The Reason Someone Must Carry the Bucket (Daniel 10)

The Final Fantasy series may be one of the most prolific in all of gaming, with titles stretching back  from the original NES and through numerous handheld, console, PC, and even phone titles.  And within this franchise is an incredible amount of diversity, from the excellence of the turn-based titles, to some of the best tactical RPGs you can find, up to our current active time battle games.  They have toyed with fighting games, racing titles, and even rhythm based entries, but I would posit that one of the most unique creations within their portfolio is also one of the least spoken of:  Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles on the Nintendo GameCube.

Perhaps part of the issue was the complexity involved in playing the game in the multiplayer format it was designed for.  First, you had to be one of the handful of people who actually owned a GameCube in the first place, and we were not a common lot.  Then each player had to have their own Game Boy Advance system AND a link cable to connect it to the GameCube, which was even less common to come by.  And if you had all of the infrastructure AND three friends willing to come to your house and engage in this adventure with you, there was still one more obstacle that remained in your path… The chalice.

Now the chalice was a key component of the gameplay, and its insertion into the game made sense within the context of the story.  To protect the group from the toxic miasma that permeates the game world, one player had to choose the responsibility of carrying the chalice throughout the adventure.  While that may sound insignificant, holding the chalice was actually a full-time job.  You could not attack, defend, or actively participate in any other portion of the game while holding the chalice, or what became semi-affectionately referred to as “carrying the bucket”.  It was not exciting, it was not glamorous, and it certainly was not fun… But it was necessary.  The rest of the party had to remain in proximity to the “bucket holder” for protection and leaving the protective covering provided by the bucket/chalice left them open to receiving damage from the hostile environment that surrounded each of them for the duration of the game.  You could not put the bucket down and walk away or it would cease to provide protection, so one lucky player essentially followed everyone around in a fairly boring fashion while the rest of the squad enjoyed interacting with the game world.  I’m sure you can imagine the conversation when setting up a game with your pals… “I’m not playing if I have to hold the bucket.”  Or, “You always say we will take turns, but I get stuck holding it for hours”.

In our Christian life, an incredibly essential protective covering is available to us as well, and just like the act of carrying the chalice it is not necessarily appreciated as much as it should be.  Oftentimes the subject of prayer leads to talk of how long one should pray for, what specific words and phrases must be incorporated, or even the minutiae of where this physically should be done at.  And within all of the honest attempts to guide God’s people into meaningful prayer through endless books, teachings, and seminars it is easy for us to become jaded or weary with the topic.  So I want to provide a fresh look at prayer from the supernatural aspect found in Daniel 10, a remarkable chapter in the Bible that briefly opens one of the few windows documenting the spiritual warfare that exists around us without our knowledge.

Daniel was gifted with a message from God that he was unable to understand, and his inability to decipher it sent him into a three week period of prayer and fasting. This was new territory for Daniel, as he had previously received quick responses from God on dreams and visions.  As a matter of fact, he owed his existence as a chief advisor in the kingdom to his infamous interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzer’s dream that saved the lives of both him and his friends and propelled him into this place of prominence.  Understanding dreams were kind of his thing, and to be unable to receive a response on something that has previously been his calling card was quite disturbing.  God seemingly turned silent and Daniel’s primary talent was betraying him… I don’t know about you but I know I have been there.

After three excruciating weeks of silence from the heavens, the response to Daniel’s prayers arrives in the form of a literal angel.  This epic creature’s appearance may be stunning enough, but it is the message he carries that is the highlight of this remarkable scene.  His opening statements sets the stage for an eye-opening revelation into the world of prayer and how spiritual warfare works.  From day one Daniel’s original prayer was indeed heard by God and this angel was sent with the answer.  It was never God’s intent to delay the response to prolong Daniel’s suffering or to simply “teach Daniel patience”, although that will certainly occur.  He responded IMMEDIATELY to the cry of His child.  So why the waiting period?  This is where things get really interesting…

If God’s response to my prayers is instantaneous than why am I still waiting?  Because there is OPPOSITION.  In verse 13 the angel explains that for the last three weeks he has been in battle with a being called the “prince of Persia” and was unable to break free of that conflict to bring Daniel his answer until a SECOND angel showed up to give him a hand.  Wow.  Just chew on that for a minute.  Invisible to our eyes two incredibly powerful beings are engaged in “Immortal Kombat” with the answer to our prayers on the line, and Daniel’s perseverance in prayer was rewarded with an additional fighter who turned the tide in this boss fight and gained the victory.  And with this the entire concept of prayer gets turned on its head, moving from a passive wish list of hopes and dreams whispered into the heavens and transformed into a literal realm of conflict and battle where our words put angels and demons into motion.

That’s an incredible thought to fathom.  Daniel’s simple prayer for understanding and guidance was the impetus for an epic three week war between two powerful entities that was at a stalemate until a third joined the party and tipped the balance.  And the fight wasn’t even over, as verse 20 reveals that this angel was returning to the battlefield as soon as he was finished delivering this message to finish what he started. So what does this mean for us?  Sure, it’s cool to know that our words spoken in prayer have this kind of power and impact, but let’s go deeper.  We see that our prayers are not always hindered by some kind of sin or because what we desire is outside of the will of God, although those are both very good Scriptural reasons why an answer can be delayed.  Sometimes it is because the forces of satan are in active resistance to God’s plan for us and it is through our persistence in continuing to pray that our answer will finally break through.  And the larger the destiny, the larger the opposition.

It always looks much more exciting to be the one holding the sword rather than the chalice.  The warrior gets all the glory while the healer thanklessly saves the day.  But the truth is that the apparently passive act of lifting up our prayers is actually the most active, important and world-altering action we can take.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the power of life and death resides in our TONGUE, 1 Thess. 5:17 gives us the simple command to pray without ceasing, and in Matthew 6:9-14 we have the template of key elements to include in our prayers.  So between the combination of Solomon, Paul, and Jesus Himself we have a pretty clear picture of how powerful and critical our prayers are.

I will admit that it is easy for my prayer life to become repetitive and passionless, mostly because I forget how much power exists within the words I speak.  Sometimes the delay in receiving the answer leads me to take my problem into my own unstable hands, and I cast the chalice aside along with its protection because it’s hard to stand still and hold the bucket over my head when it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.  But reading this reminds me that our weapons are not material, but spiritual (2 Cor 10:4) and my prayers have as much impact as I choose for them to.  So with that in mind, I am picking up my bucket today and raising it over my head with confidence that my prayers are not only heard but truly change the world around me for both myself and others as well.  I hope you are encouraged to do the same!

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