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 (NIV)
In Daniel 10: 13, what does the angel mean when he explains to Daniel “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” was causing the delay for answering his prayers? What does this imply when we pray?
In the beginning verses of Daniel 10, we see that Daniel has been greatly disturbed by something going on his life. He was so disturbed in fact that we’re told that he didn’t eat or even drink for a little less than a month. The Expositor’s Commentary on the book of Daniel states that he had begun to pray daily for an understanding of God’s plan for Israel’s future.
But soon after, while standing by the Tigris River, he saw a radiant angelic being standing before him. The vision of this being was seen only by Daniel. The angel’s presence was powerful enough to scare away some men who were with Daniel at that time, though they didn’t see the angel directly. While alone, the vision overwhelmed Daniel, and apparently he either fainted or fell into a deep sleep.
The angel wakes him up and he explains why, even though he had heard Daniel’s prayer a month ago, the answer to his prayer was so delayed. The angel’s explanation was that a “prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days.” (Dan 10: 13)
It seems obvious that strange, wonderful, supernatural things occur in the “invisible” realm that are well beyond normal human comprehension and understanding. Other “forces” seem to be at work than can be usually discerned by our own reasoning or logic.
It seems likely that the “prince of Persia” wasn’t a human being but rather another angelic being or a supernatural figure. Apparently this angel exercised jurisdiction over the nation of Persia. Does this mean that every nation has an angel over them that might be at war with other angelic beings on God’s side? It seems likely since in verse 20, Daniel’s angel will have to resume his battle with the prince of Persia along with “the prince of Greece.” Another thing about spiritual warfare that is implied in this text is that angels seem to summon the aid for other, more powerful angels. In this case, Daniel’s angel calls “Michael, one of the chief princes” (Dan 10: 13) to come and aid him in his fight with the Persian angel. In the NT, the archangel Michael is the leading defender of God’s people (Dan 12: 1) against the forces of darkness (Rev. 12: 7 – 9). The demons must summon for “backup” as well, since the Persian prince teams up with the Greek prince with the upcoming battle (Round 2 if you will) with Daniel’s angel and perhaps even with Michael as well. All this activity was going on while Daniel was fasting and praying.
The Expositor’s Commentary on the book of Daniel states that “[t]he powers of evil apparently have the capacity to bring about hindrances and delays, even of the delivery of the answers to believers whose requests God is minded to answer.” Furthermore, it is clear that behind the scenes of the conflicts of history lies conflict “in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6: 12) Such conflicts b/w heavenly or spiritual forces are mentioned elsewhere in the Bible like Elisha’s vision of chariots of fire and horses doing battle for God’s people in 2 Kings 6: 15 – 23. (New Bible Commentary, p. 760) And of course, the book of Revelation is filled with such battles.
Is prayer really warfare? Are my delayed prayers that I pray and pray but never seem to get answered really all b/c “my” angel is engaged in a cosmic battle or fistfight with the “prince of New York?” Do I persevere for days, or even perhaps months, as Daniel did b/c in the back of my mind I should know that there is spiritual warfare going on behalf of my prayer requests? Is this the reason why Jesus keeps encouraging people to keep on asking, seeing, knocking until the door is opened? (Matt 7: 7)
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only Christian who finds prayer to be a struggle at times- particularly when it comes to delayed or unanswered prayer, like what Daniel experienced. Sometimes it can be quite intimate and sweet and words just flow like a river from my mouth and heart; sometimes it’s mechanical and mundane; at times, I struggle and fumble for words to express. I have no problems seeing prayer as a type of battle, whether it be a battle against fleshly desire/temptations, spiritual laziness, or against opposing spirits. Perhaps this text in Daniel is telling us today that there is a greater purpose and grander drama unfolding before us in the very act of prayer. It is one of the primary ways of engaging in and realizing the Kingdom of God “breaking” into our present reality today. The act of showing up and doing prayer is just half the battle; perhaps the other half, I just have to rest in God’s grace and provision.
Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM:Daniel/Exposition of Daniel/X. The Triumph of Persistent Prayer (10:1-21)/B. God’s Delayed Messenger (10:4-14), Book Version: 4.0.2