Then, if there should be an angel, a mediator, one of a thousand, one who declares a person upright, who is gracious to the person, who prays for that individual. (Job 33:23, 26)
If forgiveness is often the basis of healing, then prayer is its fuel. Prayer is speaking to God with words, whether aloud or silently, conversing with the loving Source of all we are and have. And because God is conscious, aware, purposeful, caring, and not some celestial clockmaker, God speaks in reply to our prayers.
Meditation, insofar as it is related to prayer, is the process by which we try to free our minds of words and concepts, so that we can listen with all of our attention to what God says to us, either directly or through our angels. Some kinds of meditation, particularly those designed to help us focus on our needs, are deliberately self-centered, and this is not necessarily bad; but the meditation side of prayer aims at kenosis, the emptying of the ego, in order to be filled with God’s presence.
Contemplation is active, God-directed prayer without any words or even mental concepts or images, like direct current in contrast to alternating current. Contemplation, like God’s reply or like the visit of an angel, is a gift independent of our efforts, although we can and should practice the kinds of God-seeking that leave us open to such moments.
Prayer is as simple as any other kind of speech. The difficulty for us humans is that the other party in our conversation, God, is normally not visible or perceptible to our senses, and there is nothing we can do to change that. God manifests the divine presence in ways and at times that we cannot control. As a result, we often stop praying, because God doesn’t respond when or how we expect.
This is a serious mistake. We have a basic need to seek God; it’s inherent, it’s as necessary to us as breathing and eating. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, once said that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the center of every human soul, and that we are driven to fill it up. Saint Augustine said, long before Pascal, Our hearts are restless, O God, and they cannot rest until they rest in you.
Every people, every society, every culture, seeks God in whatever ways it knows how. The earliest human literature from ancient Sumeria is about God. Stone Age burials form Neanderthal times already show evidence of a belief in a world beyond our own.
The problem occurs when a society forgets its spiritual purpose. For too long, we have worshiped an unholy trinity called, Money, Power, and Prestige. And we have become steadily impoverished, robbed of power, and humiliated as a result. Why? Because what we have given our souls to is no god at all, and our immortal spirit, our soul, cannot be nourished except by God. We need to recover our priorities if we want to heal our lives. Our angels know this, because their priorities are as they should be: God before all, and everything in God.
We live on this planet for a short time, and we must do the very best with the talents and gifts we have, but our destiny is not for this world. When we shed our space suits, that is, our bodies, our immortal spirits enter an eternal realm where our perceptions of God are heightened beyond anything we can even conceive of here on Earth, a realm where we can grow and develop and evolve forever within the love and wisdom of God. And the way we orient ourselves toward God in this world – as preparation for our eternal future – is through prayer.
All conscious creation prays or speaks to God. The angels pray to God, just as we do, but because they are spirits and are not weighed down with space suits, their prayer is one of contemplation, unconcerned with words or concepts as we know them.
Prayer is at the heart of every angel’s being. Long before there was an Earth to protect or humans to be guardians of, the angels existed to reflect joyously back to God the glory of the divine. In Job 38:4, 7, God asks Job, Where were you when I laid the cornerstone of the Earth, when the morning stars sang together, and all the Heavenly beings shouted for joy?
We pray, alone or with others, for many reasons. Most of our reasons have angelic counterparts. The more we can pray not only with the angels but like the angels, the more we understand who we really are and the better we can heal our lives, because we will be in closer contact with the One who is our healer.
There are five basic forms of prayer: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, petition, and repentance. If those terms sound scary, then think of them as: loving, admiring, thanking, asking, and saying I’m sorry.
The most basic form of prayer is adoration. When we pray in this way, our prayer is most like that of the angels.
Adoration is acknowledging and extolling the basic loving relationship between us and God. It is understanding that God is God and that we are most assuredly not God. Adoration is a healing prayer, because it establishes a right relationship between ourselves and the Creator of all; it puts who we are and who God is in their proper perspectives. It helps us place our footsteps firmly onto the path of reality. Adoration opens our eyes so we can see ourselves as we really are. It fills us with light so that anything that is darkness in us can be revealed and healed.
The angels’ most basic prayer is one of adoration. Every religion makes this clear. Isaiah’s vision of God included the sight of seraphim, Heavenly beings who cried out, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! John’s vision of the same sight of God included the sight of myriads of myriads and thousand of thousands of angels who fell on their faces before the One seated on the throne and worshiped the One who lives forever and ever.
In some ways, adoration is the hardest prayer for us, because it requires that we put our egos totally aside and contemplate only the worthiness of the divine. (The very word, worship, means, “worth-ship,” i.e., acknowledging the worthiness of God.) We need to get out of the selfish mode that says each of us is the center of the universe and see with the poet T. S. Eliot that God the Word is the still point of the turning world.
Praise is the second kind of prayer for both humans and angels. Praise is only possible when we have come to the point of first adoring God, of establishing an appropriate understanding of who we are in relation to God. Praise is acknowledging the wonderful qualities of God, like love, wisdom, compassion, power, etc.
Angels praise God because their beings are full of appreciation and love for the divine plan. They see with great clarity much more of God’s purpose in creating the world and in giving us – we humans and the angels – unending life and consciousness.
Praise can be healing for us, since it draws us out of ourselves and reduces our egoism. When we give praise to God, obviously we are confessing all of those good and beautiful qualities that are part of the divine. Just speaking about love, beauty, clarity, peace, patience, knowledge, and other things raises our spirits. Further, it draws our attention away from ourselves; it tends outward. But the spiritual energy that we sense when we touch God in this way is a positive force in our lives. It is one reason why our angels draw us into prayer. They know that prayer is energizing, and that that kind of energy is healing.
Praise, like adoration, is a kind of prayer that our angels will always join with us in offering to God. One of the last counsels Raphael offered to Tobias and his family was: Bless God each and every day; sing his praises. The Psalms, those beautiful and universal prayers, even call upon the angels to laud the Almighty; Psalm 148 sings, Praise the Lord, you his angels; praise him all his host.
Blessing and Thanksgiving
Prayer of thanksgiving is the first kind of prayer that partly includes ourselves. Praise and adoration are totally fixed on God. We scarcely enter into the picture. With thanksgiving, we are speaking to God’s loving grace and working in our lives. We are grateful for love, concern, help, enlightenment, deliverance, peace, and so much more.
I subtitled this section, Blessing and Thanksgiving, because blessing is a bit different from thanksgiving. Blessing is a kind of mixture of praise and thanksgiving. It’s thanksgiving without speaking in terms of something human to be thankful for. Or one might see it as thanking God, not for something we have received, but for the wonder, love, and beauty of our Source.
I believe that our ability and willingness to speak to God in the prayer of thanksgiving are a barometer of how much healing has been accomplished already in our lives. After all, healing, whether of physical ills or wounds of the spirit, is something to give thanks to God for. If we can’t recall having thanked God for healing our lives, then perhaps we need to work on our healing more intensely.
Angels, too, voice their thanksgiving to God. I hope that doesn’t seem strange to you. Angels are creatures, as we are, dependent as totally upon the same Source for their lives and their growth as we are. They give thanks for many of the same things: life, love, purpose, faculties of comprehension and appreciation, the ability to grow. They bless God for the divine plan, so filled with wisdom and magnificence.
Our angels join their prayer with ours whenever we thank God. But because thanksgiving is partly an “us”-centered prayer, our prayers of thanksgiving and those of the angels will diverge. When we say, O God, I bless you for the beauties of the world, our angels join in without a single difference (although their knowledge and appreciation of the beauties of the world will be far more complete than ours are). But when we pray, O God, I thank you for helping me get through losing my job last year, our angels are going to be praying in a parallel way, not in the same words. After all, they didn’t lose their jobs last year. They may say, O God, I thank you for showing me how to help Eileen best learn the wonderful things you have in store for her because of gaining a new job. I thank you for letting me minister to her your unsearchable healing love.
So our angels will join in with us gladly whenever we speak to God of our thanks for all we have received, but they may more often join in the spirit of our prayer than in the actual sentiments.
Thanksgiving is a very human, very basic sort of thing. We even have a national celebration, a day whose purpose is to give thanks. In any language, one of the most quickly learned phrases is, thank you. So it shouldn’t be difficult for us to use the phrase to God.
We can also say, thank you, to our angels, just as we would thank a human friend for their help, but we say it on a very different level than we do to God. For example, it would not have been appropriate for me to thank Enniss [guardian angel] for helping me forgive my ex-boss for firing me. Enniss didn’t do that for me; it was the grace of God, a loving Parent giving me enlightenment, that enabled me to do that. When I was able to forgive, I thanked God for the gift, for the wisdom, for the insights. But on another level I thanked Enniss, too, because without his counsel, his advice, his quiet whisperings in my soul, I might well have missed God’s healing grace. I might have clung to resentment and not opened my soul to peace.
All of us have grown up with the notion of counting our blessings in times of trouble. Just numbering our blessings, however, only keeps us centered in our own egos, and we learn nothing. It’s when we thank the Source of all blessings, when we go outside our own egos, that we can grow whole, that we can heal. After all, we’re not misers or people for whom life is a matter of quantity rather than quality.
One of the healing things I believe our angels do for us all the time is to remind us how blessed each of us is. Our Heavenly guardians are always telling us of the good things, the whole things, that are part of us. They work to counteract the negativity all around us, sometimes even in our own hearts. The fact is that there are fallen angels, poor, sad beings whose whole lives are lived in darkness, sick with a terminal illness of their fundamental spirit, and their very presence can infect us with their depressing, evil, destructive miasma unless we listen to our angels instead, who only want our health.
Asking God: Petition and Intercession
There are two forms of addressing our requests to God: petition and intercession. Petition comes from the Latin word meaning, request. When we ask God for “things,” whether small or great, we are petitioning.
Intercession is praying to God on behalf of another person, holding them in our arms and lifting them to God. It’s a very energizing, and often draining, form of prayer. In fact, the very meaning of the word implies being right in the middle of things. It’s far more other-oriented than mere petition. Both have their place in our lives.
Our requests to God run the gamut of everything we can comprehend. And it’s right for us to ask God for whatever we need and want. Doing so can be healing to our often inflated egos, because it forces us in a gentle way to remember that we are not God, that all we are and have comes from God. Of course we have to develop the proper attitude when we pray for something or for someone. God is not a fairy godmother who turns pumpkins into coaches at our request. We can’t make demands on God, or treat God like a divination tool. There’s no magic formula for making God agree to what we would like to have happen. God is God, that is to say, totally sovereign.
But given that this is so, it is also true that God knows everything, including our needs, even before we ask. The Biblical psalmist once said, O God, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I go out, and when I go in. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it already. Because God knows everything, God is not capricious. God will always grant our needs.
God will not, however, always grant our wants. So if we ask for something we feel we need, and we don’t receive it, it surely means that either it wasn’t a need in the first place, or that it is a need, but not now.
Intercessory prayer is less self-centered than other kinds of petition, because the object of our prayers is not ourselves but someone else. When we pray for someone’s good, because of our love for them, then many unseen wounds of spirit are healed within us, even without our knowing it. I have always felt that when we intercede for others, there is a special energy of healing that rests upon us as well. Going out of our egos to feel another’s need and offer it to God helps restore the balance of creation.
Of course we can always be hit by the “ego through the back door” trick, where we think we’re praying out of sheer goodwill for someone, let’s say, to stop smoking. Suddenly we realize that we’re not so much concerned for the other person’s healing; rather, we just want to stop the drain on the household budget that cigarettes cause, or the smell of smoke that we can’t get out of the rug.
Thank God for our angels’ prayers for us! Angels’ prayers of asking and petition are fundamentally different from ours. For one thing, they don’t ask for things for themselves. Petition, per se, is not a quality of angelic prayer. They are totally centered in the divine; for that reason they have perfect confidence that they already have whatever they need. The things we pray most often about – life, health, finances, etc. – are personally meaningless to angels. Their life is eternal, health is not an issue, and money is totally irrelevant.
Angels act as intercessors for us all the time. Of course God’s loving care is not dependent on whether we have powerful patrons in high places! But as intercessors, angels have no peer in the realm of the created universe. Our guardian angels are always interceding, putting themselves right in the middle on our behalf. The Biblical Job, whose concern was to have his angel act as an intercessor with a God whose actions he could not understand, said to his friends, Even now my witness is in Heaven, and he who vouches for me is on high, the interpreter of my thoughts to God, unto whom my eye drips. We, too, have angels who act as intercessors, always speaking of us before the face of God.
Repentance is an old-fashioned word, but then again, so is angel, so is human. It refers to the way we acknowledge before God things we have done that are not a part of the divine plan. It also includes our realizing that we have left undone good things that we should have accomplished. Repentance means that we see the evil in our lives and turn away from it – and tell God so. When our prayer is a prayer of repentance, we accept the responsibility for evil we have done or good we have failed to do, and we tell God we are sorry and hope to do better. Repentance is a necessary part of our prayer, because not one of us is perfect.
Repentance is the one form of prayer the angels do not know how to pray. Not a single angel who serves God needs to repent of anything, because all of them live in perfect harmony with God’s plan for creation.
The prayer of repentance is not a matter of craven fear in the sight of God, like a fearful child who has broken the cookie jar. It is not wounded ego kicking us around the block, saying, How could I have been so stupid as to drink and drive? Rather, it is the loving trust of a child in the parent, even when the child has done something the parent has said not to do. There is no fear of punishment in repentance, only faith in the God who heals. If we want to heal our lives, we must learn to accept the responsibility for the evil we do and the good we leave undone.
If you still see God as the patriarchal hurler of thunderbolts who spies on your every fault in order to exact every bit of punishment, then I suggest you ask your angel to help you pray in a more confident fashion. The apostle John, who walked with Jesus, and who had one of the most extraordinary out-of-body experiences in history, observed, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
In working with the angels of God, I have learned to believe this: we never pray alone. It may be late at night, and we may feel as alone and isolated as a flag atop Mount Everest, but we are not. Whenever we pray, our angels pray with us, adding their assent to our words of worship or praise or blessing, and adding their own thoughts to ours when we give thanks or ask for help and rejoicing whenever we turn from the darkness to the light. We are never closer to our angels than when we pray to God. And in the quiet time that follows a period of prayer, our hearts are especially free of dark influences and especially open to the angels of love and light that God sends to us. We can hear what they say to our hearts more clearly than at any other time.
When we pray together, we have the added force of many angels joining with us. This can be an especially powerful way to focus on our need for healing. But remember this: whether you pray by yourself or with others, you are surrounded, as Saint Paul says, by a great cloud of witnesses, who share their love and joy with you.
What more perfect climate could we ask for as we work to heal our lives?