Fear Not, 9

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Daniel 10:12

Daniel was a man blessed by God. He was statesman, saint, and prophet. And in some ways he was a strange man. At least by some standards. By the time chapter 10 of the book that bears his name rolls around, Daniel is pushing 90. Fifty may be the new 30, but 90 is old by anybody’s reckoning. In all, over seven decades has passed since his deportation from the land of Judah. Two years had gone by since Cyrus had decreed freedom for the Jews who had been living in Babylon, now Persia. Many of them had left the Empire to return to the ruins of Jerusalem to begin the arduous work of rebuilding the city of David. Many chose to remain in Persia, and among those who stayed behind was Daniel.

Four years before chapter 10, Daniel had his now-famous vision of “the Seventy Weeks.” Here, he has another vision during a prayer vigil. We’re not sure what prompted Daniel’s season of prayer or what he was praying for. It may well be, as some scholars have speculated, Daniel was praying for the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem. It was a struggle for them to rebuild the city. Dangerous, too. It makes sense that Daniel would take the time to intercede on their behalf.

Let’s take a look at what happened when Daniel prayed.

Daniel’s prayer vigil, 10:1-3

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (Daniel 10:2-3 NIV84)

Whatever it was that weighed down the prophet’s heart, it was serious enough that he not only prayed but fasted too. Not only that, he didn’t bathe for three weeks, either. At that point, his neighbors probably went to prayer, too.

Stop and think about Daniel’s situation. He’s an old man and it’s almost certain he had retired from his career as a statesman/diplomat/politician. Most people, when they retire, want to lead a life of ease. They want to travel and do all the things they couldn’t do when they were raising a family and working all the time. Daniel may have retired from public service, but he hadn’t retired from his faith.

And neither should we. Just because you get old and retire, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do that in today’s economy, that doesn’t mean you stop being active for the kingdom of God! It’s admittedly hard to spend time in prayer when you’re working all day and raising a family. So how fortunate is a person who isn’t punching a time clock and who’s kids are grown and out of the house? All that free time to devote to spiritual pursuits! At least, that’s how it should be.

We old timers tend to accuse the younger generation of being selfish and self-centered, but maybe we should stop and look at ourselves and the time we have left. Have we become so preoccupied with living what we *think* is the good life that we’ve factored God out of it? How many weekends, for example, do you plan on some activity or other that causes you to miss church?  Good question.

No, church doesn’t save a soul, but it is the visible Body of Christ and you, whether you like it or not, are accountable to it. What many Christians lack is not a confession of Christ, but a commitment to His Body.

Fortunately for Daniel, he was committed and disciplined.

Appearance of the Glorious Man, 10:4-11

When we read these verses, we are reminded of what John saw in his vision while in exile on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-20). The descriptions of the Person both men saw are so similar, who can doubt they saw the same Man? He didn’t identify himself to Daniel, but He did to John:

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18 NIV84)

On April 24, 534 BC by our calendar, Daniel was privileged enough to have been given a vision of the pre-incarnate, transfigured Christ before either Moses or Elijah saw him. Daniel needed to see the glorified Christ to encourage him.

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. (Daniel 10:5-6 NIV84)

In the past, Daniel had seen wild, crazy animals, spirit beings, huge statues, and long weeks in his dreams and visions. Now he sees a man. But not just any man. Daniel sees THE Man: the glorious Son of God.

Christians are so blessed – blessed beyond Daniel, in fact. Daniel had a once-in-a-lifetime vision of Christ. For us, we have His constant presence in our lives through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet we take Him for granted to the point where we don’t even notice that He is right there with us, all the time. We’ve become so lackadaisical when it comes to the Divine Presence in us. How sad for us.

Here’s how Daniel reacted to the vision:

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV84)

His servants didn’t see a thing but were terrified, nonetheless. The presence of God can do that sometimes. There are limits to what a human being can bear when it comes to a spiritual encounter, and apparently Daniel hit that threshold. He was completely overwhelmed.

That’s when our Lord spoke these reassuring words to the prophet:

Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

This “do not be afraid” is for anybody who has ever prayed for the needs of others. We’ve all done that. And we’ve all had the excruciating experience of waiting for that need to be met. The need could have been anything: healing, deliverance, or financial. We pray. And we wait. And wait. And we wonder. What the Glorious Man told Daniel should serve as a great encouragement to we who wait.

Your prayer is heard immediately

Yes, in spite of what it feels like, the very moment you pray, that prayer is heard in Heaven. There is absolutely no lag time, even if the answer to your prayer seems delayed.

Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding…your words were heard… (Daniel 10:12 NIV84)

“The first day.” That’s important to note. According to the Daniel’s own words, he had been praying and fasting for three weeks. Three weeks is a long to for a person to keep on praying for something and, as in Daniel’s case, fasting. Obviously Daniel had no idea his prayer had been heard on “the first day,” for if he had he would surely have stopped praying and eaten a sandwich.

Does that mean our prayers are heard on “the first day” we pray them? Verse 12 gives what may be considered a condition:

…humble yourself before your God… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

It’s safe to say that a prayer offered in a humble spirit is heard when it is prayed. There’s not a lot of humility in the Church of Jesus Christ today! Listen to how some Christians pray. It sounds like they’re ordering God around sometimes!

Humility isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement!

He has showed you, O man, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV84)

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10 NIV84)

Daniel must have been a humble man, therefore his prayer was heard immediately. You should be too, if you want your prayers heard the moment you pray them.

Something else about Daniel’s character overflowed into his prayer. Notice:

…you set your mind to gain understanding… (Daniel 10:12b NIV84)

Daniel’s mind was fully engaged while he was praying

He wasn’t daydreaming. He wasn’t vainly repeating some time-worn liturgical prayer somebody else prayed generations ago. He didn’t babble before The Lord. Daniel used his reasoning mind as he prayed. Whatever it was he was praying for, he was thinking about the need; he was trying to understand the need even as he was praying about it.

Delays in answered prayer are not always God’s fault

Depending on your denominational persuasion, that statement may have caused your head to explode, so hang on while it’s explained.

Sometimes, answers to your prayers are delayed because you’re not ready for the answer. You may have an earnest desire as you ask God for such-and-such a thing, but God knows you aren’t ready or fit for the answer. God may require you to wait for some reason; perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned. Maybe your faith needs to be stretched a little so it will grow and be stronger. This is not a denial of your prayer, just a delay.

In Daniel’s vision, the delay was a bit more nefarious:

But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. (Daniel 10:13 (NIV84)

The answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent immediately, but it was delayed – it was blocked. The angel of the Lord was prevented from delivering the message Daniel had been praying for. Now, this is an amazing verse, and we learn a little about what “spiritual warfare” is all about. It also throws some light on what Paul wrote to his Ephesian friends:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV84)

That word Paul used, “struggle,” is a key element in Paul’s theology of “spiritual warfare.” He wrote a similar thing to the Romans:

I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 NIV84)

Here Paul used the word “struggle” again to describe how he was praying. The KJV uses the phrase “strive together,” and that gives a slightly different flavor, but essentially puts across the same idea of the Greek word sunagonizom, from which we our English word, “agonize.” This idea of “agonizing in prayer” leads to the obvious question: Do you? When was the last time you “agonized in prayer?” This shouldn’t be confused with the notion of begging God for something. That’s not agonizing, it’s humiliating. No believer needs to beg his Heavenly Father for anything, any time. But to “agonize in prayer” is to take your prayer to the next level. Today, prayer is such light thing. Most of us are exhausted after just three or four minutes of praying. Or we pray like we hear our preachers praying: in the KJV language or following some liturgy. Real prayer is not prayed according to rote or memorization. It’s not trying to impress God by taking on a holy tone, using unusual words and phrases. Prayers shouldn’t be profound, they should be from the heart. To “agonize in prayer” means that you humbly realize He is your only hope. You have no one else to turn to. It means to be persistent; to keep on praying until the answer arrives. Maybe the answer will be, “Stop praying.” But maybe the answer will be like what Daniel was told. He was given the reason for the delay and then the answer to his prayer.

Daniel persevered for three weeks. We have a hard time persevering for a few minutes. We modern Christians would do well to take a lesson from old Daniel. Let’s learn how to “agonize in prayer.” Let’s persist in our prayers three days, or three weeks, or thirty weeks if need be. We should never give up on a prayer request until we see the answer or, as happened to Moses and Joshua, we are told to stop praying. Spiritual conflict in prayer is far more common than you may think, so persevering is virtal. One preacher from bygone era wrote:

Many a lost battle would have been won if perseverance had been practiced a little longer on the part of the combatants.

Daniel was fearful that his prayer had gone unheard. You don’t have to be. Fear not. No matter how it seems to you, your prayers are heard and will be answered. But you need to be aware that there is a spiritual world swirling all around you, and you need to keep that in mind as you pray.

 

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