December 7, 2009

Can We Command Angels?
By Pastor George Van Alstine

Last week a young man came into my office because “the Lord told me to.” After a lengthy, somewhat-contentious conversation about lots of things, he said, “Pastor, I want you to pray for me.” I did, and he followed my Amen with this: “I accept your prayer. Now let me pray for you.” I accept your prayer? That was a strange response; as if he had veto power over my prayer.

Then came his prayer for me. This was a shocker. He hardly talked to God at all. Most of his “prayer” was addressed to angels. He “commanded”—this was the word he used over and over—angels to watch over me, fight battles for me, make me powerful in spiritual ministry. And then he said Amen.

I had never heard this kind of language before, and I found it very strange. It was as if he was seeing a whole different reality than I was, populated by a host of spiritual beings that controlled the events around him. No, wait! They didn’t control things, he did, because he was commanding them. It was as if he held the remote control for the latest hi-tech futuristic battle game.

When he left, I went right to my computer. I plugged in “angels” and “command,” and I was astounded by the number of results. This whole business of commanding angels turns out to be quite the fad in certain circles of pop-Christianity. Some TV evangelists have woven a whole fabric of teaching around angels being our servants.

Here’s how it works. The key teachers of this doctrine admit that there is no example in the Bible of a human commanding angels. They base their angel-commanding practices on this one Bible passage, Hebrews 1:14
“Are not they [angels] all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
From this, they infer that angels have been sent by God to be our servants and to do our bidding. Actually, these teachers see our angels as our agents in collecting on promises God has already made to us. God has given us, for instance, victory over lustful sins. They teach that we can (and should) command angels to fight against lustful influences that come into our lives.

However, the teachers of this doctrine don’t focus on lust very often. Their attention is mostly on prosperity. Yes, God has promised you success in your career, promotions and raises, stock market profits, that new car and a bigger house. There are angels at your command ready to claim these blessings for you. They are like the enforcers a mob boss might send out to pick up the protection money. All you have to do is command them.

(Of course, the TV evangelist who teaches you to command these angels also has command over them himself. He has already instructed the same angels to make sure he gets his cut through your healthy donation to his ministry.)

Ironically, just a few verses after the passage where angels are referred to as “ministering spirits,” the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 2, where it is established that human beings are “a little lower than the angels” in God’s created order. That we as lesser humans can command angels is a bizarre twist on the actual point being made in this passage.

My young visitor announced that he “accepted” my prayer for him. Well, after reviewing the Bible’s teaching, I have decided I can’t in good conscience accept his prayer for me because it borders on blasphemy. Protestants have criticized Catholics for their praying to saints instead of to God himself. It seems that this new popular practice of praying to angels instead of to God is at least as bad. To pray to intermediates, whether saints or angels, dishonors the only One who can truly hear and answer prayer.

It strikes me that prosperity preachers avoid approaching God directly because on some level they are embarrassed that their requests are so self-centered and contrary to the teachings of God’s Son.