The DEEP

Guardian Elvis

Praying for others and the poetry of God at work

Daniel 9:20-22

20 Now while I was speaking, 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, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.

I had a miraculous encounter last year as I was pumping gas at the local convenience store.

I had just filled my tank and was slowly driving away from the pump when there was a sudden knocking at the side window of my truck. I stopped suddenly fearing I’d hit someone and looked to see who was trying to get my attention.

Standing there was none other than rock and roll legend Elvis Presley.

What could the King of Rock and Roll possibly want with me? I half-wondered in astonishment as I rolled down my window. 

“Hey buddy,” said the Big E, “you left your gas cap open.”

“Thanks,” I said, and hopped out to replace the cap as the Memphis Flash walked away in his blue suede shoes, another good deed done.

Some people claim to have a guardian angel. I can always claim that I have a guardian Elvis—even if he is just a local Elvis impersonator.

Here in Chapter 9, Daniel has his second encounter with the Angel Gabriel, the messenger of God. The message he delivers Daniel is far more consequential than roadside assistance. He comes as an answer to intercessory prayer.

The chapter begins with Daniel on his knees in deep and focused prayer for God’s people:

Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

Daniel has demonstrated through his life to be a faithful, sincere servant of God. This is illustrated repeatedly in his prayer life, specifically as he prays for the people of God. This is intercessory prayer and it is prayer at its finest.

Praying for others and on behalf of others can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding tasks that you as a believer are called to do.

Especially if those you pray for do not seem to care.

The exiled people of Israel long for their homeland during their captivity in Babylon but struggle to maintain their focus on following Him. And so Daniel prays for them, both as God’s prophet and as a fellow captive:

20 Now while I was speaking, 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,

How frustrating it must be for Daniel to span the years longing for restoration amid a backsliding people. Are his prayers for them having no effect? You can almost hear the weariness in his voice. What is fascinating to note is how Daniel includes himself in these prayers, for he knows that he is a sinner amid sinners in need of God’s grace.

This is the nature of intercessory prayer: to pray with a broken heart for the broken hearts of others. This heartbreak goes far deeper in its sorrow than any “heartbreak hotel” that Elvis crooned about.

Daniel has no choice but to pray, for in a way God compels him, as His prophet and as a faithful believer. Dr. Douglas Kelly writes:

We pray because God calls us to speak to Him, and believing hearts cannot help but respond—even when we are unsure of what to say. Our prayers are directed by the Holy Spirit so that even when we do not know how to pray, the Spirit echoes within us the intercessions of Christ above.

Whom do you pray for? Do you pray for your unbelieving friends and neighbors who wander through this life bouncing from one earthly hope to the next? Do you pray for your fellow believers, those who sit in the pews with you on Sunday, that they may find encouragement and strength? Do you pray for your pastor or missionaries that God will protect them from the evil one and embolden their hearts for the Gospel?

In some ways these are the easy ones to pray for and it is those who challenge our own well-being and walk that can be difficult to lift up in prayer. Do you pray for your child, raised in the church but now seems to have abandoned their childhood faith? Do you lift up a spouse who seems to have taken your marital hopes and dreams and dashed them on the rocks? Do you pray for the brother or sister in Christ who possesses a sharp tongue or dominating way to disrupt the peaceful harmony of church life for you?

Here is where the difficulty of intercessory prayer can begin: when you are slow to see any proof or change in those for whom you pray.

Like Daniel you must see that you too are a sinner in as deep of need as those for whom we pray. This is what gives intercessory prayer its strength, for in doing so it strips away all pretenses and brings you to the feet of Jesus.

You know that Christ, even in his final hours before the cross, knelt in agonized prayer for those to whom God had given him. As Charles Spurgeon reveals:

Intercessory prayer is an act of communion with Christ, for Jesus pleads for the sons of men.

So when you pray for others, do not grow discouraged if results do not appear for it is not the reward of seeing a changed heart that you seek but instead the reward of being on your knees on their behalf. In this you partake in the prayer life of Christ. Spurgeon goes on:

There is nothing which intercessory prayer cannot do. Oh! believer, you have a mighty engine in your hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it now with faith, and thou shalt surely prevail.

This should fire your heart to continue to pray despite perceived setbacks, for above it all, God is working His plan and something bigger is going on.

“The Commitments” is a 1991 movie about the rise and hilariously slow-motion train wreck fall of a rock and roll band in Ireland. After achieving near-stardom with incredible performances their own selfish bickering brings the dream crashing down. Joey 'The Lips' Fagan—veteran musician who has seen it all before—comforts Jimmy, the frustrated and disappointed founder of the group:

Joey 'The Lips' Fagan: Look, I know you're hurting now, but in time you'll realize what you've achieved.
Jimmy Rabbitte: I've achieved nothing!
Joey 'The Lips' Fagan: You're missing the point. The success of the band was irrelevant - you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure we could have been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way it’s poetry.

We cannot always see the poetry of what God is doing in the background for us and those for whom we seek to lift up.

As Daniel prays here, God sends him a message that is both welcome and discouraging at once.:

21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.

Daniel almost seems to have a guardian angel in Gabriel. The Angel Gabriel appears only four times in the bible and two of those times he comes exclusively to Daniel! 

Gabriel also appears twice in the Gospel of Luke to announce the coming birth of the messiah. Zachariah is struck mute until he acknowledges that his son will be called “John” later the Baptist and Mary takes to singing after Gabriel’s glorious announcement that she is with child who is God’s own son. 

Gabriel is God’s messenger specifically tasked with news of the coming of Christ. He appears to Daniel to remind him of those future announcements, of The One who will come “in the fullness of time.” This joyful news is tempered by the new knowledge that this full restoration will not happen soon, but hundreds of years in the future.

The sinful children of God for whom Daniel continually intercedes for in prayer have bought for them, and him, “seventy more weeks” or approximately 490 more years of waiting until this grand and final restoration of Jerusalem.

God could have swept in and fixed everything for Daniel then and there, wiped out Kings Nebuchadnezzar, Balshazzar or even Darius to free his people and restore His kingdom then and there. But He did not.

And so, Daniel must continue to pray and wait, staying focused on the big picture. So too do we pray and wait for God to work in the lives of those whom we love and lift up to Him. Like Daniel we rest in knowing God is working and He is always faithful in His own time.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.