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We started discussing the role of angels in our prayers in our previous lesson. We came up with three ways that angels are involved in prayer:
We already discussed the first one (God sending angels to give us information) in lesson 7. Now we will look the next one (angels sent to help us in response to our prayers).
God Sends Angels To Physically Help Us In Response To Prayer
There is a verse that I love. It is Psalm 34:4: "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Have you ever wondered how God implements His deliverance? E.g., how does He deliver us from the things that frighten us? The psalm clues us in on one of God's methods three verses later--Psalm 34:7 says, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them." In short, sometimes when we cry out to God, He sends His angels to help us.
We see an example of this in Daniel's life, detailed in Daniel chapter 6. Daniel was very much a man of prayer who lived a holy lifestyle before the Lord. As a result, God caused him to excel in politics and he soon became one of the most powerful political leaders of his time. The other leaders were jealous of him, so they began to plot a way to overthrow him. Verse 4-5 tells us, "4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, 'We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.'" The knew that Daniel prayed daily, so they tricked the king into signing an unalterable law that for the next 30 days no one was allowed to petition anyone except the king for anything. The penalty for anyone breaking this law was to be executed; to be thrown into a den of hungry lions.
Then they waited for Daniel's daily prayer time and had him arrested for breaking that new law, and brought him to the king. The king loved Daniel and was upset at how he had been tricked into executing him, but he was forced to uphold the law.
We see something interesting in verse 10. Daniel knew about this new law, but he insisted on praying anyhow, because honoring God was more important to him than honoring the laws of men. He did not know if God would protect him or if he would have to lay down his life for his faith. He just knew that he had to honor his God.
Let's pick the story up at verse Daniel 6:16:
16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you." 17 Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.
18 Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"
21 Then Daniel said to the king, "O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me...
God sent one of His angels to deliver Daniel in response to his prayers. That is one of the ways that angels become involved in our prayers.
Let's look at another example of this from the life of Peter, shortly after he and James were arrested. That story is found in Acts 12. Herod executed James, the brother of John, because he thought it would help his approval rating with the Jews. He was planning to execute Peter next, but he had to put him through a mock trial first. Verse 3 tells us that the church was earnestly praying for Him. God heard their prayers and answered them. How did He answer them? He answered by sending an angel to deliver Peter. Acts 12:6-10:
6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.
8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
There are an amazing number of modern day angel protection stories as well. I don't have the time to tell you all of the, but let me share one of them with you.
The first comes from a missionary to South America and happened about 15 or 20 years ago. I do not know her personally, but I heard her share her testimony at a missions conference and it was such a powerful testimony that it stuck with me over the years. She was working in a rural village of a war-torn nation (civil war). She ran an orphanage and shared the gospel. There was constant fighting going on but it did not usually come to her little village. The rebel forces were guerrillas and everyone was afraid of them, because the guerrillas were rumored to rape women and kill people.
One day the dreadful news arrived, the guerrillas were very close and coming her way. She was warned to flee for her life, as the guerrillas were certainly kill any foreign missionaries. But she had a group of orphans in her care, and she refused to abandon them to the not-so-tender mercies of the enemy soldiers. She released her staff to flee to safety, but she choose to stay with the children. One local man served as the grounds-keeper for the mission compound. He was a convert and he choose to stay behind with the missionary and the children.
By noon, the guerrillas took her village and it was just a matter of a few hours before they would enter the compound to kill her. She and the local man decided that their only course of action was to pray. They assumed they were going to die, but they prayed earnestly that the rebel forces would not harm the children. Some of the older children joined them in this prayer time.
Dinner time came and the children needed care. They decided that the groundskeeper would go to the roof to pray and the woman would pray silently as she fed the children and put them to bed. They hugged and said goodbye, assuming they would not see each other again on this earth, because they would both be killed when the guerrillas overran their compound.
The groundskeeper climbed a ladder up to the roof, and sat on it to pray. From his rooftop vantage, he could see that about a dozen guerrillas had surrounded their facility. He expected to be shot as he prayed on the roof, but no bullet was fired. He expected the rebel soldiers to enter the compound and kill them, but they never moved on to the property. They just sat in their positions, watching the compound. They stayed there all night and most of the following day. Around late afternoon, friendly troops arrived and the rebel forces fled the city. The mission compound was safe.
The lady missionary told that story at a missions conference in Brazil a few years later. When the meeting was over, a man came up to her and asked her why she lied about the story. She did not understand what he meant and asked him to elaborate. He told her, "I am a mercenary by trade, and I was one of those freedom fighters who surrounded your compound. You said that there was just one man with you and the children but that is a lie, for there where many. The only reason we did not overrun your compound and kill you was because of all the soldiers you had on the roof and in the courtyard. We did not understand why the soldiers stayed at your compound instead of protecting the whole village, so we set up a watch around your property to keep an eye on them. They were too many for us to attack, and they never moved. We finally had to leave when other soldiers arrived. But I don't understand why you lied about it by saying you only had one man with you when you had all those soldiers."
That was when the missionary realized that God had sent His angels to protect them in response to their prayers. The groundskeeper never saw the angels, but the enemy soldiers did, and that was why they had survived the rebel occupation without being attacked and killed.
OTHER TYPES OF ANGELIC ASSISTANCE
Angels don't just protect us from physical danger. God sends them to help us in other ways as well. Let me share one story with you to illustrate:
One time I was on the missions field in India. We were traveling by car (a taxi) from one city to another, a six hour drive away. We were in a near-accident en route, where the driver had to slam on his brakes to avoid another vehicle and the car went spinning. I had my important things in a canvas tote, and they went flying out of the bag when the car went spinning. The area was very dark, but we groped around the floor of the taxi to get all of the things and put them back in the bag. When we arrived at our destination, it was late and I was tired. I was show to a room and immediately went to sleep.
I woke up about 3:00 AM. I prayed a while, then I began to unpack. That was when I noticed that my passport, my return tickets home, all of my credit cards, my traveler's checks and emergency cash were missing. I felt panic shoot through me and I began to pray. That did not make me feel any better, so I systematically went through all of my stuff, just in case I had accident overlooked my valuables. They were not there, so I looked again. They still were not there. I prayed desperately for God to help me since I had lost my ID and all of my money and I was afraid that I was stranded in a foreign land with no way of getting home. God told me to trust Him, but it was hard to ignore the feeling of panic that was rising up in my chest. It was still too early to ask anyone for help because they were all sleeping. I did not know what else to do, so I dropped to my knees and earnestly cried out to God to help me.
God let me pray this way for some time, then He told me to get up and go look at the top of my suitcase. I did what He asked me. It was sitting on top of the bed where I had left it, but now it was closed instead of opened. My passport, credit cards, airline tickets and all of my money were sitting in a neat pile on top of it. They had not been there when I started to pray, but suddenly there they were. I asked God how they had gotten there.
He replied, "I sent one of my angels to go get it and bring it back to you."
God does dispense angels to assist us when we pray and cry out to Him for help.