Daniel chapter 10 provides us with a particularly fascinating incident from the life of the prophet Daniel. The incident has to do with answers to prayer and why those answers sometimes get delayed. In Daniel’s case, his answer was delayed for three full weeks
The chapter opens with Daniel receiving some type of troubling message (Daniel 10:1). We aren’t given the specifics of the message, but we can do a little deductive reasoning and come up with a reasonable guess as to what those specifics were. First, this was the third year of Cyrus the Great of Persia reigning over the Babylonian empire his armies had conquered (Daniel 10:1). Second, in Cyrus’ first year ruling over Babylon he had issued a decree allowing the deported Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem, rebuild their temple, and in so doing reclaim their homeland (Ezra 1:1-4). Third, less than 50,000 Jews had opted to leave their lives in foreign Babylon and make the trip to accomplish the work in Jerusalem. Fourth, the reports coming back to Babylon from those who had undertaken the task in Jerusalem were discouraging ones that told of the great difficulties and opposition that had brought the work of building the new temple to a standstill.
Putting all this together, it is highly likely that the message Daniel received that troubled him so was one of those disheartening reports concerning the work in Jerusalem. How troubling did Daniel find the message? The message caused him to actually enter into a period of mourning and fasting for three full weeks (Daniel 10:2-3).
At the end of the three weeks, Daniel happened to be standing beside the Tigris river one day as part of a group (Daniel 10:4) when suddenly there appeared to him a man wearing a linen garment cinched by a belt of pure gold around the waist (Daniel 10:5). The man’s face looked like flashing lightning. His eyes were like flames of fire. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and he spoke with a voice that sounded as loud as the voice of a multitude (Daniel 10:6).
Daniel was the only one who could see the man. The others in Daniel’s group simply experienced a great feeling of terror falling upon them and as a result each one fled to hide (Daniel 10:7). The startling event was enough to even cause Daniel to fall to the ground and fade into a deep sleep (Daniel 10:8-9).
There is honest debate among commentators as to whether this “man” who appeared to Daniel was Jesus Christ Himself or an an angel. Those who believe he was Jesus point out that the man’s description bears much resemblance to the one of Jesus from Revelation 1:12-16. Certainly the reactions from Daniel (Daniel 10:8-9) and John were virtually the same (Revelation 1:17) during each appearance. On the other hand, if the “man” was an angel, perhaps his somewhat Christlike appearance was due to the fact that he regularly stood in such close proximity to Jesus in heaven. If this was the case, the angel could have been Gabriel, the angel who had previously appeared to Daniel (Daniel 8:15-27; 9:20-27).
The next part of the story provides even more ground for debate as Daniel is awakened from his deep sleep by the touch of a hand that sends enough of a shock through him to cause him to tremble (Daniel 10:10). Was it Jesus who touched Daniel and began conversing with him? Or was it an angel, maybe Gabriel? Again, it’s hard to give a definitive answer. The entire passage allows for three possible interpretations:
- Jesus was the one whom Daniel first saw and then later talked with after the awakening touch.
- An angel was the one whom Daniel first saw and then later talked with after the awakening touch.
- Jesus was the one whom Daniel first saw, but then Jesus returned to heaven and an angel awakened Daniel and talked with him.
Whoever the heavenly messenger was, he said to Daniel, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words (Daniel 10:12). It’s here that we learn that Daniel hadn’t just been mourning and fasting for those three weeks. He’d also been praying and asking God for answers about the troubling report he’d received!
But wait a minute. Notice that the heavenly visitor makes a point of saying that God had heard Daniel’s prayers from the first day Daniel had entered into his three weeks of mourning, fasting, and praying. Okay, then why was Daniel just now receiving the heavenly answer for which he had prayed? Well, would you believe the three-week delay in the answer had been caused by nothing less than spiritual warfare between the realms of heaven and earth?
According to the heavenly messenger, for twenty-one days a powerful, fallen angel known as “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” had blocked him from reaching Daniel. (By the way, the fact that the fallen angel could block the messenger for three full weeks virtually completely rules out the interpretation that it was Jesus who was conversing with Daniel.) This fallen angel/demon was actually part of a larger group of fallen angels/demons known as “the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:13). It wasn’t until Michael, whom the heavenly messenger called “one of the chief princes” and whom scripture also calls “the archangel” (Jude, verse 9), interjected himself into the battle that the heavenly messenger was able to make his way down to the earth to Daniel.
Later on in the conversation, after the messenger had delivered his message to Daniel, he told Daniel, “Now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia” (Daniel 10:20). He also told Daniel, “When I have gone forth, the prince of Greece will come” (Daniel 10:20). Here again the title “prince” obviously doesn’t refer to a human, earthly ruler but rather to a fallen angel/demon operating in the spiritual realm. The implication is that “the prince of the kingdom of Greece” held sway in the spiritual realm to corrupt the world affairs of the empire of Greece just as “the prince of Persia,” as well as the other “kings of Persia,” held sway in the spiritual realm to corrupt the world affairs of the empire of Persia.
Of course by now you might be asking, “What does any of this have to do with me?” Just this: You need to understand that fallen angels/demons are real and that spiritual warfare is real, and that anytime you pray you move into an unseen battleground wherein God wants to answer your prayers but Satan wants to stop those answers. No, your prayers probably aren’t being hindered by “the prince of Persia” or “the prince of Greece,” but that doesn’t mean that Satan doesn’t have plenty of other fallen angels/demons at his disposal to try to prevent God from answering your prayers.
The takeaway is that if you have been praying about something for a long time but haven’t received an answer yet from God, you should keep on praying. As a matter of fact, you might even ask God to send whatever angelic help is needed in the spiritual realm to get His answer through to you. Remember that 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for instruction in righteousness, and that being the case the instruction we can glean from Daniel chapter 10 is that there is a supernatural warfare that can hinder our prayer requests. This is a lesson that Daniel learned, and it’s one that we should learn as well.