by Rob Lundberg
Why is it that many people believe in angels but do not have a proper understanding of God for it is the one true God that the angels serve. Folks embracing a new age ideology and liberal Christians will tell you and I that they have no problem praying to angels. This post is going to answer the question from the objective standard of the Bible.
What is an angel?
Angels are a part of God’s created order. They encircle the heavenly throne, announce the divine message, and serve as heavenly warriors. Furthermore, Scripture records a several instances in which angelic beings have interacted with men and women. The book of Hebrews even suggests that one may unknowingly show “hospitality to angels” (Hebrews 13:2). Angels, it appears, are actively present in Christian lives. But know that there are fallen angels that deceive those who think they serve God. But the god that they serve is not the one true God. Also, let me also state that people do not become angels when they die.
Over the years there have been a multitude of books, television shows, and movies aim to explain the role of angels in human life. Some of those explanations are congruent with what we know from Scripture and other explanations come off the pages of some New Age teacher.
From the Christian context, this has given rise to the popular belief in one’s guardian angel. Many people believe they have a personal angel to whom they can send their requests for help. There are even websites designed to help someone learn the name of this guardian angel. Given this belief in a guardian angel, it is not too much of a leap to believe that one is able to pray to that angel.
But is this biblically accurate? After all, understanding how to pray is only one part of this spiritual practice; equally important is the understanding of to whom we direct our prayers. Thus, the question remains: Does the Bible support the notion that Christians can pray to an angel for guidance, relief, or aid?
The issue about praying to angels. . . absolutely not!
Since Christianity is a supernatural worldview, AND angels are supernatural beings, it should a reasonable conclusion to say that Christians do not deny the existence of angelic beings. Nor do Christians reject the idea that angels can interact with faithful men and women. There are many examples where we see this in Scripture. One of the earliest is the account of Abraham receiving the promise from God. Abraham entertains three angels by the trees of Mamre. Other examples are where Joshua speaks to an angel before crossing over towards Jericho, and both Mary and Joseph receiving angelic visitations. What is absent in these occurrences is the act of prayer. Was there a conversation? Yes. Yet while prayer is talking to God and aligning ourselves with His will, there was no prayer to angels in any of the aforementioned biblical examples.
Questions? Yes. Prayer? No.
Praying to an angel is specifically forbidden in Scripture. The book of Revelation, for example, depicts John bowing down before his angelic guide to worship him. The angel was quick to reprimand him saying, “Don’t do that, “I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus” (19:10). The angel rebukes John for his worshipful act. In fact, this very scene happens again in chapter 22. John falls before the angel in an act of worship, only to find himself told that such an action betrays the true nature of worship (22:9). Bowing down before an angel is tantamount to idolatry. All worship is to be directed toward Jesus, the Lamb who sits upon the throne.
Why all this talk about worship? Prayer is, by nature, an act of worship. As I just mentioned, prayer is more than simply “talking to God.” When we pray, we bow our hearts and minds, and possibly bodily, before the Lord in an act of worshipful submission. Jesus taught his followers to pray that “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As one enters prayer into a time of praise and worship, and contritely requests forgiveness of sins, presents needs, requests, offers thanksgiving for things given to us by God, or intercessory laments in prayer, one does so in the context of opening his or her life to the presence and Lordship of Jesus.
Praying to an angel, therefore, is more than simply interacting with angelic visitors. Praying to angels involves the devotional act of spiritually submitting to an angel’s will and activity. Question: How does one know that the angel is an angel from the one true God. To pray to an angelic being naturally works against the vibrancy of one’s faith in Jesus (Colossians 2:18). One cannot worship the Lord and pray to an angel at the same time.
Who Should Christians Pray To?
We cannot live a life of faith without active and ongoing prayer. Scriptures abound regarding this fundamental truth (c.f. Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is the lifeblood of the Christian life. Of course, whenever the Bible speaks of prayer, it assumes that prayer is rendered to God alone. Prayer to any being other than the Triune God is considered idolatry.
Each member of the Trinity is specifically mentioned as the one to whom prayer is directed. Jesus specifically instructs his followers to pray to the Father. In his introduction to the Lord’s prayer, Jesus states: “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). Equally, however, Jesus tells his disciples that He is the one to Whom prayer is directed. Jesus promises the disciples that “whatever you ask in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Similarly, Paul “pleaded with the Lord” to remove the thorn in his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8). This indicates that Paul’s prayer was directed to the risen Christ. Not to be outdone, prayer is also addressed to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Paul, for example, exhorts believers to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:18). Whether prayer is directed to Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, it is clear that Christians pray to the Triune God.
An interesting question to ask is, why do Christians pray exclusively to the Triune God? Or to put it another way, why is it wrong to pray to angels? The answer is relatively simple: God delights to hear our prayers! This is one of the foundational truths of who God is. God willingly and lovingly enters the prayers of the faithful and weary.
- “What other nation is so great as to have their gods them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him.” (Deuteronomy 4:7)
- “He will respond to the prayer of the destitute, he will not despise their plea.” (Psalm 102:17)
- “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)
- “For the eyes of the Lord on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers.” (1 Peter 3:12)
- “And this is the confidence that we have towards him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us.” (1 John 5:14)
Perhaps the most significant verse in this line is found in the book of Proverbs. Here we read, “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him” (15:8). Simply put, it pleases the Lord to hear our prayers. When we direct our prayers to any being other than our Triune God, we are robbing the Lord of that which is pleasing and delightful.
If Angels Don’t Answer Prayers, Then What Do They Do?
Deciphering the different order of angels can be difficult and confusing. The Bible records a variety of angelic types, most notably angels and archangels, cherubim, and seraphim. There is also a rank of demonic entities that are listed by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12,
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
With what we see from Scripture, both with the good and the evil evangelic beings, there has had a lot of speculation as to the role and “rank” of each type of angel. In fact, the field of “angelology” is devoted to exploring the hierarchy of angels.
Biblically speaking, it is unclear whether specific types of angels hold different roles before God.
Our picture of angels as winged creatures bearing harps and halos is more a product of Hollywood than it is from Holy Scripture. Yet one thing is clear, the primary purpose of all good angels, regardless of title or rank (not those listed in Ephesians 6), is to point humanity to the glory of God. The angelic host bears the message of God’s activity in human life.
This fact is gloriously depicted in Luke’s account of Christ’s birth. We know the story well. The young Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel who tells her “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19). Here, Gabriel serves as messenger. He declares the good news of the coming Messiah. Similarly, when a choir of angels surrounds the shepherds, they herald the birth of the Savior with the words, “Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:11). In each instance, angels declare the good news of Christ and invite humanity to recognize the glory and majesty of God.
The role of an angel in the life of a Christian is to lead them into deeper worship of Jesus. Angels may intervene in our lives or speak to us of Gods’ activity; there may even be times wherein one is blessed to interact with an angel. The purpose of any interaction, intervention, or message, is to unite us more fully to our Lord. Like Jacob rising from his dream of the angelic ladder (Genesis 28:1017) we are to leave our encounter with a grander vision of who God is, power and presence in our lives. Angels serve no other purpose than to point to the presence and interaction of God in our lives. They are God’s messengers and not independent message carriers.
God’s Angels Carry Out the Work of God
Angels are not divine beings; they are servants of God. In fact, the word angelos means “messenger.” Angels do not hold mastery or sway over God’s kingdom, they bear the message of God’s sovereignty and reign. Similarly, while the Bible indicates the presence of warrior-angels involved in a spiritual battle (Revelation 12:7), this does not mean that angels have the power to grant prayerful requests. Angels merely carry out the work of God, in the heavenly realms and upon the earth below.
Praying to angels makes no sense when we approach this topic biblically. God is not too busy, too burdened, or too consumed with other matters to hear our prayers. Thus, God does not need to delegate answering our prayers to lower beings. God is not the unjust judge who responds to prayers out of a sense of reluctant duty, or so that that we will “stop bothering” Him with our concerns (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus is adamant that the Triune God delights to respond to our prayers. Simply put, if God truly delights to hear and respond to the prayers of his people, why would we direct our prayers to anyone Else? We need not pray to finite created beings like angels. and should not.
Addendum: Some of you might be thinking, well yah, I have a guardian angel don’t I? For a good treatment on this question check out: Do We have Guardian Angels?
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