12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Daniel 10:12-13
This is an interesting verse, even for a prophecy passage. The context is that Daniel is seeking to understand a revelation he received. He fasted and prayed for three weeks trying to understand the revelation, after such time an angel appeared to him in a vision and spoke these words to him. The messenger goes on to say that he could not defeat the opposition on his own; he was detained until Michael the arch-angel showed up to provide backup. It's crazy to think about spiritual battles getting in the way of timely delivery of prayer answers.
Even so, I don't want to speculate about angels and spiritual warfare and the like. It's best not to try to read too much into such an obscure passage. I have heard some make the claim in a message on being persistent in prayer that had Daniel stopped praying on day 20, he would not have received his answer. That's a big leap from what the passage actually says, especially considering the angel said he was dispatched with an answer on day one. However, there is an interesting parallel here with a recent event in my life.
As I wrote in my last post, God told us we were moving, just not where. Well, three weeks after that post, He provided the answer, and nearly a month after that, I am writing this post from a completely different state having started a brand new job. During the time before the move, as I was coordinating things with my new team lead, I found out that though I was not offered the job by HR until December 29th, he had wanted them to tell me before Christmas. I spent the last half of Christmas week in a bit of a funk because I hadn't heard anything yet, only to find out later that my offer had been "sent but not yet received" more than a week earlier!
Again, I won't speculate on whether or not Daniel's three weeks of fasting was unnecessary, but here's the parallel I see: Daniel was making himself miserable and weak (if you've ever fasted for more than a day, you know what I mean) for days and days after his answer was already on its way. In the same way, I was making myself miserable emotionally for more than a week not knowing that I had already been chosen for my new job. But whereas Daniel's self-imposed affliction was in pursuit of understanding a God-given message, mine was nothing more than an expression of doubt and fear.
Even for those of us with the spiritual gift of faith, understanding and trusting a promise from God that is not black and white in scripture can be difficult. In hindsight, it is so very clear what God was doing, but in the midst of things, doubt can set in. Is He really leading me there? Did I really understand Him correctly? Looking back, while I don't know about Daniel's suffering, mine was certainly unnecessary.
I have no great insight to share, but I have learned that no matter how much faith you have, there's always room for more. And just like so many other characteristics of Christ-likeness, growing takes pain. You can't grow in self-control without temptation. You can't grow in patience without external frustrations. And you can't grow in faith without those situations that leave you no other choice but to hold on to God with all that is in you. Just remember that while you wait for God to come through in those situations, how you wait is just as important as how long you wait.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things will be provided for you.
34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.