Resistance Training and Unanswered Prayers

Text: Daniel 10:1—11:1

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” —1 John 5:14

Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance. This physical fitness method is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger. Imagine what kind of resilience we might wield if we applied this truth to our prayer life.

In Daniel 10, we are reminded that the spiritual reality in which we live isn’t Mayberry. It’s not Dorothy’s Kansas. A more fitting semblance would be the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, as troops storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day. That graphic image of enemy resistance is analogous to the kind of spiritual warfare we see in scripture, and face invisibly in our daily lives.

This chapter reveals how God’s delays are not so much about unanswered prayers as much as unfinished business. Daniel had been mourning, fasting, and praying for three weeks when he is confronted by a supernatural messenger, explaining the current reality and the resistance he has faced over the last twenty-one days.

The messenger clarifies why Daniel has experienced delays, pointing to the resistance due to spiritual combat in the heavenlies: “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.” He assures Daniel that God isn’t holding out on him, ignoring his prayers, or just preoccupied with more important people, but that resistance has come from the kingdom of darkness. Nonetheless, these delays were not denials.

Daniel admitted to having “no strength left” and feeling “helpless.” Maybe you’ve found yourself feeling overwhelmed with fatigue and exhaustion lately. It’s easy to give up praying when we think our prayers aren’t being heard. Yet Daniel’s celestial visitor has some good news for those feeling tired and weary. He assured Daniel that God heard his prayer instantly, without delay. There was no signal loss. The Wi-Fi didn’t cut out. God heard Daniel’s cry loud and clear, and immediately an angel was dispatched in response to that prayer. Don’t miss that.

Even though the response met spiritual opposition, the answer to Daniel’s prayer still arrived right on time. Even when there is resistance, God’s answer never gets there too late to accomplish His kingdom resolves. His power is never diminished and His purposes are never thwarted. That’s why Daniel’s call to action can be our call to action. The same God who charged Daniel: “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage,” is the same God who works on our behalf today. He is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31). His delays are never denials.

We play an active role in a much bigger drama than ourselves when we pray. Let us not be discouraged when answers seem delayed. It’s not about unanswered prayers as much as unfinished business. Even when there is opposition and resistance, God is always on time. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for the promise that you always hear us. ‘For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,’ declares your word. Because our righteousness is not our own, but that of Jesus, we can have great confidence in approaching your throne, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Rest our hearts as we trust in you to overcome the resistance and always show up at the right time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. Which do you prefer: the process of working on a project or actually completing the task?
  2. How do you typically interpret unanswered prayer? Does bad news affect your prayer life?
  3. Who visited Daniel as the prophet was standing by the Tigris River (Daniel 10:4-11)? What did the heavenly being explain to Daniel (vv.12-14)?
  4. What was the significance of Daniel’s strengthening (Daniel 10:15-11:1)? What does the strength of the Lord mean to you personally?
  5. This week how will you persevere in your faith when you face opposition or resistance?

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This VBS curriculum is based on the Old Testament book of Daniel. The theme teaches children how to live with courage in uncertain times. It was designed as a camp curriculum for children 8-12 years of age. Can also serve as a 5-week Sunday morning children’s ministry teaching series.