Growing up I was taught that there was only one reality and that was the physical realm. All of life – the planets and the stars and plants and people – they are all just atoms and molecules and energy. Even human thought and consciousness is just subatomic particles banging into each other. There is no God or Satan. There is no heaven or hell. It’s all a myth.
When I became a Christian, that whole thing got blown out of the water. I learned there was a spiritual dimension to life that operates in continuity with the natural world. This dimension is invisible to the human eye, so most people don’t believe it exists. Not only does it exist, but the events in the physical are shaped by what is going on in the spiritual realm.
This means the majority of people see only a fraction of what is really going on in the world. They turn on the 6’oclock news and hear about what’s going on with the European Union or about the latest trade embargo and they think they are well informed. But they only know half of it. Behind all of this there is a cosmic struggle between forces of good and evil. All around us there are powerful spiritual beings are locked in a kind of mortal combat – the kingdom of darkness at war against the kingdom of light.
There’s a place in the Bible where the curtain is pulled back, just a fraction and we get a view of this. Daniel is praying and fasting over the discouraging events that had transpired with his people. A decree had been issued by the King of Persia allowing the Israelites to return and rebuild the temple. Only a portion returned and when they got there, they were harassed, they were mocked, they were scorned, and finally another decree was issued, and the work came to a halt altogether.
While he is praying, he is interrupted by a heavenly messenger – an angel, says to him,
“Don’t be afraid, Daniel… 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.” (Daniel 10:12)
So why has it taken so long for this angel to come? Why the delay? He gives the answer:
“The prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” (v.13)
Who is this prince of Persia? Persia was the kingdom ruling at that time. The human leader was Cyrus. So who is this? This is a spiritual being – a high ranking demon. He is one of Satan’s emissaries, and his job is to control and order the affairs of Persia so they work against the plans and purposes of God. He’s trying to stop God from carrying out his plan.
Satan has an incredibly clever organization. There was a demon assigned to Persia. Later in verse 20 the angel says there’s a demon assigned to Greece. That means there must also be demonic beings attached to countries today such as China and North Korea and America. There are demonic beings attached to this country and its government. They are busy at work influencing the affairs in the beehive and our universities and our schools. And they are doing everything to thwart the purposes of God and particularly the advance of the gospel and the growth and vitality of his church.
Personally, I found all this be a real wake-up call. We really are in a war. And I, as a Pastor, am likely to be a target. So what does this mean for all of us? What significance does all this have on our personal lives as well as the lives of those around us? I have five things:
1. There is more angelic and demonic activity in this world than we know
There is more demonic control and influence among world governments than we realize. When you are watching the 6’oclock news, realize there are spiritual forces in the heavenlies at work in the events you are seeing. There are demons assigned to world leaders, countries and continents. There is a supernatural cause behind every effect.
2. Every Christian is involved in a great spiritual conflict
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are in a war. You are in a cosmic battle, for the souls of men and women and the kingdom of God. Satan has demons assigned to nations, provinces and even churches. There is likely a demon assigned to your church or at least your area of churches. There are demons assigned to pastors and church leaders.
This is not a game. This is war. The eternal destiny of the souls of men and women and children depend on the faithful testimony and vitality of our lives. We are not here to make lots of money so we can live a comfortable life and retire eating ice cream on luxury cruise liners. We’re on a battlefield. And it’s time some of us woke up.
3. When we pray, we are setting ourselves in direct opposition to demonic activity in the world
When Daniel prayed for the discouraged returnees he was interceding on their behalf, and the answers to his prayers were greatly opposed by demonic forces. When we pray for God’s work, when we pray for missions, when we pray for the progress of our church when we pray for spiritual breakthroughs in the lives of others, we’re setting ourselves in direct opposition to Satan’s agenda. That’s why prayer is sometimes hard work. It requires discipline, commitment and perseverance.
4. Answers to prayer are sometimes delayed because of unseen spiritual warfare
It’s no accident that the messenger said that his struggle with the prince of Persia lasted exactly the same amount of time that Daniel’s fasting and prayer did —21 days. The reason for this is that the warfare in the spirit realm was being fought in a real sense by Daniel in the prayer realm. How all that work I don’t know. But we do know he wasn’t praying to angels. He was wrestling in prayer TO GOD for the things that were in line with God’s will for his people and for the world. We should do the same.
5. The prayers of God’s people can influence the events of history
Prayer is a powerful weapon. Mary Queen of Scots said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than she feared an invading army. That should encourage us all to pray more shouldn’t it?
How is your prayer life?
Are regularly praying for the leaders of this country?
Do you pray for our politicians?
Are you praying for the nations in the 10/40 window?
There are several great prayer apps you can download. I use Operation World – it gives me one country to pray for per day. You might also want to check out Joshua Project which has you praying for one unreached people group per day. There are many other useful tools like this available.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. The most powerful demons are rendered powerless by the smallest child who prays in Jesus’ name.
Don’t underestimate your puny prayers. They are offered up to a powerful God.
This post was based on a sermon by the same title. It is part of a series at our church on the book of Daniel. You can listen to the full audio on our website here.