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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 two in lessons 7 and 8, so now we will look the last way that angels are involved in prayer.
GOD SENDS ANGELS TO MINISTER TO US WHEN WE TRAVAIL IN PRAYER
Prayer is not always easy. There are times when it is so intense that it become difficult to keep praying. There are times when intercession wears us out and drains us physically. Even Jesus experienced that a few times when He prayed.
Look at the time that Jesus travailed in the Garden Of Gethsemane. Luke 22:44 tells us that He prayed so earnestly and fervently that "His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." In short, He was to physically and emotionally spent to continue in prayer, but He wanted to keep praying. At that point, the Father sent angels to strengthen Him, so that He could continue His prayer. Look at the account from Luke 22:41-45: "41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, 'Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.' 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly..."
When Jesus was in His human body, He allowed Himself to be physically limited by it just like we are. He needed to eat, to sleep, and to perform other bodily functions, just like the rest of us. He got tired, just like we do. John 4:5 tells us that Jesus was wearied by His journey from Galilee to Samaria, which is why He sat down by the well to rest. He faced those same limitations when He went to pray in Gethsemane, and He needed to be strengthened in order to be able to keep praying.
God the Father could have just spoke strength into Jesus' physical body, but He did not choose to do it that way. He choose to send angels to minister to Jesus.
We see a similar thing in Elijah's life in 1 Kings 19. Elijah had just had this incredible power encounter with the prophets of Baal, where God showed Himself more powerful than Baal. That ended with all of the false prophets to Baal being killed, which upset queen Jezebel greatly She sent a threatening message to Elijah that caused him to flee for his life. A great depression came on him. Verse 4 tells us, "But he went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die..."
Elijah was not thinking clearly and He was not looking through the eyes of faith. He was emotionally and physically spent from his all-day power encounter, followed by having to flee for his life a full day's journey into the wilderness. [Intense spiritual warfare can take quite a toll on a person. Even Jesus needed to be strengthened by angels after His 40-day spiritual warfare encounter with the devil in the desert (Matthew 4:11 and Mark 1:10).]
If you think about it, it is not rational for Elijah to run for his life and then immediately want to die so badly that he asked God to kill him. If he really wanted to die, he would not have run away from the angry Jezebel--she would have been happy to end his life for him. Elijah was not himself. He was exhausted and irrational and a bit of an emotional mess at the moment. He did manage to pray in the midst of that, but he prayed wrongly, asking God to let him die. He was a mess and clearly depressed. The passage tells us that he fell asleep. I personally think he fell asleep in the midst of calling out to God.
Now let's pick up the story at verse 5:
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat." 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you." 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
Elijah needed to be strengthened and set back on course, and the Lord sent an angel to minister to him.
OTHER WAYS ANGELS MINISTER TO US WHEN WE PRAY
Angels don't just strengthen us when we pray. Sometimes they help to set us on the right course spiritually, and at other times they are sent to encourage us.
An angel helped set Cornelius on the right spiritual path. Cornelius was a gentile who loved and honored God according to the Jewish law. But he had never heard about Jesus. The bible says that Cornelius prayed all of the time. One time when he was praying, an angel appeared to him in order to turn his spiritual life around. The angel did not tell him about Jesus, because the job of sharing the gospel falls to people instead of to angles. But this is what the angel did tell him (in Acts 10:5): "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter." So he obeyed the angel and sent for Peter. Then Peter shared the story of Jesus, and he led Cornelius and his entire household to the Lord.
God wanted to draw Cornelius into a deeper and more personal walk with Himself, through Jesus and what he did for us on Calvary. So He sent an angel to Cornelius when he was praying, and that angel gave him directions that were intended to lead him into a personal salvation. That is one of ways that angles minister to people when they are praying.
When I was in Kazakhstan in 1996, I meat a young man named Umar, who was a refuge from Uzbekistan. Umar told me his conversion story. He was a devout Muslim boy who prayed all the time and earnestly sought God according to the only way he knew how--the Muslim way. One day when he was in prayer, an angel appeared to him and told him that there was a better way to worship God. Umar asked the angel what that way was. The angel handed him a New Testament Bible and told him to read it and it would show him the way.
Umar read that bible and came to believe in Jesus. He began trying to lead others in his village to the Lord. The village elders found out. They killed the converts and tried to kill Umar as well. But an angel told Umar to run and he was able to escape with his life. He eventually made his way to Kazakhstan, which is a more progressive Muslim nation that does not persecute believers.
At times, God sends angels simply to encourage us when we pray. There is probably an example of that somewhere in the bible, but I don't know where it is. However, I have heard a lot of stories about angels showing up at prayer meetings and encouraging the people who were praying. People have reported visions of angels to me during the ministry time of my meetings, when they were fervently praying for God to touch them and draw them closer to God, or perhaps to give them a certain anointing or spiritual gift. The stories came from many different people but they were all similar. The person was praying, usually with their eyes closed. At some point they opened their eyes and saw an angel coming from heaven carrying a bowl or a container of some sort. Then the angel poured something from that container over them, and they noticed an immediately change in their spirit bodies as soon as the angel did that.
It appears that at time when the anointing is strong in a meeting, there are angels in the room and those angels are busy ministering to the believers.
One time when I was in a prayer meeting in India, and an angel showed up at the meeting. I don't think anyone saw the angel, but many of us heard it, and it was a great source of encouragement to everyone who was there. I journeyed the incident when I was on that trip, back in December of 2003. Let me share a portion of that journal with you:
At one point an angel's voice joined audibly in our prayers. We were crying out to God at that time about how magnificent He was and asking that His name be lifted up and glorified in India. The angel's voice was female, and it spoke in Telegu, so I don't know precisely what it said. The sound system was not turned on and we were not using it. But the voice sounded like it was coming amplified through a sound system and it seemed to be coming from above our heads. I am not positive what happened, but I think that an angel joined us in magnifying God's name.
It is hard to describe the power and sense of the presence of the Lord that came into the room as we prayed. God was definitely in our midst and He liked that we were praying for revival. And when the angel joined our prayers, it sparked a great measure of faith in all of our hearts.
Let me share one more example from my journal. This is a personal testimony that happened when I had been struggling spiritually and had been unable to enter into worship for a few days. God sent an angel to help me move back to that place of worship. This took place in Feb of 2002:
I had the most remarkable experience today. I was working very hard on editing a teaching series, and it took a great of effort and time. I had already put well over 60 hours into editing this series. I felt a bit frustrated because editing a transcribed tape is so much work.
Suddenly a voice in my "mind's ear" began to ask me questions about God and my relationship with Him. These questions were designed to get me thinking about and proclaiming how wonderful He is, how good He has been to me, etc. It was really like a conversation.. but without audible words. And the whole thing pointed to God's faithfulness, awesomeness, power, goodness, etc. It lasted for quite a while. Let me give you an example of part of the conversation.
"Teresa, has God ever been really good to you?"
"Yes, He has."
"Can you tell me about one or two times that His goodness really stands out in your memory?"
I proceeded to share a couple of incidents where I had been deeply touched by His love and mercy and forgiveness...times when I really deserved to be punished and He came with forgiveness, love and acceptance instead.
"What are some of the neatest things you have personally experienced with God?"
Then I would answer the question.
"So you feel loved by God?"
"Can you tell me about a few times when He has really come through for you?"
The conversation got me to focus on all sorts of wonderful things about God's character, about my relationship with Him, about things God has done for me in my life, about neat ways He has met me, etc. There was no way I could focus on all of this without falling into worship. In fact, I was as much of a "spiritual high" as during a good worship session at church where God's presence comes over the congregation in a tangible way.
Then I asked if the "voice" that I was talking to if it was the Holy Spirit. It said, "No, I am an angel. I was sent to help you focus your attention on God and His goodness." The angel went on to tell me how much he enjoys hearing our testimonies of God's goodness to us and of the things that God does in believer's lives and hearts.
Then I asked the angel what God was like to him. He began to share a tad (just a tad) of what God "looks like" from an angel's perspective. He talked about His radiance and His glory and His goodness and love. Apparently, each and every angel has a personal relationship with God and they feel loved by Him. I tried to ask the angel some questions about what it is like being an angel, about his experiences, etc. But the angel refused to go there, saying that he wanted to keep the focus on God, not on himself. And each time I would try to wander, he would redirect my attention to God and His glory, His awesomeness, His power His goodness, His love, etc.
God is pretty awesome from the angel's perspective, too. One thing that the angel said about God really stuck in my memory. He talked about God's vastness. He said that he can watch what God is doing, but God is always doing so much, always interacting with so many people, always hearing so many prayers, that God is able to be in our present and in other times at the same instant...and the angel is unable to see all that God is doing at any instant. God is bigger and more vast than even the angel can comprehend. (Of course, the angel expressed this much better than I am able to repeat it here. I caught a glimpse of God's bigness as he described it, and I was awed by my God.)
It was a really neat experience. I did not see anyone.. I only "heard" a voice in my mind's ear that did not feel like my own thoughts. (I suppose it could have been my imagination instead of an angel. But if it were my imagination, then the Holy Spirit must have been involved, and He must have been really redeeming my imagination--because I don't think I was capable of imagining what the angel said about God on my own.)
I suspect it probably really was an angel that God sent to help me worship and focus on Him. But whether it was an angel or not, it was certainly an awesome experience to reflect on who God is and what He has done for me. I tell you, it is impossible to think about all the wonderful stuff God does in our lives and all the wonderful ways He meets us and not to fall into worshipping Him. God is awesome!