In Daniel 10, Daniel was broken-hearted over the 70+-year oppression of God’s people. He ate simply, did not dress for company — he just prayed.
Three weeks later while walking along the Tigris, Daniel was greeted by a man dressed in linen with a belt of pure gold. The man was radiant — literally. Chiseled face, resonant voice, torch-like eyes. No one else saw the man in linen. Just Daniel. And he was stymied. His friends continued walking, but Daniel, afraid, collapsed in the dirt.
The man spoke: “Hey, Daniel! My good man! Stand up. I have some news for you.”
Daniel stood, but his knees were quivering.
The man continued, as The Message interprets it:
Relax, Daniel . . . don’t be afraid. From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your prayer was heard, and I set out to come to you. But I was waylaid by the angel-prince of the kingdom of Persia and was delayed for a good three weeks. But then Michael, one of the chief angel-princes, intervened to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia. And now I’m here to help you understand what will eventually happen to your people. The vision has to do with what’s ahead.
Walter Wink uses this passage (more literally than I ever heard in my previous life) to remind present-day believers of the power of prayer:
Why was the angel twenty-one days in arriving if the prayer was heard on the very first day that Daniel prayed? Because, the angel continues in verse 13, ‘the angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days.’ He could not even have managed to get through to Daniel at all, except that ‘Michael one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone’ to contend with the angel of Persia. Now, while Michael occupies the angel of Persia, the messenger angel has slipped through and is able to deliver to Daniel a vision of the future for exiled Israel. . . .
Now, no self-respecting dispensationalist/cessationist would interpret the passage that way. They would read the passage as pure metaphorical or prophetic and safely tuck it away in level 400 classes for Bible majors. This MacArthur sermon is pretty typical of what I have always heard. Pedantic and numbing exposition, some lurid occult examples, some stuff about the uniqueness of the preacher, and the guilt. Don’t forget the guilt!
Now Wink is much more focused on “us” and “now” than on himself and the future, and he admits that the exact reasons for God’s “delay” in responding are a mystery. Yet he concludes that:
prayer involves not just God and people, but God and people and Powers.
And I can’t stop thinking about that every July. And the “territory” of July. Maybe it’s the heat. But it really, really traumatic stuff is going to happen, it seems to hit in July. This author doesn’t buy the notion of ‘territorial spirits’ per se but remembers:
The prophet [Daniel] did not pray against cosmic powers but for the people of God and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes. Apparently Daniel’s focus in prayer was not on the celetial warfare in the heavenlies, but on the promises of God and their fulfillment on the terrestial scene.
And so July needs to be my month of Promise, I guess.