The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London

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THE ENSIGN MESSAGE

A PRIMER ON GUARDIAN ANGELS AND INTERCESSORS

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Canada

The idea that everyone has a personal guardian angel ever present to guide and protect them from all harm is a teaching from pagan religions that has permeated Christianity. One Christian author of a “diet book ” went so far as to say that everyone has “a personal devil” that follows them around all day, influencing them to do things. He says, “The devil wants you fat!” If that were the  case, we  would  not be responsible for any of our own sins, but could rightfully claim “the devil made me do it, blame him!”

In pagan thought, genies and leprechauns were either good or bad helpers from the spirit world ever present in life’s trials. Similarly, in Roman Catholicism, a multitude of “saints” (dead spirits) are called upon in times of need. One website has a list of “saints by cause,” and states, “Certain Catholic saints are associated with certain life situations. These patron saints intercede to God for us. We can take our special needs to them and know they will listen to our prayers, and pray to God with us.”

Even I was surprised at how many official “saints” there are in Catholicism. I found a list of hundreds that was seventeen pages long! You  can even join an email service with the “saint of the day.” Here is a sample of some of them : St. Matthew is patron saint of accountants (do not ask for help on anything else from him?), St. Bernardine of Siena for help on advertising, and St. Helen helps archaeologists. Are you an astronaut? Then call on St. Joseph of Cupertino. Your dog can call upon St. Roch. The most curious? The patron of fathers is St. Joseph, husband of Mary ; yet they claim that Mary had no other child but Jesus who was conceived  from  God, so Joseph would never have even fathered  a child! Our friends in California are told to call upon St. Francis Borgia, patron of earthquakes. The races are segregated, too, with African-Americans to call upon St. Peter Claver, and the English upon St. Gregory the Great. The famous medieval Joan of Arc is now a funeral director, and perhaps the saint with  the least  to do anymore is St. Anthony the Abbot, patron of gravediggers.  Isn’t that done by machines  today?

One of the main issues in the Protestant break from Rome during the Reformation was the Catholic teaching on “indulgences.” This is the idea that a person can pay the Church a sum of money, an indulgence, and have others pray, or intercede, for the souls of their loved ones. Another issue of the Reformation was the idea of the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints as intercessors; that we must pray to them rather than to God, and have them intercede for us with God. We are told not to pray directly to God but to intercessors. Prayers thus are “through Mary (or the saints) to Jesus.” The Biblical view, in contrast, is that we pray only to God, not to Mary and the “saints.”

The Bible tells us that the Lord intercedes for His people. In fact, that is something our Savior does, as seen in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53. Verse 12 says, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The New Testament confirms this work of Christ: “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Again we are promised, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for  us.” (Romans 8:34)

The Holy Spirit also intercedes for believers, as the Apostle Paul explained : “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he mak eth intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Never in the Bible are we commanded to pray, in a worshipful sense, to angels, to human beings, or to dead people, including dead saints. The word, pray, itself  literally  means  “to  ask,”  and  thus  is  used   a multitude of times in the King James Bible in that sense. The dictionary therefore gives two definitions  of “prayer.” First, it is to “address a solemn request or expression of thanks to a deity or other object of worship,” as in “the whole family is praying for Michael.” A second meaning is a non-worshipful sense “used as a preface to polite requests or instructions,” as in  “pray continue.”

Our prayer instructions as Christians are found in the words of Jesus. ”After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as  we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Our prayers are to be directly to God the Father, although both Christ and the Holy Spirit are interceding for us. Yet, the Lord’s response is not necessarily quick and immediate; one of His qualities is that He is longsuffering. Remember that the great Day of Judgment lies off in the future. He may not even punish this generation . “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy,  forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of  the fathers upon the children  unto  the  third  and fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18) Again in the Psalms  we  read,  “But thou, O Lord, art a  God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous   in mercy  and  truth.”  (Psalm 86:15)

God gives us plenty of time to repent of our sins: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and  forbearance   and  longsuffering;  not knowing that the good ness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

How thankful we are that God was longsuffering in regard to Saul of Tarsus, who was responsible for putting Christians to death; and yet after conversion as an apostle  he was  used  mightily in the furtherance of the Gospel witness:  “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me  first Jesus Christ  might  shew  forth  all  longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should  hereafter believe on him to life  everlasting.”  ( 1 Timothy 1:16)

We may be dismayed that our prayers for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to awaken and transform this nation and the world have not yet borne fruit. We are cautioned, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

God certainly does not approve of the sin and wickedness we see all around us in the world today, yet He is forbearing in His judgment , giving the evildoers every opportunity to amend their ways. The Apostle Paul explains, “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” (Romans 9:22)

We, too, must pray directly to our Heavenly Father for the conversion of the unrighteous and even gross sinners. When judgment finally does arrive, our consciences are clear, for unbelievers  have  been given ample time to turn from the ways of wickedness to the way of light and truth. Let us continue to pray in the Biblical manner for the conversion of this nation and  its wayward people!

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