We’re still in Daniel 7  (“How long, O Lord?”), but today I interrupt that train of thought for a quick look into Daniel 10, where I’ve been living of late in commentary writing. Daniel 10-12 is a really long, really difficult section that begins with a tantalizing text about a divine being (some say Gabriel; I think it’s God) leaving a celestial battle against the prince of Persia in order to show up before Daniel and answer his prayers. You’ll have to wait on what all that celestial fighting might mean until we officially get there, but for today, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the chapter teaches us about prayer.

The rest of this post is from the unedited draft of my commentary manuscript (Daniel, Story of God [Grand Rapids: Zondervan]). I pick up here with the last of three truths about prayer I suggest the chapter teaches:

The blurred line between the earthly and heavenly realms suggests a third truth about prayer: it changes things. That may sound like bumper sticker theology, but it is, nonetheless, a profound mystery (which is not true of all bumper sticker theology). Daniel prayed and God moved. Think about that. A desolate man on a river bank spoke words into the air, and the God of all gods, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords came to his aid. The divine warrior left a fierce battle in the hands of one of his generals, and he hustled to the banks of the Tigris to help the lone Daniel understand something. Daniel was not in mortal peril as he was, say, in the lions’ den. He was probably not in dire spiritual peril either. He was distraught and confused, but he does not appear to be in actual danger.

Had I been at the heavenly switchboard that day, this is not how I would have triaged prayer requests. Answering Daniel’s request could definitely have waited until the prince of Persia had been disarmed and defeated. But God does not triage prayer requests. He is not shorthanded and unable to save, whatever saving looks like in a particular situation. Daniel prayed. God moved. Daniel’s prayer made a difference. It was not the specific difference for which he may have been praying (i.e., a better restoration for his people), but his prayer did move things in heaven.

Prayer is a divine-human partnership, a mysterious practice in which “the creature cooperates with God in order to bring about God’s plan….In fact, it sometimes even seems in the Old Testament that God so desires obedience and cooperation that he is unwilling to carry out his purposes until men and women have recognized the divine summons and answered it.”[1] God values us so much that he created the world in such a way that he is both sovereign over it and yet we are responsible to be active with him in it. It is through this dynamic partnership of prayer that God works out his plan.

What difference would it make in our practice of prayer if we really believed this? His answers to our prayers may involve delay and disappointment, and his plan may not always (or often) look like we expect. However, his sovereignty and his lovingkindness are steadfast assurances that he is always doing what is best. We can trust him. And we should keep on praying

[1] Dennis L. Okholm, “Prayer,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (ed. by Walter A. Elwell; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 623.

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