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We don't completely understand the role that angels play in prayer and intercession. We know that when we pray, God hears each prayer. That is because God Himself (in the form of the Holy Spirit) lives inside of each of us. Jesus' death and resurrection has made it possible for each of us to have a personal and intimate relationship with God--sin no longer separates us from Him. We do not need someone to act as an intermediary between us and God, we talk to Him directly. That means we don't need to tell our prayers to an angel so the angel can convey our requests to God. When we want to ask God for something, we just go ask Him directly and He hears us when we pray to Him.
Let me give you a few verses to back up what I just said. John 9:31 tells us, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." 1 John 5:14 says, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." And in John 15:16b, Jesus said, "...whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you." These verses make it clear that we should pray directly to God, and not to some type of spiritual intermediary (like angels or deceased believers).
Even though we speak directly to God when we pray, it seems that, at times, angels are somehow involved in the process. Revelation 8:3-4 gives an example of that: "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand."
The angel in that passage was somehow involved in presenting our prayers to the Lord, even though we are able to talk to Him directly. That presents a bit of dilemma or mystery to us; it is something we may not understand clearly on this side of eternity, and that is OK. We don't need to understand all of the mechanics of how God hears our prayers, we simply need to know that He hears and answers them.
But we do want to understand the role angels play in our prayer as much as is possible. The bible talks about ways that angels are involved in our prayers. We will look at three of them:
God Sends Angels To Give Us Information When We Are Praying
My very first "angelic visitation" came when I was in Italy on a prayer journey. It originally started as a vacation with my husband, but God began to give me assorted prayer assignments from the day I arrived, as well as some amazing divine appointments. For instance, we went to the Vatican in Rome and they were having some special event where it was open to the public (which is rare). We went in. Ed decided to climb this very long flight of stairs to a tower where there was supposedly an incredible view. I declined the invitation to climb a bunch of flights of stairs with him, and said I'd wait for him in the lobby. As it happened, a priest came by and started a short conversation with me. He asked me my profession and I said I was a protestant minister. Then he invited me to a special prayer meeting for Catholic clergy and nuns.
He said that since the Vatican was doing a special outreach to other faiths this month, and since I was an ordained minister, I was welcome to come to their prayer meeting. I took him up on his offer with the priests and nuns for about an hour. Most of it was silent prayer, but it was quite an amazing experience for me. When I silently asked God what He wanted me to pray about, He told me to pray that His glory and presence would return to the Catholic Church.
The next morning we left Rome for Venice. I was still pondering that amazing opportunity to pray with Catholic clergy in the Vatican prayer room. I asked God more about that before I went to bed. A few hours after I feel asleep, I was awakened by an angel in the room. He was literally growing a radiant light so bright it hurt my eyes to look at him. The glaring bright light made it impossible to see the details of what he looked like, but I somehow just knew he was an angel.
I had never met an angel before and I had assumed that if I did, I would not be able to tell a real angel from the demonic counterpart, the angel of light. But it was very easy to tell that this being was from God, because he carried such a strong presence of the Lord with him. I could feel the Lord's nearness and His goodness so strongly that I knew this thing in my room had to be from God.
The bright light woke me up, but somehow my unsaved husband slept through the entire encounter. The angel began to speak to me, answering the questions I had been praying about before I went to bed. He gave me details about this prayer journey that God had sent me on. He also spoke to me about how to pray more effectively for revival to sweep through the Catholic church.
That was my first experience where an angel appeared to me, but I am not the first person to have that type of experience. In fact, there are many recorded in Scripture. We won't look at them all, but let's take a quick look at two of them. Zacharias (who was John the Baptist's father) had an angelic visitation in response to his prayers. It happened when he was fulfilling his priestly role and praying for Israel. No one was supposed to be in that part of the temple except him. At first he was all alone in the temple, but suddenly an angel was standing there next to him. Luke 1:13 tells us, "But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." The angel just showed up and gave him information in response to his prayers.
Daniel is another person who had angelic visits in response to his prayers. He was a man of prayer and great faith. At one point his enemies plotted to get him executed because of his faithful prayer life. (I am sure you know that story as "Daniel in the lion's den." If you are not familiar with it, you can read it in Daniel chapter 6.)
We will talk about this incident a bit more in a little bit. But right now we are looking at how God sends angels to communicate with us in response to our prayers. We see an example of this in Daniel chapter 8. Daniel had seen a vision which disturbed him and he began to pray and seek it's meaning. Let's pick the story up at verse 15:
15 Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, "Gabriel, make this man understand the vision." 17 So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, "Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end..."
He had another angelic encounter in the next chapter. Daniel chapter 9 starts with Daniel's prayer of identificational repentance, which is one of the forms that intercession can take. That is where confess sins of some group that we belong to and repent of them. We may not be personally guilty of the sin, but as a member of that group, we accept the guilt and repent and plead for God's mercy. Daniel does this for Israel's sins in verses 1 to 19. He is still in the middle of his prayer when an angel appeared to him. Let's pick the narrative up at Daniel 9:20:
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. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision...
Then the angel went on to explain an earlier vision in detail. This angelic encounter is another example of God sending an angel to someone who is praying in order to give them information in response to their prayers.
That is one of the ways that angels become involved in our prayers, but it is not the only way. We will look at other ways in subsequent lessons.