Now turn back to the illustration section of our Book for a remarkably graphic illustration of these words. It is in the old prophecy of Daniel, tenth chapter. The story is this: Daniel is an old man now. He is an exile. He has not seen the green hills of his fatherland since boyhood. In this level Babylon, he is homesick for the dear old Palestinian hills, and he is heartsick over the plight of his people. He has been studying Jeremiah's prophecies, and finds there the promise plainly made that after seventy years these exiled Hebrews are to be allowed to return. Go back again! The thought of it quickens his pulse-beats. He does some quick counting. The time will soon be up. So Daniel plans a bit of time for special prayer, a sort of siege prayer.
Remember who he is—this Daniel. He is the chief executive of the land. He controls, under the king, the affairs of the world empire of his time. He is a giant of strength and ability—this man. But he plans his work so as to go away for a time. Taking a few kindred spirits, who understand prayer, he goes off into the woods down by the great Tigris River. They spend a day in fasting, and meditation and prayer. Not utter fasting, but scant eating of plain food. I suppose they pray awhile; maybe separately, then together; then read a bit from the Jeremiah parchment, think and talk it over and then pray some more. And so they spend a whole day reading, meditating, praying.
They are expecting an answer. These old-time intercessors were strong in expectancy. But there is no answer. A second day, a third, a fourth, a week, still no answer reaches them. They go quietly on without hesitation. Two weeks. How long it must have seemed! Think of fourteen days spent waiting; waiting for something, with your heart on tenter hooks. There is no answer. God might have been dead, to adapt the words of Catharine Luther, so far as any answer reaching them is concerned. But you cannot befool Daniel in that way. He is an old hand at prayer. Apparently he has no thought of quitting. He goes quietly, steadily on. Twenty days pass, with no change. Still they persist. Then the twenty-first day comes and there is an answer. It comes in a vision whose glory is beyond human strength to bear. By and by when they can talk, his visitor and he, this is what Daniel hears: "Daniel, the first day you began to pray, your prayer was heard, and I was sent with the answer." And even Daniel's eyes open big—"the first day—three weeks ago?" "Yes, three weeks ago I left the presence of God with the answer to your prayer. But"—listen, here is the strange part—"the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me, resisted me, one and twenty days: but Michael, your prince, came to help me, and I was free to come to you with the answer to your prayer."
Please notice four things that I think any one reading this chapter will readily admit. This being talking with Daniel is plainly a spirit being. He is opposed by some one. This opponent plainly must be a spirit being, too, to be resisting a spirit being. Daniel's messenger is from God: that is clear. Then the opponent must be from the opposite camp. And here comes in the thing strange, unexpected, the evil spirit being has the power to detain, hold back God's messenger for three full weeks by earth's reckoning of time. Then reenforcements come, as we would say. The evil messenger's purpose is defeated, and God's messenger is free to come as originally planned.
There is a double scene being enacted. A scene you can see, and a scene you cannot see. An unseen wrestling match in the upper spirit realm, and two embodied spirit beings down on their faces by the river. And both concerned over the same thing.
That is the Daniel story. What an acted out illustration it is of Paul's words. It is a picture glowing with the action of real life. It is a double picture. Every prayer action is in doubles; a lower human level; an upper spirit level. Many see only the seen, and lose heart. While we look at the things that are seen, let us gaze intently at the things unseen; for the seen things are secondary, but the unseen are chief, and the action of life is being decided there.
Here is the lower, the seen;—a group of men, led by a man of executive force enough to control an empire, prone on their faces, with minds clear, quiet, alert, persistently, ceaselesslypraying day by day. Here is the upper, the unseen:—a "wrestling," keen, stubborn, skilled, going on between two spirit princes in the spirit realm. And by Paul's explanation the two are vitally connected. Daniel and his companions are wrestlers too, active participants in that upper-air fight, and really deciding the issue, for they are on the ground being contested. These men are indeed praying with all prayer and supplication at all times, in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication, and at length victory comes.