I’m speaking today at a youth camp on “Holy Habits.” It’s one of a series of addresses that various speakers are giving on the book of Daniel. I was asked to speak on Daniel’s holy habits of prayer, Bible reading, and meditation.What is a habit?
I started studying for this address by asking: “What is a habit?” A habit is a behavior that through regular repetition becomes almost an involuntary and instinctive part of our lives. A habit is a behavior: We all have many habits. Some are amoral (neither good nor bad) – sleeping on your back, eating with a fork in your left hand, hitting the snooze button when the alarm goes off, etc. Some are immoral (bad) – swearing, looking at porn, procrastination, etc. Some are harmful – nail-biting, thumb-sucking, etc. Others are moral (good/beneficial) – a mother runs to help when she hears her child cry. That through regular repetition: If repeated in the same place there is a strengthening of the link between the place and the action. Becomes an almost involuntary and instinctive part of our lives: We hardly need to think about it. The habit is controlled by our subconscious. It becomes more and more automatic; so automatic that we hardly need to think about it. What are holy habits?
With that definition in mind, what are holy habits? Or, what habits help make us holy? Answer: personal prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. Through regular repetition, these behaviors should become an instinctive part of our lives. I want to be careful here to distinguish between what should be habitual about these behaviors. Setting apart a time and place for these activities should be a daily habit that becomes so instinctive that we hardly need to think about doing them. But the actual exercise – the praying, the Bible reading, the meditation should engage our whole hearts, minds, souls, strength. Daniel’s holy habits
When we look at the book of Daniel, we find someone who had holy habits. Prayer, Bible reading and meditation (Dan. 6, 9), had become such a regular feature of his life, that he hardly needed to think about doing them. However, as we know, his praying, etc., was not thoughtless and mechanistic. It engaged the whole man. But Daniel was so habitual in these spiritual disciplines that when his enemies wanted to bring him down, they realized that the most sure-fire way of securing his death was to devise a law that would condemn him for praying to God (Dan. 6:4,5). So regular and predictable was Daniel’s prayer life that when these men got the law against praying, they knew that they had gotten Daniel too. In Daniel 6v10, we read that although Daniel knew when the prayer-forbidding law had been signed by the king, “he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” or “as he had done previously.” In Daniel 9, some years later, we find Daniel studying the Old Testament, specifically the prophecy of Jeremiah. And, as he meditates upon it, God reveals His plan to deliver Israel at the end of 70 years in Babylon. And what does Daniel instinctively do? He starts praying for this promise to be fulfilled (Dan. 9:2-3). Daniel was a man of holy habits, the holy habits of prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. These were behaviors that through regular repetition became almost an involuntary and instinctive part of his life. Well, I’m sure all of us would like to have such holy habits. But how do we get and develop them? I’ll try to answer that tomorrow.