Every Thought Captive

Praying in Times of Crisis

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for 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 matter.”

Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”

Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel 2:1-30

Daniel and his friends were in crisis. When the troubled Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men could not tell him his dream and its meaning, the king exploded in anger and decreed the death of the wise men, including Daniel and his friends (Daniel 2:1, 12-13). As Arioch, the executioner, approached Daniel and his friends, a choice had to be made.

In times of crisis, we face a critical choice: will we panic or pray? Will we crumble in fear and panic about what seems inevitable? Or will we bow in faith and pray for what seems impossible? To panic would be natural and reasonable. Whether by ax, gallows, or sword, life was literally on the line. To pray would be supernatural, and in the eyes of the world, totally unreasonable. How could Daniel’s prayers possibly undo what had already been decreed or overpower the mightiest of kings? 

In his excellent book, A Praying Life, Paul Miller describes how cynicism about prayer is perhaps the greatest challenge for Christians today. He writes, “Cynicism kills hope. The world of the cynic is fixed and immovable; the cynic believes we are swept along by forces greater than we are. Dreaming feels like so much foolishness. Risk becomes intolerable. Prayer feels pointless as if we are talking to the wind. Why set ourselves and God up for failure?” When our days are fraught with illness, financial needs, relational turmoil, and dozens of unanswerable questions, it is all too easy to bend to the spirit of the age and lose sight of God’s ultimate power.

If I were in Daniel’s shoes and facing an executioner, I imagine the weakness of my faith might only produce a prayer like, “God, let it be quick!” But Daniel does not surrender to panic, and his prayer is not a meager request for comfort. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Daniel and his friends pray a bold prayer: for God to spare their lives by revealing the king’s dream to them. And sure enough, the God of heaven answers their prayer!

Daniel’s prayer is one of hundreds of similar prayers in God’s Word. When God’s people are in crisis, He compels them to pray. Even Jesus, facing the crisis of His betrayal, arrest, scourging, and death, prayed amid His crisis (Matthew 26:38-40). But the hero is never the one who prays; the hero is the God who provides. Listen to Daniel’s joyful response to God’s provision: “To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for 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 matter (Daniel 2:23)!”

Are you facing a crisis today? God’s Word calls you not to panic but to pray. Pray boldly for God to provide whatever it is you lack. God’s answer and provision may not come as quickly or clearly as it did for Daniel, but as your Heavenly Father, He will answer. And He will always provide.

About the Author

Photograph of Matt Fray

Matt Fray

Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Matt grew up in South Florida and first sensed a call to pastoral ministry while a high school student at Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA), in Dallas. After graduating from St. Mark’s, Covenant College, and Westminster Seminary in California, he spent four years serving as the assistant pastor of a PCA church in Savannah, GA. In 2014, he returned to serve at PCPC as the Assistant Pastor of Spiritual Formation.

Matt and his wife Erin have three children: Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel.