When Lions Prowl, Pray to God
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation by race in public schools was unconstitutional in the landmark case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. Despite the federal court order to desegregate schools, there were plenty of school boards that refused and New Orleans, Louisiana was one of those. Finally in 1960, two elementary schools in New Orleans were desegregated, despite the vicious public outcry. A young black girl made history by simply walking up the steps of William Frantz Elementary that school year. What made this little girl so special? It wasn’t the color of her skin, even though that was what distinguished her from the angry mob that surrounded her. No, it was her courage that made her special.
Ruby Bridges quickly became a household name across the nation. Where did Ruby get her courage from? After all, if the mob had turned violent, she certainly could have lost her life. She faced the fear of that crowd for many days with the confidence that the Lord was with her and would protect her every step of the way. She later said that she prayed in the car on the way to school each morning. However, one day, she forgot to pray until she was walking through the crowd. Her teacher, Mrs. Henry, noticed and asked Ruby what she was saying to the protestors as she walked by them. Ruby told her that she wasn’t talking to them, but rather she was praying to God for protection and to forgive them. Ruby was doing exactly what Jesus told us that we should do: she was loving her neighbor and praying for her enemies. That strength and courage could only have ever been provided by God.
That story is reminiscent of the story of Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:7–27). King Darius’ highest officials convinced him that he should sign a petition that anyone in the kingdom who prays to anyone except the king would be cast into the den of lions and thus put to death in a horrible way. “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” (Daniel 6:10). Daniel not only defied his earthly king to obey his Heavenly King, he did it with his windows wide open, three times a day, changing none of his holy habits! Considering the extreme punishment for this “crime,” that was a very courageous and fearless act he performed. Daniel knew that even if he was caught breaking the decree, there was nothing to fear. Daniel knew that God was with him every step of the way.
The king’s officials who despised Daniel witnessed him praying and went to tell the king. The thing is, King Darius had grown to admire Daniel, so the news his officials brought to him was greatly distressing. The king was in a bind. His decree was unbreakable, even by himself, because he had signed it as such. So, the king was forced to have Daniel cast into the lions’ den. “The king declared to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!’ And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.” (Daniel 6:16–18).
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what Daniel did that night. However, it is safe to presume that Daniel immediately fell to his knees in prayer to God. I imagine that Daniel kept his back pressed to the stone in front of the den’s entrance while on his knees in prayer. I’m sure the lions paced back and forth in front of him, growling deep from their throats. That sight and sound would make even the bravest warrior lose their continence. How long did it take Daniel to open his eyes to see why he wasn’t being torn to shreds? The anticipation of that gruesome death would surely make anyone’s blood curdle. But Daniel never lost his trust and faith in God’s protection. This allowed him to pray fearlessly, even with those hungry lions mere feet away.
“Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.’” (Daniel 6:19–22). How amazing it would have been to see the Angel of the Lord literally closing the mouths of the lions that night.
King Darius was beyond upset with his officials for tricking him into putting Daniel in the lions’ den. So, “the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions – they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.” (Daniel 6:24). The king was also overjoyed at Daniel’s survival and was thoroughly impressed with God’s mighty power. He declared, “in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26–27).
The bottom line is this: HAVE NO FEAR! God is with us always. He is, and will always be, faithful to His promises. When you find yourself in your own lions’ den, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). He will deliver you.
Information about Ruby Bridges is from: https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/inspiring-stories/stories-of-hope/in-1960-little-ruby-bridges-bravely-entered-an-all-white-school.