Have you ever wondered what was happening when it seems that prayer is unanswered? Why is God not answering my request? Why does it seem there is a delay in a response? These are questions we can frequently consider when we have been diligently praying and do not seem to see a response from God. Daniel 10 helps us learn about God and prayer because Daniel is going to experience the same delay in answered prayer like we experience. We should be interested that Daniel’s prayer is delayed in being answered because we know that Daniel is faithful and greatly loved by God (Daniel 9:23). Further, we saw God immediately answer Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9. We were told at the moment Daniel began to pray, God sent an answer to him (9:23). But this time the answer to prayer is delayed. What happened? Why are prayer’s answers delayed?
Before we examine this chapter, we need to observe the context of this prophecy. Daniel 10 describes how the vision came to Daniel. Chapter 11 describes the contents of the vision. Daniel 12 instructs Daniel what he is supposed to do with the vision. Therefore these final three chapters belong together as one message. However, time will not allow us to consider all three chapters at once. But it is important for us recognize that we are only able to look at a portion of the whole when we look at the tenth chapter.
The first verse of chapter 10 tells us that it is the third year in the reign of Cyrus, which means it is 536 BC. We are told that a word from the Lord was revealed to Daniel about a great conflict (10:1). Daniel understood the word and understood the vision. It’s a sad and terrifying message because Daniel goes into mourning for three weeks (10:2). During those three weeks he did not anoint himself or eat meat, delicacies, or wine. While standing on the banks of the Tigris River, Daniel sees another vision. The people with Daniel did not see the vision (10:7) but something happened to cause them to run in great fear. Daniel sees a mighty messenger (10:5-6) what causes him to loses his strength and fall on his face (10:8-9). Soak in the description of this messenger in this vision. The description of the messenger is very similar to the description given to Christ in Revelation 1.
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:12–18 ESV)
Many think that Daniel has seen the Son of God in this vision. This is not the case because this messenger does not identify himself as the Lord God to Daniel. Further, later in this chapter it becomes clear that this is one of God’s holy angels (10:11,18-20). The glorious picture is to show the glory and majesty of God. This is truly a message from God. A hand touches Daniel and sets him up on his hands and knees.
When God Hears
But notice the grace of God in this picture. Daniel was on his face in fear. A hand touches Daniel and sets him on his hands and knees. Now the messenger says to Daniel in verse 11, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” (Daniel 10:11 ESV) Once the messenger says these words, Daniel stands up trembling. So now his trembling is addressed in verse 12. “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.” (Daniel 10:12 ESV) There is nothing to fear, Daniel. Why? Because this messenger has come because of Daniel’s words. Daniel had prayed and God sent a message. Notice the message is very similar to chapter 9. From the first day Daniel set his heart to understand and humbled himself before God, his words were heard and an answer to his prayer was sent. Notice the connection that is declared again. When you set your heart to understand the message of God and humble yourself before him, God hears your prayers. We should not be troubled by this declaration because the scriptures are clear that God will not hear the prayers of those who are not faithful to him.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)
We should not think that prayers are only blocked when men do not live with their wives properly. The point we learn is that when we are not behaving as God has called us to behave, we cannot think that God is listening to us.
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29 ESV)
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10–12 ESV)
Why should we turn away from evil and do good? Why should we seek peace and pursue it? Peter’s answer is that the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers. But this is not the case for those who do evil.
We are given an important reminder here. The power of prayer is not in us but in the Lord God to whom we pray. Prayer is the wholehearted dependence on God. The power is with God, not us. The avenue of powerful prayer only belongs to those who humble themselves before God. Sometimes we pray and wonder what is wrong, as if the power belongs to us. The power belongs to the God we are praying to. We cannot make God do anything. We are asking the Almighty God to act for his glory and good and aligning our desires and our requests to his purposes. When we are struggling with prayer and looking for answers, the first question we must as ourselves is if we are seeking the Lord and humbling ourselves before him. Or have we decided to do what we want and are trying to get God to do what we want?
When Prayer’s Answer Delays
But what we are told next is truly amazing. The messenger says that he was sent to give the answer to Daniel. However, for 21 days the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him. So Michael, one of the chief princes of God, came to help so that he could come and make Daniel understand what is going to happen to his people in the latter days (10:13-14). Is this not absolutely amazing? Daniel prays and for three weeks there is no answer. Has God fallen asleep? Does God not care? Does God not love Daniel? None of these things are the case. Rather, there is a spiritual battle going on that humans cannot see. God’s messenger was blocked by the prince of the kingdom of Persia, which we must understand as some sort of spiritual being, requiring a greater spiritual being, Michael the great prince, to come and help.
Now I know we all want more understanding about what this means and looks like. But it is not given to us. But the point must be learned from the text. We cannot forget that we are in the midst of a spiritual battle that we cannot see.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11–12 ESV)
There are very few passages like these that give us small windows to look into the spiritual realm. I wonder if the reason why we are not told more is because we are not fear what we cannot see, but put our trust in God. God is handling the spiritual battle and is overthrowing enemies. What we must recognize is that we are caught in the midst of a spiritual conflict. We are not in the middle of the conflict, for we are either on one side or the other. We are with the Lord and his armies or we are with Satan and his armies. But we are the midst of the battle, whichever side we are on. Rather than thinking that God does not care and that God is not listening to us, we must have faith in the Lord and consider that there are battles occurring in the spiritual realm that we cannot see. The battle still rages even though the outcome of the battles are determined. God and his armies won, as they always will, so that Daniel’s prayer could be answered.
The messenger even indicates that this is not a one time battle. Look at verses 20-21.
Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince. (Daniel 10:20–21 ESV)
He is going to go back to the fight. Once they have won that battle, the prince of Greece will come and they will have to deal with him. But that is beside the point, according to the messenger. He has come to tell Daniel what is inscribed in the book of truth. The final point I want us to consider in this lesson. The outcome is set. The events are inscribed in the book of truth for a latter time. Daniel does not need to worry. God has set things in motion. Trust in the Lord. But these details will be revealed to Daniel. Chapters 11-12 record those details which we will look at in our next lesson.
First, prayer is blocked when we do not humble ourselves before God and seek to understand his ways and purposes. When prayer seems delayed, first look at yourself. Where can I repent? What changes can I make to be more faithful to the Lord. We may not be asking for the right things and may be asking from our selfish desires (James 4:1-4). Second, prayer’s answer can be blocked because of the spiritual warfare that is happening which we cannot see. When the answer is delayed, we continue to trust the Lord, knowing that he hears and he responds for the good of his people. God loves his people. You are greatly loved by God. But life circumstances do not always appear this way. Faith tells us that God does love us and we will remain faithful to him. God hears.