St. Michael and Our Spiritual Warfare

The Three Archangel upholding Christ

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels causes a great deal of angst for many Christians new to the sacramental and liturgical traditions of the Church.  Those who grew up Roman-Catholics saw statues of angels and angel-adorned prayer cards all over the parishes, if not their homes.  Those from an orthodox tradition were familiar with the icons of the various archangels and could likely list all three of the Biblical Archangels by name.  Those who grew up in an Evangelical or charismatic background are already reaching for the Mylanta.

To those individuals, venerating the saints is a troublesome thing in and of itself.  “Praying to the saints” is idolatry.  Praying to angels is even worse!  Angels, they retort, cannot be saints because they are not even human.  They were created by God to be His ministers; how can they be “saints”?

First off, “praying to the saints” is misleading.  None but the most misguided and ill-taught actually “pray” to the saints with the expectation that the saint will actually accomplish anything on their own.  Someone who “prays to a saint” is really asking for that particular saint (or a group of them) to pray for the petitioner to the Lord.  In the Hail Mary, the archetypical “prayer to a saint,” the only request a petitioner actually makes is “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”  What some Christians sloppily dub “praying to the saints” is really asking those members of the Church Triumphant who stand before the throne to carry our intercessions to the Lord on our behalf.  Very few have any objection to asking a fellow congregant or parishioner to do the same.  Why not ask a member of that “great cloud of witnesses” to stand before the throne to do likewise.  If we suffer through a grave illness or struggle, we gravitate towards those members of our congregation who have overcome the same illness or struggle.  Why not seek out the intercession of a saint who stands before the Throne who has overcome the same illness or struggle?

Fine, so seeking the intercession of the saints on our behalf is not quite so idolatrous.  Nevertheless, “angels are not saints,” raises the protester.  By definition, a saint is one who leads a life of exemplary holiness.  Holiness is a state of being set apart by God for his purpose.  A man or woman is regarded a particularly holy if they avoid the temptations of the world and pursue vigorously the purposes to which God has called them.  Then, excepting fallen angels, are not all other angels, by definition, “holy”?  What are angels if not ministers whom God has created for a specific purpose who avoid the temptations of the world?  Is it not really being redundant to refer to “St. Michael the Archangel”?  If he is one of the greatest angels, is he not necessarily holy and therefore a saint?

Now, let us examine the specific case of the Archangel Michael.  The Archangel appears three times in the Book of Daniel.  In chapter 10, Daniel has a vision of a “man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!  His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.” (vv. 5-6)   A few verses later, this angel explains that he had been sent to Daniel as soon as Daniel had begun to pray, but that the angel was detained by “the Prince of the Kingdom of Persia,” until “behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me…” (v. 13)  In essence, the angel had been wrestling against one of the princes of the air until St. Michael, one of the Archangels, came and defeated the stronghold.  These are the stories that charismatics love!  Someone sets himself to pray and fast so that they might overcome a stronghold.  They pray and fast for days to no avail, but after a full twenty-one days there is a breakthrough and a revelation.  The stronghold is defeated and thrown down and the Christian receives the victory.  As they picture this battle transpiring in the Heavenlies, they likely did not picture St. Michael the Archangel coming to reinforce their own guardian angel.

Also, in chapter 12 of the Book of Daniel, in his vision of the Last Days, the prophet reveals,

“At that time [the End of Days] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.” (v. 1)

So, according to Daniel, the Archangel Michael will have a role in defending God’s people during the Great Tribulation.

That leads into an interesting legend regarding the Archangel.  In 1886, Pope Leo XIII had just finished celebrating the Holy Eucharist, when he looked up and stared off into the church as the color drained from his face.  A few moments later, the Pope came back to himself and finished the Mass, refusing to comment on what had happened.  Later, he told his attendants that he had seen a vision of Heaven wherein, in an agreement no unlike that of Job, the Devil arranged with God to have sway over the affairs of the twentieth century.  In response, the Pope commanded that a prayer calling on St. Michael to defend the Church be added to the end of every Mass that was celebrated.  This mandate remained in effect until 1864.

In one of his addresses to the Church in Sursum Corda, our first Patriarch, Archbishop Randolph Adler wrote the following:

“If we take a look at the 20th century, we can see that it has been one of very difficult time for the Church.  More martyrs have been slain in the 20th century than in all other 19 centuries combined!  During the Soviet regime of Easter Europe, 40 million people were killed in the name of Communism, a large percentage of them being Christians.  Under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung in China, over 80 million people were massacred to promote an ideology that spare in the face of God.  In the Sudan today, two million Christian have already been martyred, many by crucifixion, and the killing continues.  We have also witnessed the acceptance of immorality, such as abortion and homosexuality, by many of our largest and most influential denominations.”

Keep in mind that this was written over a full decade ago.  How much worse have things become in the ethnic cleansings of Africa and the downward spiral of American morality?

The Patriarch continued,

“Standing on the authority given to us from Christ, many of us have commanded demons to be cast out of a person.  We had faith in the authority we were given, and the demons fled.  But most of us have never considered speaking in faith to command angels to do battle on our behalf.  And yet, they were created for our benefit, to minster unto us.  (Hebrews 1:14)… God created these ministering angels to work for Him by ministering to us.  They work under the authority of Christ, and if we are given that authority to build His Kingdom her on earth, then we must consider the power given to us to command His angels to protect us in battle.  Are we not co-heirs with Christ?  Did He not impart His power and authority unto the lives of men who were willing to subject themselves to Him?”

Archbishop Adler then his address to the Church by charging his people to “pick up where the Roman Catholics left off.”  The Patriarch asked that:

“At the end of each Eucharistic service, we should pray the Prayer of St. Michael.  By speaking in faith that Christ’s chief warring angel is protecting us against evil, we will begin to develop the understanding that we are not alone in this battle, that we are not without protection.  St. Michael and his angels are simply waiting for us to invite them into the battle.”

In the Charismatic Episcopal Church we do not believe in Papal Infallibility; we do not believe in Patriarchal Infallibility either.  Nevertheless, when our chief bishop asks us to pray in a manner that accords with Holy Scripture, we ought to do our very best to comply.  Our bishops and pastors are the men whom God has placed in authority over us for our benefit.  Archbishop Adler’s charge was never rescinded.  The appeal still remains.  In holy obedience to our first bishop, I encourage all members of the Charismatic Episcopal Church to revive this prayer and respond to our first patriarch’s request.  As lay men and women, we can add this brief prayer to our personal private prayers in between receiving Holy Communion and the “Post-Communion Prayer.”  It is also a wonderful prayer to teach our young children.  As priests and pastors of congregations, we should prayerfully consider implementing this prayer as part of our regular liturgy.

The world around us seems to be getting darker and darker day by day.  Yet God has not changed.  Neither has His Prince of the Heavenly Host.  Both are still in the business of casting down strongholds.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray.  And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world, seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “St. Michael and Our Spiritual Warfare

  1. If I ever see an angel, it will be because God sent him. They are His messengers (which is what “angel” means. They work for Him, not for me. I have no assurance from Scripture that an Angel can even hear my prayers. So, just how do I communicate with an angel? Do I shout into the air and hope that one is within ear-shot? “Hey, if any angels can hear me, would you send my Michael over? I need to talk to him.” Sheeesh! Where do these weird ideas come from?

    • sjl

      Oh, Eric, how I do love these interchanges. I agree with you first three sentences completely. Angels work for God and not for me and they are His messenger; if I ever see one (I bet it won’t look like some chubby faced little boy), it will be because God sent him. Given.

      Now, if I here a cleaning service, the maid that service sends technically works for her boss, but she had better do what I ask as long as it falls into what “the boss” allows. I get these “weird” ideas from places like the Epistle to the Hebrews. I know that Martin Luther called it the “Epistle of Straw” but it still part of Holy Scripture an authoritative nonetheless. In that epistle we read, “Are they [angels, that is] not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” So they are not “just” messengers, they are ministering spirits sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation. Now, for me personally, I believe that I will ultimately, by God’s grace, inherit salvation and, therefore, I believe that angels are sent to minister to me (and others).

      Angels are not just messengers. Consider the angel that slaughtered the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one knight (2 Kings 19:35), or the angel that was sent to destroy Jerusalem (I Chronicles 21), or the angels who delivered the three young men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:28), or the angel that shut the mouth of the lions (Daniel 6:22). How about the angels that ministered to Jesus after His Temptation in the Wilderness (St. Matthew 4:11), the angel who released St. Peter and St. John from prison and the angel who struck Herod dead (Acts of the Apostles 12), or even, lest we forget, Revelation 12:-7-8 where it says, “Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.”

      And how is it that we know that an angel can ever hear my prayer? We see it in Scripture! In Daniel 10:12, the angel tells Daniel, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.” Now, whether the angel heard Daniel’s prayers or God heard Daniel’s prayers and sent the angel is largely irrelevant. Someone prayed; an angel responded.

      “Where do these weird ideas come from?” Sheesh indeed!

  2. Sooooo – you won’t answer my question because it is irrelevant? I guess I’ll just continue to pray to God alone and hope for the best. 🙂

    • sjl

      I did answer your question; you just didn’t like the answer. Daniel 10:12 shows that a person prayed and an angel responded. The particular mechanics really do not make a heck of a lot of difference. Nevertheless, Revelation 8, shows that angels are aware of our prayers and they present the to the LORD in Heaven along with the incense. Furthermore, we find in the Book of Tobit one of the Biblical Archangels introducing himself by saying, “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” This shows that the angels are not only aware of our prayers, but carry them to the throne of God. To make it even more clear, St. Raphael had said just a few verses earlier, “Now therefore, when thou didst pray, and Sara thy daughter in law, I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the Holy One: and when thou didst bury the dead, I was with thee likewise.” (12:15,12)

      Maybe you should pick up Peter Kreeft’s new book Angels and Demons.

  3. Thanks. I’ll check out that book 🙂

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