzar and a young Israelite man named Daniel. These are the true stories of the pride of one man and the humility of another and the consequences that befell them both. When Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem to besiege it, it was because of the great evil that had been done by Israel in the sight of the Lord. The Lord then gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into King Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. Nebuchadnezzar took some of the articles from the house of God and put them into the treasure house of his own god. A young man named Daniel was taken from among the Israelite captives, so that he might be trained to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.

“Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meschach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego”.

(Daniel 1:3-7)

In the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign the king had a dream that greatly troubled him. Because none of the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers or Chaldeans could tell King Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed, or give its interpretation, he gave a command to destroy all of Babylon’s wise men. When Daniel heard about the death sentence, he knew that he, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among those who were to be killed, so he asked the king for time that he may interpret the dream.

God Gives the Interpretation

As Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah sought the Lord, the Lord revealed the secret of the dream to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel gave glory to God and blessed His Name forever:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand”.

(Daniel 2:20-23)

Daniel knew that both the dream and the interpretation that he had been shown had come from the Lord and was not of his own understanding.

To whom the Word of the Lord has been given, it will be given to understand. Not by the words of another, but by the Spirit of God within!

Therefore, when Daniel was brought before the king he gave glory to God for both the dream and the understanding that he had been given:

“The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation’? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven Who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these’”.

(Daniel 2:26-28)

Daniel was then able to tell King Nebuchadnezzar exactly what the Lord had shown him (Daniel 2:31-45). Because of the accuracy of both the telling and the interpretation of the dream, the king honoured and promoted Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. But it was God Who received the glory.

“The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret’. Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king”.

(Daniel 2:47-49)

Daniel Purposed in His Heart He Would Not be Defiled

Daniel was able to keep his heart free from pride because he had already purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. He practised a lifestyle of fasting and prayer. When the other young men of the Jewish captives enjoyed the meat and the wine provided by the king; Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah asked to eat only pulse (or vegetables) and to drink only water. In doing this they were denying themselves and putting their devotion to God before their fleshly desires. The Bible does not tell us why the king’s food and drink were considered defiling by Daniel. It may have been because it had been offered to Babylonian gods, or because it was unclean according to Jewish law, or it may simply have been because Daniel wanted to keep himself undefiled from the deception of self-indulgence, in order to keep his eyes on the Lord.

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”.

(Daniel 1:8, KJV)

For ten days the head of the eunuchs did as Daniel requested and put Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to the test. For ten days he gave them only pulse to eat and water to drink. At the end of this time they looked better and fatter than all the young men who ate the king’s portion and God gave them skill, knowledge and understanding far above all the magicians and astrologers in the king’s realm.

“And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams”.

(Daniel 1:15-17)

“And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm”.

(Daniel 1:20)

Daniel Humbled Himself Through Fasting and Prayer

In the third year of King Cyrus, the Lord gave Daniel a vision. Daniel humbled himself in fasting and sought the Lord in prayer, that he might understand the vision.

“In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled”.

(Daniel 10:1-3)

It was after this time that one sent from God came to Daniel to explain what would take place in the nations.

“Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words’”.

(Daniel 10:12)

During the reign of King Darius also, Daniel continued to distinguish himself above all other men “because an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3). As King Darius thought of setting Daniel over the whole of his realm, the governors and satraps sought to depose him by finding some charge against him. But because of Daniel’s great faithfulness, the only way they could do this, was by challenging the law of his God. These men conspired to make a decree that whoever petitioned any god or man for thirty days except the king would be cast into the den of lions, and King Darius signed the decree. But Daniel’s custom was to come three times a day before the Lord in prayer.

“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days”.

(Daniel 6:10)

The men who conspired against Daniel then assembled and found him praying and took the matter to the king. Though the king fought for a way to deliver Daniel, he knew the decree could not be altered and Daniel was cast into the lion’s den.

“Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’”.

(Daniel 6:17-20)

Once more the Lord honoured Daniel’s righteous choice, and once more the Lord intervened in order to save his life.

“Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you’. Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God. And the king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions—them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den”.

(Daniel 6:21-24)

Nebuchadnezzar Acknowledges The Most High God

But Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded that at the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre and psaltery in symphony with all kinds of music, that all were to fall down and worship the image that he had made. Whoever did not fall down and worship the image would be cast into a fiery furnace. But because Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego refused to bow down to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had made, he was full of fury and the expression on his face toward them changed. He then ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than it was usually heated and the flames killed the mighty men who bound and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego into the fiery furnace. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego walked around unbound and unharmed in the fire. King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see a fourth man walking with them in the fire, whose form was like the Son of God.

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counsellors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God’”.

(Daniel 3:24 & 25)

King Nebuchadnezzar then recognized the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego as the most high God.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.’ Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counsellors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them”.

(Daniel 3:26 & 27)

When Nebuchadnezzar saw the power of God and his ability to frustrate the word of the king, he made a decree so that no man would speak anything amiss (“a fault, neglect or error” – Strong’s Concordance) against their God.

“Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this’”

(Daniel 3:28 & 29).

Though King Nebuchadnezzar had twice acknowledged Daniel’s, Hananiah’s, Mishael’s and Azariah’s God as the most high God, he continued to exhibit much affectation of pride. The word ‘affectation’ in the Oxford Dictionary is described as “behaviour, speech or writing that is pretentious and designed to impress.” The word ‘pretentious’ is similarly described as “attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.” For though Nebuchadnezzar had become a great king, it was not by his own hand but by the hand of God. In order to humble King Nebuchadnezzar and to show him that God rules in the kingdom of men, He gave him a second dream. King Nebuchadnezzar said:

“I was looking, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong; Its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, the birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him. This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men’”.

(Daniel 4: 10-17)

Once again Daniel was called to interpret the dream, and Daniel said:

“It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth”.

(Daniel 4:22)

“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times (or seven years) shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity”.

(Daniel 4: 24-27)

The Lord Humbles the Proud

“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that i have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. ’that very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws”.

(Daniel 4:28-33)

After seven years passed, King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom once again was restored to him, and he blessed the Most High God, honouring Him who lives forever.

“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honoured Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth no one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘what have you done?’ At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honour and splendour returned to me. My counsellors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down”.

(Daniel 4:34-37)

Because Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refused to live a life of compromise, God protected their lives and gave them great success. But Nebuchadnezzar he humbled “in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17). Daniel kept himself free from the affectation of pride by a life-style of fasting and prayer. He sought no reward from man (see Daniel 5:17) and gained the favour of others by faithfully serving, even when in a captive land.

As I was given this article to write from the Lord, He instructed me: “Pray she will discontinue the race.” God showed me the ‘she’ He was referring to represented ‘the Church or the Body of Christ’, and the ‘race’ represented ‘the desire to win’ or ‘be first.’ This desire to be first is driven by spirits of pride, competition and compromise. As believers in Christ we are not called to compete with others or to try to be ‘better’ than others in order to elevate ourselves. Jesus said:

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”.

(Matthew 16:24)

“If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all”.

(Mark 9:35)

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other”.

(Matthew 6:24)

Again, Jesus warned us to be watchful in prayer, so that we will not enter into temptation. When we choose a life-style of being watchful in prayer, like Daniel we are choosing a life-style of sanctification, or of being set apart for the things of the Lord.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

(Matthew 26:41)
  • We are not to compete or to compare ourselves with others.
  • Each one of us must ‘run our own race’ in the Lord, doing only what He has called us to do.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

(Hebrews 12: 1&2)

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If you would like to have a relationship with God through accepting His Son Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, please pray the prayer below.

Dear Heavenly Father. Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I am sorry for the sins I have committed and I ask You to forgive me. I now turn away from all the things that I know to be wrong and I receive Your Holy Spirit and Your gift of eternal life. Thank You for this free gift of Salvation and eternal life. Help me to come to know and experience Your love for me more and more, and to now share the love You have given me with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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What next: Once we have started our relationship with Christ – it is important that we continue to grow in our understanding of Him, and experience His love for us on a regular basis. God does this for us as we read the Bible, which I encourage you to do on a regular basis, asking the Holy Spirit to help you understand it and make it “come alive” to you in a very personal way. May I encourage you to do this every day, and to actively pursue those things that God reveals to you. We also need to be spending time with other like-minded Christians on a regular basis, who are also growing in their relationship with God. We gain encouragement from being with other growing believers. Ask God to lead you to a Bible-believing church (or Bible-believing Christian group) that will encourage your relationship with Christ and help to meet your needs. Ask Him, and trust that He will guide you to the place of fellowship that is right for you.

May God both work in you and through you, those things that He desires, as you continue to submit your life to Him each day.