Cosmic Struggle

August 21st, 2008 • Category: Gospel of Luke
by Pastor Jeff

Today’s scripture: Luke 18:1-8 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

The central teaching of this passage is that we should be persistent in prayer. When we believe we’re asking God for something that is just and right, but the answer has not yet come, Jesus wants us to persist. Don’t lose faith; don’t stop praying. Ask and ask and ask again and again and again. Be relentless.

OK, I get that. But for me, it raises another question: Why must I wait? If the request I’m lifting is just and right, why doesn’t the answer come immediately?

An intriguing answer is proposed in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 10. There, we’re told that Daniel began praying that God would show him what was going to happen to his people at the end of days. For three weeks, Daniel engaged in a fast; he ate only simple food and refused to anoint himself. (Anointing was a luxury that would make you feel and smell better in a desert climate.) During this time, Daniel devoted himself to intense prayer. Twenty-one days into his prayer offensive, he experienced an extraordinary vision. An angel appears and reveals an incredible end-time prophecy.

So why did it take twenty-one days? The angel explains:

From the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. . . . Daniel 10:12-13.

In the Bible, Michael is a powerful angel of God. Thus, the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” with whom they were fighting is apparently also an angelic being, but one who is opposing God’s rule — a demonic being.

Although Daniel’s model for understanding spiritual reality may not be perfect, it has much to offer. It’s a way of conceptualizing the process of prayer that resonates with me. The basic idea is that we are part of a larger cosmic struggle between good and evil that involves not just humans, but also beings of a higher order. This is what many Christians refer to as “spiritual warfare.” For a New Testament perspective on this, take a look at Ephesians 6:10-12.

So here’s the way I see it: We live in a broken world where evil is powerful. Our prayers unleash power from Heaven. The forces of evil often swing into action to try to suppress that power — kind of like the evil judge in Jesus’ parable, they become obstacles that delay an answer. But each prayer we lift releases a little more spiritual power, then a little more, then a little more, until eventually the cumulative power of our prayers reaches a critical mass and breakthrough is achieved.

Is this a perfect model? Of course not. No finite model will suffice to capture infinite reality. But it is a good working model that helps me stay focused in prayer and not give up, which is the whole point Jesus is trying to make with today’s parable — do not give up because you never know when the cumulative power of your requests will result in breakthrough!

Jesus ends his parable with a question: “When the Song of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Apparently Jesus is worried that too many of us will fail to understand the importance of persistence in prayer and give up. He worries that maybe by the end of age, everyone will have given up.

Don’t let that happen to you! If you believe something that you are praying is just and right, know that each time you lift that prayer you are placing more and more pressure on the forces of evil. I wonder how many times someone has given up on a prayer just before the answer comes. What if Daniel had given up on day twenty?

Thought for the day: Each prayer you pray puts more pressure on the forces of evil. Use your prayers today to keep the heat on!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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