© 2017, Lynn Abbott
The nightmares began early on. He was just a tiny tot when he awakened, crying and prattling about the monster ceiling fan in his room. I couldn’t quite make out his two-year-old thinking, but I could see the fear was real.
Midnight cries disturbed our sleep night after night.
Exhausted, I desperately sought a solution.
Without a doubt, my mama bear instincts took over when my physical strength failed.
Reasoning with a two-year-old never goes very well when it involves nighttime fear. So, I prayed with my little boy before he went to sleep.
But I didn’t stop there. Looking back now, I can see that in my naiveté, I started down a perilous but blessed path in those years.
Indeed, I sat on the hall floor outside his room each night, and whispered my prayers. I begged Abba to protect my little boy from fear, from all manner of danger, and from any in the spiritual realm that wished to do us harm.
Through prayer, I beat back those “monsters that go bump in the night.” And for the first time, I understood the nickname, “Prayer Warrior.”
As time passed and the nightmares intruded less and less, I prayed less fervently. The daily demands of child rearing sapped my energy.
Sometimes, I drifted off as I knelt on the hall floor. And when I awakened some time later, I staggered to bed.
Like Peter, James and John in Gethsemane, I fell asleep mid-prayer, (Matthew 26:36-46). And we all remember what disastrous consequences that brought Peter.
Knowing what awaited Peter and the others, Jesus had exhorted them, “Watch and prayer so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” (Matthew 26:41).
Certainly, the spirit is willing but the body is weak. We are so very human.
And so given my exhaustion and my less than vigilant, ongoing prayers, it is no wonder that my son’s nightmares made an encore performance.
An hour after I had stumbled into bed, our then 8-year-old son wandered into our room. Fear blazed in his eyes.
Because our well-spoken little boy was speaking incoherently, it didn’t take a genius to recognize that he was sleep walking. Fortunately, he sought our protection even in his sleepy state.
I wrapped my arms around him and began to pray aloud.
And as I carried him to Jesus, my growing boy calmed. Soon, I gently suggested that we walk back to his room. There, I sang quietly to him, and watched him slip into peaceful sleep once more.
Oh, I had talked to God before that. I’d asked God to keep us safe as we traveled. I’d asked Abba to provide daily bread. I’d prayed that others would come to know Jesus.
I’d devoted hours in high school and in college to building knobby knees. I’d even kept prayer journals during my early years of marriage.
But I don’t think I fully understood the power of intercession and its impact upon the heavenly realms until I prayed for our son.
And I prayed for him as though my life depended upon it.
Obviously, when it comes to our children, most of us would do just about anything to protect them. We even put ourselves at risk in order to keep them safe.
So naturally, prayer becomes a part of that. Yet, I don’t think I really knew quite what I was getting into when I decided to stand between the spirit of fear and my young son.
When I committed to pray nightly for my little boy’s spiritual protection, it soon became obvious that I had stepped out of my league.
In fact, while prayer connects you and I intimately with our heavenly Father, it also puts us on Satan’s radar.
In other words, you may as well paint a bulls-eye on your head if you commit yourself to pray.
As C.S. Lewis suggests through his classic The Screwtape Letters, Satan desperately wants to prevent believers from engaging in genuine communion with Abba.
In fact, in Lewis’ novel, the demon Screwtape advises his protegé, Wormwood, that he must use every scheme available to keep the “patient” from seeking God through prayer.
And if we are completely honest, Satan has been somewhat successful in such efforts. For many, prayer is the least capitalized of spiritual disciplines.
Satan does not wish for us to know how truly effective prayer is.
The principalities of darkness perhaps fear prayer more than any other spiritual activity.
And understandably so. The apostle James writes, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
Jesus himself modeled the power of prayer with each of His miracles. Again and again, the gospel writers reported that Christ prayed before performing a miracle.
In this way, Christ demonstrated that prayer isn’t simply a commendable option; it’s absolutely essential.
But as I told one of my friends recently, once you start interceding on behalf of others, you cannot let up for a moment because if you do, hell quite literally breaks loose.
With the exception of Christ Himself, Daniel may have understood prayer better than anyone else in Scripture.
Certainly, if anyone understood intercessory prayer, Daniel did. And even though he was a Babylonian Eunuch, he had the heart of a father.
We read in the book of Daniel that he specifically prayed for Abba’s chosen people, the children of Israel.
On his own and Israel’s behalf, He daily asked for God’s mercy and grace. His life was saturated by prayer.
So much so that people could set their sundials by it.
For this reason, when court jealousies began to simmer, the fault-finding wannabe’s decided to use Daniel’s faith against him. With the fall of Babylon, Daniel had found himself serving in a new court.
Yet, even under Persian rule, Daniel found favor: Darius planned to promote Daniel to administrator over the entire kingdom. Abba intended his man of prayer for a place of tremendous influence in pagan Persia.
Court jealousies? Definitely. But later chapters in the book of Daniel hint that something bigger was at stake… something beyond our natural understanding and vision.
Darius was clueless, however, and so he played right into the hands of Daniel’s enemies.
Without a second thought, he signed an irrefutable law that condemned individuals, who prayed to any but Darius, to death in the Lion’s Den.
Only the truly committed would dare to defy the edict.
Only Daniel would dare.
Yup. Daniel’s enemies set a trap for Daniel.
Everyone knew the depth of Daniel’s faith in Abba.
And sure enough, Daniel prayed as he always did. At the very least, Daniel appeared disloyal.
His accusers, though, could claim the worst; they portrayed Daniel as a rebellious extremest.
To give Darius credit, he looked for every loop-hole. He wished to save Daniel from such a fate.
But the law was air-tight. When sundown came, Daniel faced the lion’s den.
Darius’ final words before the stone rolled over that savage den reveal his great regard for Daniel: “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” (Daniel 6:16).
I wonder if Peter had Daniel in mind when in his first epistle he wrote that the devil prowls like “a roaring lion,” seeking someone to devour, (I Peter 5:8).
I’m certain that Daniel faced more than just lions in the den. The greater enemy, Satan and his emissaries, were undoubtedly behind the plot to destroy Abba’s prayer warrior.
Yes, indeedy. Both blessing and opposition pursue those who dare to intercede for others.
Peter eventually understood what was at stake. Peter, the disciple who fell asleep in Gethsemane and soon after experienced his greatest failure, wrote, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8).
Once you begin, you must stand fast.
Daniel stayed the course.
God broke through. The power of darkness gave way.
And Abba’s child lived to pray another day.
It is no exaggeration to say that Daniel was caught in spiritual crossfire. In fact, further study of Daniel’s book reveals that while we may or may not recognize it, our lives frequently intersect the supernatural realm.
Seeking to understand a vision, Daniel prayed passionately for God’s wisdom and instruction. But the answer to his prayer did not come immediately.
Sometimes we must wait.
When an angel eventually arrives with an answer to Daniel’s persistent prayers, Abba’s messenger prefaces his words with an explanation that gives us a glimpse of the supernatural impact of prayer.
Why the delay in response from heaven? The angel notes that the “Prince of Persia” resisted him for twenty-one days.
He also notes that Michael, one of the chief princes, assisted him because he was detained by the “King” of Persia.
Did Darius detain the angel? No. With the mention of Michael, the archangel, it is clear that this is a reference to supernatural beings that seek to influence human events.
Evidently, when we intercede, our petitions mobilize beyond that which we observe in the natural world. There is so much more at stake.
Yet the despite the skirmishes, we can be sure of this: Abba’s truth always breaks through. God has promised light to those who truly seek Him. And God never breaks His promises.
Truly, God’s grace is greater than any enemy we may face. Although heavy darkness seems to cover all, the Light of the World bursts forth from the grave.
The savage beasts that threaten Abba’s prayer warriors stop cold in their tracks. And God uses prayer to accomplish this.
Prayer becomes God’s conduit for blessing, protection and grace for this world. It’s humbling when you consider the premium Abba has placed on his children’s prayers.
Although he is 21 years old now, I still pray for my son. The dangers that he now faces differ from his earlier night terrors. But darkness closes in just the same.
Prayer remains essential. And Peter reminds me, “Be alert.”
It’s true. When you and I become distracted or when we fall asleep, we become vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. Nevertheless, Daniel inspires us to persevere.
After all, Daniel stood firm in the Lion’s Den, and God broke through.
Of course, prayer as committed as Daniel’s requires bold faith. But we can depend on Abba. He is sovereign over all, and moves powerfully in both the natural and supernatural realms.
Daniel’s story reassures you and me that as we enter the arena, Abba will ultimately protect and bless us beyond all that we could ask or think.
Thus, as we enter the fray, our battle cry is “Remember Daniel!”
And I do believe it is time to storm the heavenly realms not only on behalf of our own children, but also for one another, our communities, our nation and our world.
It may sound an ambitious enterprise. It certainly will prove dangerous. But given recent national and international events, I believe it to be absolutely essential.
It is the next, obvious step. Quite simply, prayer for our children and other loved ones naturally extends to the world they inhabit.
And as those we love venture in the wider world, our prayers naturally expand with their horizons.
And He always shines His light exactly when and where it is most needed.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints,”~ Ephesians 6:18
“…pray continually,”~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears,”~ Psalm 34:4