I’m a movie buff or in elitist terms, a cinephile. In many ways, I speak and think using images and sounds. The movie language is my language. When someone asks me to name my favorite movies, I trip over the answers all the time. There are too many, and I wind up making a list by genre. What I find even more fascinating about movies is the behind the scenes footage. I love seeing how they did it. One gains a deeper appreciation and understanding for the movie and for those who brought it to life. It is like being given new eyes and ears. The passage below could be described as “behind the scenes footage” regarding prayer. Here it is:
“12. Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14. and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come'” (Daniel 10:12-14, ESV).
Before diving into this fascinating text, let me supply the background to it. In the second and third verses of Daniel chapter ten, the writer records that the prophet had been fasting and mourning for three weeks (Dan. 10:2-3, ESV). This sort of thing should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the book of Daniel. The very first chapter records the young, Hebrew prophet leading his three friends into a time of prayer and fasting at the beginning of their captivity (Dan. 1:8, 12-16, ESV). When King Nebuchadnezzar orders his soldiers to kill all the wise men of the land for their failure at interpreting his dream, it is Daniel who buys some time through prayer and fasting with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 2:12-19, ESV).
There are two other instances recorded in the book of Daniel about the prophet fasting and praying for God to speak. One occurs in the sixth chapter and the other in ninth. The former pertains to Daniel learning about a decree that punishes those who refuse to pray to Darius by casting the offender into the lion’s den (Dan. 6:6-10, ESV). In the ninth chapter, the prophet’s life is not under any threat as he desires to know the outcome of his nation and people within God’s purposes and plans (Dan. 9:1-3, ESV). All of these circumstances reveal a man committed to the Lord by submitting himself to a lifestyle of fasting and prayer. Each time the God of heaven and earth either delivers Daniel from his situation, or grants him divine revelation into the matter at hand.
After reading account after account of God answering Daniel’s prayers, it comes as no surprise to see the same thing take place in Daniel 10:12-14. In fact, I would argue that this is precisely what the reader should expect at this point. The difference this time around has to do with this particular account portraying demonic opposition toward the angelic messenger (Dan. 10:13, ESV). What amazes me is that God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer had been given as soon as he began to pray; however, the answer had been delayed twenty-one days (or three weeks) because the prince of Persia fought against the messenger (Dan. 10:12-13, ESV). This is a vivid depiction of God’s kingdom in direct conflict with Satan’s, who dispatched the prince of Persia after eavesdropping into Daniel’s prayer to the Lord.
What are we to make of this passage? It is behind the scenes footage (or intel) regarding some prayers and their answers. In the church, it is often taught that God responds in three ways to the prayers of his people: yes, no, or wait. Waiting tends to stretch or test the faith of the one praying. What this passage in Daniel chapter ten seems to teach is that a delayed response is not always God saying “Wait.” In Daniel’s case, the Lord’s reply was actually an unmistakable yes. The delay had to do with the enemy’s opposition to the answer. Of course, this raises plenty of questions, but I will not address them for the sake of time and space. If there is one takeaway about this passage, then let it be persistence. Daniel prayed for three weeks, which was the same amount of time as the enemy’s resistance toward the angelic messenger.
Did Daniel know about this conflict? The text does not say, but I think not. Daniel kept fasting and praying right up until the moment the angelic being appeared to him (Dan. 10:4-5, ESV). The prophet’s persistence in prayer brings to mind Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow in the gospel of Luke, the eighteenth chapter. I do not have the time and space to unpack this wonderful parable. I encourage my readers and followers to read that passage side by side with this one in the tenth chapter of Daniel. Here is the point. The spiritual principle of persisting or persevering in prayer is found in both testaments. Prayer is spiritual warfare. It positions God’s people to see and hear in the midst of a violent conflict. This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew’s gospel: “…the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12b, ESV). Prayer is the believer’s battle cry while on earth. It is a cry heard by his God in his heavenly temple (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4, ESV).