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Daniel’s Three Weeks of Prayer

by Robert H Boll

[caption id="attachment_3682" align="alignleft" width="192"]Robert H. Boll (1875-1956) Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)[/caption]

CHAPTER XIII (Daniel 10)

From R. H. Boll’s Study of Daniel

The opening words of this new section of Daniel's prophecy, beginning chapter 10, would suggest that Daniel had had some great vision (the vision itself not recorded) and being unable to understand its meaning he sought unto the Lord to obtain the interpretation. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision."

How he received this "understanding" is told us in the rest of the chapter.

Here, as elsewhere (see chapter 7:15, 16, 19; 8:15) Daniel did not attempt to interpret his symbolic visions for himself. Only the God who gave them could reveal the meaning of them. Men, in their ignorance may presume to guess at the meaning of prophetic symbols; but Daniel professed no knowledge of their significance until God gave him the interpretation. But on the other hand he could not rest until he had the understanding of the vision.

He knew if God had given it, He must have intended that it be understood. He knew also that the understanding of it was of great importance to him and to his people. For God does not deal with trifling and unimportant matters, nor in things that are merely interesting and curious. So Daniel set himself to obtain God's interpretation ("the true meaning," 7:16) of the things he had seen in the vision. In comparison with Daniel's earnest desire and determination our aspirations to know God's truth are very mild indeed. Who of us has spent many hours upon his knees appealing to God for light and knowledge and understanding of His word? (Proverbs 2:1-5.)

Daniel set out to obtain the understanding. For three whole weeks, in mourning, in fasting, in prayer, with unflagging purpose, he pursued this great and worthy end, that he might know this truth and that he might make it known to us. Like Jacob of old, he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me," and wrestled on till the answer came. And when it came it came most wonderfully.

"On the twenty-fourth day of the first month,"--twenty-one days after he had begun his siege upon God's throne of grace--"while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man--."

Then follows a seven-fold description of this "man" (vs. 5, 6), so much like the ten-item description of the glorious Christ in Revelation 1:13-16 that many have concluded that it was really Christ who thus appeared to Daniel. But let us not jump at this conclusion, for other things are said about this "man" further on, which would not so easily harmonize with the idea that it was Christ Himself.

The effect of the vision was overwhelming. The men who were with Daniel saw nothing, but a great quaking fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves.

But Daniel, now left alone, saw the great vision and utterly collapsed. "No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength." And he fell on his face in [40] a deep sleep. Then a hand touched him and set him on his knees and the palms of his hands; and the one that raised him up said to him,

"O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." So Daniel rose up and stood trembling."

Here we come to a marvelous revelation of unseen spiritual forces and their activities. What we learn here throws light on many things of which we read elsewhere in the Bible and explains many things that happen in the world.


  1. the strange delay of the answer to Daniel's prayers;
  2. the cause of this delay;
  3. the warfare of good and evil powers in the spiritual realm.
  1.     "Do not be afraid, Daniel," said the celestial messenger -"for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words."

So Daniel's prayer went straight through to God, and was heard from the first day. But why, then, did Daniel have to continue waiting and wrestling in prayer for three weeks before the answer came?

  1.     The explanation is astonishing: the answer to Daniel's prayer was intercepted and held up for three weeks by a hostile spiritual power! "The prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days," said the heavenly messenger. Now, whoever this "prince of the kingdom of Persia" was, he was not a man. How the mere presence of the heavenly messenger who brought the answer to Daniel affected men in the flesh is seen in verses 7, 8. No human being could for a moment have resisted such a messenger from God. But the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" resisted him, and so successfully as to detain him for for twenty-one days; and it was not till Michael, "one of the chief princes" came to help him that he was able to proceed on his divine errand to Daniel. (Vs. 12, 13.)

Now Michael is "the archangel" (Jude 9)--chief of all God's angels. It was by the combined power of Michael and of the heavenly messenger who had been sent to Daniel, that the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" was overcome, so that the latter could go on his way to carry God's answer to Daniel's prayer. Manifestly then, this "prince of the kingdom of Persia" was also an angel, an evil angel, belonging to Satan's kingdom. That he was exceedingly powerful is also evident.

We get here an inside glimpse of Satan's world-government. It was a meaningful word of the Savior's when, three times over, in the gospel of John, He called Satan "the ruler of the world." (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.) It was no empty claim that the Devil made at the Temptation, when he showed to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said to Him: "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." (Luke 4:6.) To his own angels, as he pleases, Satan assigns the control of the kingdoms of the earth, to one this, to another another. God held one kingdom for Himself--the kingdom of Israel, over which Michael was appointed as prince. ("Michael, your prince" Daniel 10:21; "Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people," Daniel 12:1.)

The conclusion is fairly certain now that the heavenly messenger who appeared to Daniel in Daniel 10:5, 6 was not the son of God; for none of Satan's underlings, nor Satan himself, certainly, would have been able to detain Him; nor would He have needed Michael's help to enable Him to get through on His mission.1 [41]

  1.     The prayer of Daniel had been for understanding of the vision he had seen. At the very beginning of his supplication the answer was sent: a heavenly messenger was despatched to inform and enlighten Daniel, and to give him the understanding of the vision which his heart craved. (Vs. 11, 12.) But the hostile powers of darkness, the "spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12)--specifically, the evil angel who was sovereign over the kingdom of Persia--opposed God's messenger, as we have seen.

The purpose of the opposition obviously was to prevent the message from getting through to Daniel. How great must have been the importance of that message! Nor was the conflict over, although the messenger had now reached his destination. The powers of evil would no doubt also struggle to prevent the fulfilment of the message.

The heavenly messenger said, "Then he said, "Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece (the third world-power, already looming up in the background) is about to come. However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces (against the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece) except Michael your prince. In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him." (Daniel 10:20-11:1). In this latter statement lies the explanation of Darius' kindly attitude toward the Jewish exiles. But such a spiritual invasion of the kingdom of Satan is always conditioned upon the co-operation of God's faithful ones, in prayer and in deed. For on the earth initiative of action belongs to man. (Psalms 115:16.)

Now follows the revelation of "the writing of truth," which occupies all the rest of the book of Daniel, from chapter 11:1 to the end of chapter 12. This we shall take up in the next lesson.


"Three entire weeks." Twice this expression is used (vs. 2, 3), and each time the literal Hebrew reads "three sevens of days." For just before, in chapter 9, sevens of years had been spoken of; but now he is speaking of sevens (or weeks) of days again.

Mourning for three entire weeks. And why should such a man as Daniel, so greatly beloved in God's sight, mourn? Was it not because he was still bearing the burden of his people, as in chapter 9? They--their welfare, their future, their final restoration--constituted his great concern. There are Christians who seem to be content with the thought that they are all right; and as for the rest, the devil take the hindmost. Is it necessary to tell the reader that such a spirit is wholly alien to the gospel? See how, after the pattern of the great Burden-bearer, His servant Paul, carried the burden of his brethren according to the flesh who were Israelites. (Romans 9:1-5.) Am I concerned for any one? Am I concerned for the people of God--or the congregation of which I am a member?--for God's children in the world?--for souls in error bound and for the unsaved? If not it would seem that the fire of faith and love has not yet been kindled in my own heart.

Daniel Mourning. There is much fun made in our days over "long-faced religion." But though there is a joy of God's salvation, surpassing the joys of the world, the true Christian faith is a serious thing, and often the tears will mingle with the smiles. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." And there are also special times for mourning. (James 4:9, 10.) Daniel's mourning was coupled with self-humiliation and abstinence from pleasant food. Though prayer is not mentioned directly in vs. 2, 3, it is implied; and in vs. 11, 12 we see that prayer was the chief intent of Daniel's "mourning."

Daniel set his heart to understand. "From the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard," said the heavenly messenger. This is that same Daniel who at the first "made up his mind" ("purposed in his heart." Daniel 1:8 ASV, NKJV). Once this man made up his mind as to the right course, nothing could budge him. He had seen the vision, as it was given to him by the Spirit; now he must know the meaning of it. So he "set his heart to understand." He did it by self-humiliation, by fasting, by earnest, persevering prayer. Is the truth worth that much trouble? "My son, if you will receive my wordsAnd treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; THEN you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God." (Proverbs 2:1-5).

  1. First, to "receive" the word--that is, as it were the passive attitude; [42]
  2. then, to "treasure"--that is, trying to retain and remember;
  3. next, "make your ear attentive"--that is, listening carefully;
  4. then, to "incline your heart"--that is, earnest effort;
  5. then, feeling the need of God's help, to "cry for discernment," and to "lift your voice for understanding";
  6. finally to dig for it as one would dig for silver and for hid treasures--Oh then, you shall understand and find knowledge! Daniel knew the priceless value of God's truth. O that we today would so seek after it!

Prayer for understanding. On the surface of God's word lies much precious truth, "That the one who reads it may run." But there is more than surface truth. There is meat as well as milk. To him that prayerfully searches it, the word of God yields deeper truth and understanding. "Teach me," "teach me," the psalmist in the 119th Psalm pleads, ten times over; and "give me understanding"; and, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalms 119:18.) Is it worth while? Those "practical" minimumsters who are satisfied with their little pint cup full of God's ocean, and say that is all anyone needs "to be saved"--may not think so. But how the servants of God of old sought for deeper knowledge! For the Ephesian brethren Paul prayed that God might "give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart, may be enlightened in order that you may know . . ." (Ephesians 1:15-19). There is such a thing as spiritual insight, which God gives to those who truly desire it.

Delayed answer to prayer. In this lesson we see one at least, of several reasons, why answer to prayer may sometimes be delayed. And what if Daniel had grown weary and discouraged after, say, the first week?

Would the answer still have come? Repeatedly the Lord Jesus Christ exhorted to perseverance in prayer. There is the parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11); and the parable of the Unrighteous Judge and the Widow. Also, "He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" (Luke 18:1). It may be that our praying fails of result because we are too ready to quit. But Daniel kept on until the answer came. Also remember that in the world he was a busy man, having the business of a world-empire to see after.

Things unseen. This chapter gives us a glimpse into the unseen--what goes on behind the scenes of world history--Satan's kingdom--his angel princes, regents for him over earthly domains--the conflict between God's angels and the angels of Darkness. These things are not symbolical: they are true statements of fact. One wonders what tumult may be going on in the spiritual realm in our tempestuous time. And do not forget that the Christian's prayer is a spiritual weapon, a force that tells in the decision of the unseen warfare.
1 The conclusion seems "fairly certain"--but not perhaps absolutely so. God Himself is hindered in His plans and purposes by the disobedience of His people. The conflict is a real one; but it is not a case of mere might against might, but a spiritual conflict, and moral and spiritual factors enter into that. Satan and his evil angels retain their power by man's sinfulness and rebellion against God. God, could, but will not, remove Satan by arbitrary force. So long as man allows him the supreme place, so long he holds it. In this case Michael could act to help because of Daniel and like-minded ones in Israel, who were on God's side. And since the messenger's errand was on Israel's behalf, it needed the assistance of Israel's prince, Michael, whose assistance was to that extent available because of the faithful remnant represented by Daniel. And so today also the Lord must have our moral choice, and the cooperation by faith, prayer, obedience, and sacrifice, of His people, and they must come to his help in the battle against the mighty. (Judges 5:23.)


Robert H. Boll: Lessons on Daniel, 3rd Edition, Revised (2000)

Except where otherwise indicated,
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,
1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995.
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)


Third Edition, Revised and updated by R. L. Garrett
Published by Churches of Christ, P.O. Box 30, RUWA, ZIMBABWE


One Response to “Daniel’s Three Weeks of Prayer”

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