The Unseen Conflict and Struggle of Fasting & Prayer

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, and more specifically, is found in the eleventh chapter. When this chapter opens it begins with a description of when the vision was released—namely, in the first year of Darius the Mede. Daniel records how “in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and strengthen him” (daniel 11:1). What we read in the eleventh chapter of this prophetic book is a direct continuation of what we find in the previous chapter. In order to properly understand what is written in the eleventh chapter of this book it is both necessary and imperative that we turn our attention toward what is recorded in the previous chapter. If you begin reading with the twelfth verse of the previous chapter you will discover the great conflict that surrounded the release of the mystery which was given unto Daniel. “Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground and I became dumb. And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O m y lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? For as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with. Me in these things, but Michael. Your prince” (Daniel 10:12-21).

Before even getting into what we find recorded in the eleventh chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel, it’s worth noting the conflict and struggle that may very well ensue during periods of intense prayer, fasting and intercession before the Lord. If you journey back to the opening set of verses within this chapter you will not only discover that it was in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia that a thing was revealed unto Daniel, but you will also notice Daniel’s activity as a result of that which was revealed unto him. In the second verse of this chapter we begin reading Daniel’s actions during this time, for we discover that in those Daniels Daniel was in mourning three full weeks, and ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh. Nor wine in his mouth. During those days Daniel did not anoint himself at all, until the three whole weeks were fulfilled. It wasn’t until the four and twentieth day of that month that Daniel lifted up his eyes, and looked, and beheld a certain man clothed in linen. What we glean and discover from this passage is Daniel’s engagement in fasting before the Lord, for we read how he ate no pleasant bread, neither came any flesh nor wine into his mouth. What’s more, is that during this period of time, Daniel was engaged in intense mourning before the Lord. During those twenty and one days Daniel gave himself completely to fasting before the Lord, and I am inclined to believe that it was a direct response to that thing which was revealed unto the prophet. What is contained within this passage is a description of Daniel’s fasting and mourning before the Lord—undoubtedly in response to that which was revealed unto him by the Lord of hosts. It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it helps reveal the context surrounding the one who appeared unto Daniel and revealed unto him a great mystery concerning that which going to be fulfilled in the coming days. After Daniel had mourned and fasted for twenty and one days, there appeared unto him clothed in linen who came forth with a very specific message for Daniel.

As the twelfth verse of this chapter opens, it does so with this particular man beginning to reveal the nature of his visitation and manifestation unto Daniel. This man would go on to reveal how from the first day he sought to set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before his God, his words were heard, and he had come for his words. It’s worth noting this man’s acknowledgement of Daniel’s actions upon the earth, for this particular one acknowledged that Daniel not only set his heart to understand, but also chastened himself before his God. The words which this man spoke unto Daniel revealed the purpose for Daniel’s fasting and mourning upon the earth before the Lord—namely, to set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before his God. Daniel committed and gave himself to fasting and mourning before the Lord, for there was something he sought to understand of Him. Daniel engaged in fasting and mourning in an attempt to humble himself before the Lord. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the prophet Joel, which are recorded for us in the second chapter of the book. Consider if you will the words which the prophet spoke to the inhabitants of the southern kingdom of Judah: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breastst: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thin heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a repeat h among the heathen: but I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the East Sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things” (Joel 2:15-20).

Daniel gave himself to fasting and to mourning before the Lord, and during that time period there was an intense struggle and conflict that ensued in the spiritual realm. I am convinced that although we might very well engage ourselves in prayer, and fasting, and weeping, and mourning, and even in intercession before the Lord, we aren’t entirely aware of the conflict that takes place in the spiritual realm. Many times we are only aware of what we can see and perceive in the natural realm, and we have absolutely no clue or understanding what is taking place in the spiritual and supernatural realm. I am reminded of the words which the Lord revealed unto the prophet Isaiah concerning that type of fasting which is pleasing and acceptable before the Lord. What the Lord begins with, however, is a fasting that is unacceptable and displeasing unto Him within His sight. Consider first the type of fasting which is displeasing before and unto the Lord: “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation t hat did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordainaces of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no. Knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all Your labors. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard?” (Isaiah 58:1-4). Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord reveals that the type of fasting which the children of Israel engaged themselves in was not the type of fasting he had prescribed or ordained for them. The type of fasting the children of Israel engaged themselves in was such which engaged in strife and debate, and even to smite with the fist of wickedness. What’s more, is that in the midst of their fasting, they fasted in order that they might find their pleasure, and to exact all their labors. What’s more, is I would even dare say that their fasting was much like the fasting which Jesus condemned and rebuked in the Sermon on the Mount: “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:16). With these words Jesus condemned and rebuked fasting to be seen rather than fasting with and for a specific purpose. I am convinced that when we fast, there are essentially two different types of fasting. There is a fasting to be seen, heard and even noticed by men, and yet that type of fasting accomplishes nothing within the earth. There is, however, a different type of fasting—a fasting that is not seen, not heard, nor even recognized by men upon the earth, and is recorded in heaven itself. The question we must ask ourselves is what type of fasting we engage in throughout the course of our lives, and whether we give ourselves to fasting that is seen and observed by men, or fasting that is seen and observed by heaven.

If you continue reading the fifty-eighth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah—specifically beginning with the fifth verse—you will discover the type of fasting that is not only seen by the Lord, but also accomplishes much in the spiritual and natural realm. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy lightly rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satirist thy soul in drought, and make fast thy bones: and thou shalt be like w altered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou s halt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thousand halt be called, The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the ho.y of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:5-14).

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a fasting that repairs the breach and brings restoration of the paths to dwell in. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a type of fasting when a man afflicts his soul and bows down his head, and spreads sackcloth and ashes under him. Moreover, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a fast that looses the bands of wickedness, that undoes the heaven burdens, and lets the oppressed go free. There is a type of fasting that breaks every yoke, and a type of fasting when men deal their bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out into their home. There is a type of fasting that when one sees the naked, they cover them, and when they did not hide thyself from their own flesh. The prophet Isaiah would go on to speak of in that day and in that moment their light breaking forth as the morning, and their health spring forth speedily. The prophet further declares that in that moment one’s righteousness would go before them, and the glory of the Lord shall be their re-reward. I happen to find all the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke concerning the type of fasting that is acceptable in the sight of the Lord to be of tremendous significance—especially when considering it in light of what we read in the tenth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel. What is so incredibly powerful about the prophetic book and the life of Daniel is that he most certainly was a man of intense, passionate and fervent prayer. It is in the sixth chapter where we encounter one of the greatest descriptions of prayer within the life of Daniel, as he engaged himself in prayer before the Lord—even in the face of a decree that made such an act punishable by being cast alive into the den of lions. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). When we come to the ninth chapter of the same prophetic book we again find Daniel in a posture, place and position of prayer before the Lord. “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession” (Daniel 9:2-3). The remaining verses within the ninth chapter of this prophetic book describe the words which Daniel prayed before and unto the Lord his God—words of confession and intercession on behalf of his people.

When you come to the twentieth verse of the same chapter we find further confirmation of Daniel’s prayer and supplication before the Lord. “And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with. Me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter and consider the vision” (Daniel 9:20-23). In the opening set of verses of the tenth chapter we find a further account of Daniel’s prayer before and unto the Lord his God: “IN the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Daniel 10:1-3). What is so incredibly clear and obvious about each of these passage is that Daniel was a man who gave himself to much prayer, and much supplication, and much intercession before the Lord. Daniel was a man who was not afraid to give himself to fasting and to mourning before the Lord his God. Daniel was a man who prayed in the face of imminent danger to his own life, as he prayed with the threat of being cast alive into the den of lions. Daniel prayed when he understood the captivity of the people of God was about to draw to a close, and that their return to and restoration within their land would be fulfilled according to the word of the Lord. Daniel gave himself to fasting and mourning during the days of Cyrus king of Persia. What’s more, is that during this time Daniel gave himself to fasting and mourning three full weeks—three full weeks where he ate no pleasant bread, neither allowed flesh nor wine to enter into his mouth. For three weeks Daniel committed himself to something very specific pertaining to understanding that which was being, and that which had been revealed unto him.

What’s incredibly powerful about what we read in the tenth chapter of this prophetic book is what we read of what the man clothed in linen spoke unto Daniel after coming unto him. “And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb. And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision of my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have repainted no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? For as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, and said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak: for thou hast strengthened me. Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? And I now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the Scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince” (Daniel 10:10-21).

When this man began opening his mouth and speaking unto Daniel—in addition to instructing and encouraging him to fear not—he proceeded to declare unto him that from the first day he sought to set his heart to understand, and to chasten himself before his God, his words were heard, and that he had come for his words. What’s more is that the one who came unto Daniel declare that he came to make him understand what would befall his people in the latter days, for the vision that was revealed unto him was for many days. Also within this passage is a powerful description that this one set out to come unto Daniel because of his words, and to reveal unto Daniel understanding concerning the vision, yet the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood him twenty days. Please pay close attention to his words concerning twenty days, for in the opening of the chapter we uncover that Daniel gave himself to fasting and mourning for twenty-one days. This man spoke unto Daniel and declared unto him that for twenty years he was withstood by the prince of the kingdom of Persia, thus indicating two very distinct realities. The first reality is that as soon as Daniel gave and committed himself to fasting and mourning before the Lord, this one was released and dispatched to reveal unto him the mystery, and to give him understanding. The second reality is that although this one was released to bring understanding to Daniel upon his initial chastening, he was withstood twenty days by the prince of the kingdom of Persia. I am inclined the to believe that this might be the very reason why Daniel spent twenty-one days fasting and mourning before the Lord, for Daniel was aware of what was taking place in the spiritual realm. Oh, perhaps he wasn’t aware of the conflict that was ensuing in the spiritual realm between this one and the prince of the kingdom of Persia, but he knew that he needed to give himself to fasting and mourning. I would even suggest that Daniel was not released to move from that place of fasting and mourning, for he sensed something was taking place in the spiritual realm. The fact that this one revealed how he was withstood by the prince of the kingdom of Persia for twenty days suggests the tremendous importance of the mystery that was to be revealed, and the understanding that was to take place. I can’t help but wonder how many times we are even aware of what takes place in the spiritual and supernatural realm when we commit ourselves to prayer and understanding. Daniel gave himself to understanding, and did so by fasting and mourning, and as a result, this one was released unto him to release unto him understanding concerning the vision which was for an appointed time.

If you read the prophetic book of Daniel, you will notice that there seems to be a direct correlation and connection between the sixth, ninth and eleventh chapters. In the sixth chapter we find the king being manipulated to sign a decree that would effectively sign Daniel’s death warrant because of his prayer life with and before the Lord of hosts. In the sixth chapter we find Daniel praying unto the Lord his God with the window open in his room toward Jerusalem, and doing so three times a day. In the ninth chapter we find Daniel understanding according to the books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. In the first year of Darius the Mede—not only did Daniel understand the number of years decreed for the desolations of Jerusalem, but he also set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. I can’t help but wonder if what we read in the sixth chapter did not take place within the same year as what we read in the ninth chapter. In other words, is it possible that in the same year Daniel found himself cast into the den of lions because he refused to cease praying unto the Lord his God, he also understood by books the number of years which the Lord would accomplish the desolations of Jerusalem. The sixth chapter reveals how Daniel continued to pray three times a day—kneeling before the Lord his God with the window of his chamber open toward Jerusalem. The ninth chapter reveals how Daniel set his face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and how he prayed unto the Lord his God, and made his confession. When we come to the ninth chapter of the same prophetic book we find Daniel describing how in the first year of Darius the Mede, he stood to confirm and to strengthen him. It was during this first year of Darius the Mede that it was revealed unto Daniel that which would take place within the Persian kingdom and empire, as well as what would take place within the Grecian empire when it would arise within and upon the earth. Thus within the prophetic book of Daniel we find him praying three times a day unto the Lord his God—despite facing imminent threat of being cast into the den of lions. Perhaps within this same year we not only find Daniel giving himself to prayer, and supplications, and confession and intercession on behalf of his people, but we also find the Lord revealing unto him a great mystery concerning days which are to come.

Within the first year of Darius the Mede we not only find Daniel understanding by books the number of years determined for the desolations of Jerusalem, but we also find a mystery being revealed unto him concerning the Persian Empire, as well as the next empire that would emerge on to the scene—the Grecian Empire. The entire eleventh chapter is a powerful description of events that would unfold—from the days of the Persian empire, all the way through to the days of the antichrist when he would emerge on to the scene upon the earth. What would begin with natural and earthly kings would eventually transition in the latter days to a final, powerful king that would emerge upon the earth. What we read in this passage of Scripture would not only be fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes, but would later and ultimately be fulfilled by the antichrist himself. The chapter would begin in the natural, yet it would conclude in and with the supernatural, for it would end describing the antichrist and what the earth would be like under his rule, under his intrigue, under his influence. In all reality, that which we read and that which we find in this passage of Scripture is a description of events that would take place during the coming years, decades and centuries, but ultimately what would take place in the latter times—during the days just prior to the end of the age and the end of all things. The Lord revealed unto Daniel divine mysteries that would later be interpreted by the words we find recorded in the book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. What we read in the prophetic book of Daniel, as well as its counterpart in the New Testament—the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ—should stand and serve as a powerful prophetic word of warning, instruction and wisdom concerning the days which are to come in the latter times. Oh that we would read these chapters and these words as such, and that we would understand the days and times in which we are living. I am convinced that the words we read in this prophetic book were not only intended to help men and women understand the times in which they were living in during the days of Daniel—and even the days after Daniel during the four-hundred silent years—but also during our own time and generation;. Oh that we would not only understand the days and time in which we are living, but also how to be prepared and be ready for such days as what we are experiencing.

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