Prayer to My Guardian Angel – A Post Revisited

angels.jpg

WordPress provides a fair amount of information to its bloggers – it gives you a chance to see some of what works and occasionally why. Then there are mysteries. One of my mysteries is the popularity of this particular post which first went up last January. Since then it has generated over 2800 views – probably more than 5 times the number of any other single post. Interestingly, it is daily listed among my top posts. Recently its viewing is simply growing everyday so that yesterday it had more views on that day than on its first day. I have looked at the listing of “referrals” (more information WordPress gives). I can’t see where the traffic is coming from. I don’t mind it. It’s a nice post. I was reading an article by Ochlophobist today that reminded me of it. So I am reposting it. If any of you have any hints as to why such a post would continue to grow in popularity (without generating comments particularly) I’d love to hear your thoughts. Enjoy. Thanks. 

___

O Holy Angel, who stand by my wretched soul and my passionate life: do not abandon me, a sinner, neither depart from me because of my lack of self-control. Leave no room for the evil demon to gain control of me through the violence of this mortal body. Strengthen my weak and feeble hand, and instruct me in the path of salvation. O holy Angel of God, the guardian and protector of my wretched soul and body: forgive all the sorrows I have caused you, every day of my life. If I have sinned in this past night, protect me during this day. Keep me from every adverse temptation, that I may not anger God by any sin. Pray to the Lord for me, that He may establish me in His fear and make me, His servant, worthy of His goodness. Amen.

My wife recently asked me, “Do you know the prayer to the Guardian Angel?” I admitted that I was familiar with the prayer but she said, “No. I mean have you learned it yet?” I admitted I had not (she memorizes things much more easily than I do – that’s my first excuse). But it turned my attention to this simple prayer, and to the remembrance of my guardian angel. In Orthodoxy, by prayer, an angel is specifically assigned to your life as part of the rite of Baptism. I’ve always liked that fact, and known that my angel watches over me.

Many people associate Guardian Angels with “getting out of a close one” or barely avoiding a wreck. While traveling in England this summer, we apparently ran a red light on a roundabout (they rarely have lights on roundabouts so we were unprepared). A car pulled out, and all of us in the car were completely convinced by our eyes that we must have hit this car. By visual report it is impossible that we did not hit this car – but there was no sound. There was a bit of a dirty look and the other car drove on. We got out just a short bit down the road to see if we had been hit or touched in any way. There was no evidence. Part of me wanted to go back and look for feathers, thinking surely that a Guardian Angel had been injured in the event (I don’t think that’s actually possible).

But there is great comfort in thoughts of my Guardian Angel. According the traditional teaching, though, the task of my Guardian Angel is not to make up for my lack in driving skills (although I did not drive in England) but to see me safely to the harbor of salvation. “Safe” is the same thing as “saved,” and that’s not over ’til it’s over.

Another prayer you will find written no where else. It was created by my son when he was four years old (that was almost 16 years ago). He had a small statue of St. Michael the Archangel beside his bed on his nightstand. He liked it so we bought it for him. It was a very manly Michael, with a great and terrible sword drawn, and the devil, stuck beneath one of Michael’s feet, writhing helplessly.

My son’s prayer (still a family favorite):

Dear St. Michael, guard my room.

Don’t let anything eat me or kill me.

Kill it with your sword. Kill it with your sword. Amen.

Now that’s a fine prayer, particularly for a four year-old. I’m not certain what made him think of things that would eat him, but when you’re four, it’s good to cover all possibilities. The prayer worked. He has been safe all these years. The only thing eaten in his room have been several tons of pizza.

I do not really understand the objections that Protestants have to such prayers. I’m told “there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” Well, of course. But that sense of mediation is a meaning of the word that Christ alone could perform. No angel, no other creature can unite me to God. Only God become man is able to unite man to God.

But we’re talking about prayer, not union, per se. Can someone else pray for me? I hope so and the last time I checked, even Protestants are allowed to pray for me (please do). Can angels pray for me (yes they can and they do). Is it wrong to ask them to do so or thank them for it (certainly not). Can saints in heaven pray for me (the Bible says they do). Is it wrong to ask them (Holy Tradition says it is not). In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Rich Man prays to “Father Abraham” to intercede with Lazarus for him. It is of no use in his case, but he was not rebuked for speaking to Abraham. Being told “No,” and being rebuked for even having the conversation are two very different things.

I give thanks to God for the dear fellowship of the saints. For those who pray for me that I have asked, and for the many who have prayed for me that I have known nothing about. I just know that part of the joy of being an Orthodox Christian is the fact that prayer is never a lonely thing. God is the “Lord of Hosts.” He is always surrounded by such a cloud of Angels, saints, etc. He cannot be approached “alone.” This great company of witnesses, as the book of Hebrews calls them, bears witness to my prayers before God, and hopefully improves greatly upon them. They see so much more clearly than I what I see. I see and know so little. Thank God someone is praying who knows. God knows, but it is His delight, in the utter humility of His nature, to share that knowledge and to invite us to pray.

May all the saints in heaven pray for you. May St. Michael pray for you and guard your room. May your Holy Guardian Angel pray for you and the saint whose name you bear. And may you know the great fellowship of heaven even here on earth. They are truly with us.

20 Responses to “Prayer to My Guardian Angel – A Post Revisited”

  1. AR Says:

    I think there are a number of reasons people would click on this title.

    We’ve heard that angels can help; now you’re telling us we can ask them to. New idea for a LOT of us.

    Also, some people would be scandalized at the idea of ‘praying’ to anyone beside God, unaware of the varied meanings that word can bear. Worship as to God, worship as to creatures – two distinct practices that, in the Greek but not always in the English, have two distinct words. A lot of people don’t know that.

    Next, Protestants are increasingly denying the idea that there is a guardian angel for each Christian because it can’t be conclusively proved from scripture. (The reference to Peter’s angel in Acts is dismissed as the lingering superstition of Jewish converts.) So you’re offering credible assurance that yes, the angels are there, combined with this unique idea of interacting with that angel according to a proper form. (I appreciated your original advice to the teenager about not asking to see the angel because you might see something else.) It’s very lonely out there and there’s a lot of religious sludge and people want someone to tell them this.

    Finally, I think this post is blessed.

    Especially for those of us without a sacramental experience, though we know God is everywhere it’s difficult to make him seem HERE in any appreciable sense. The idea of a personal, pure, limited being indwelt by God’s presence and help for us individually, here in the same sense I am here, is very attractive. In my own case, when I first read this post a while back I dared to address a few words to…well, you know who. For the next few weeks, EVERY prayer I made was answered immediately and tangibly. Like a tutorial, it reordered my understanding of how God’s kindness works for us – though it’s through intermediaries that does not in any way decrease God’s presence or accessiblity. He burns in another’s love for me. It opened up the possibility of saints…and many other things.

  2. Steven Paul Says:

    Fr. Stephen, can you email me “off blog”?
    Steve

  3. Trevor Says:

    Besides the general interest in guardian angels, I know personally I liked your son’s prayer. (I have a four-year-old myself, and with his recent fascination with monsters in the woods, I might have to teach it to him.) I’m not sure if I’ve made a return visit to read it again, but I easily could have.

  4. fatherstephen Says:

    Of course this was written over six months before I started by one-storey universe series. Apparently many people believed there were such things as described in the Bible, but confined them to the second storey, thus effectively making their existence theoretical and problematic. Prayer to saints and angels, etc., starts knocking holes in the floor, and maybe even eliminates the whole second storey thing altogether.

    The lonely universe of a Christian in a secular world seems to be a worthy target of destruction. “It is not good for man to be alone,” our Creator said, and I think he had more than Eve in mind when He said it. The Church sings (from the Septuagint Psalms) “God is wonderful in His saints, the God of Israel!” We hardly make a move in an Orthodox Liturgy without asking for the company of angels as we do it. In my experience they seem to stand very still and make very little audible noise. But I greatly appreciate their presence. Christ cannot be sacramentally on the altar and not be surrounded by myriads of angels. They just couldn’t bear the thought of not crowding around Him, the Lord of Sabaoth.

    I am thorougly convinced that it is only a thin veil in our heart, though quite hard, that prevents our seeing what’s actually going on around us.

    Princess Ileana of Romania, later to be Mother Alexandra of Holy Transfiguration in Ellwood City, saw her guardian angel at her bed when she was a young child. Her small book on angels as absolutely the best-written, most comprehensive book that I know of in English, without a hint of new age silliness. I recommend it if it’s still in print.

  5. Prayer to My Guardian Angel and Some Other Thoughts « Glory to God for All Things Says:

    […] For an update and additional comments on this article see angels. […]

  6. AR Says:

    Thanks, I’ll see if I can find that book. Yes, I think you are right that this sort of ‘foreshadowed’ the one-storey series (which has been wonderful and which I’m still working to understand.) This post is one of those “crux” ideas where a lot of issues intersect, a lot of knots begin to be untangled.

    Do you think saints and angels can hear if you pray silently? How is it that saints can hear prayers at all if they are not omnipresent like God? Must you use an icon? If so, how did people figure out how to use the icons that way?

    We’re looking forward to your catechism.

  7. fatherstephen Says:

    “The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God.” If you will the ears of the saints have passed into dust with the rest of their body. What they hear and see now is solely by the Grace and Divine Energies of God. God, who is everywhere present and fillest all things, thus makes the saints, who are with Him, to be present as well.

    If God can hear our silent prayers, so can the saints. It is not necessary to use and icon, but it helps (us especially).

    In the experience of the Church we have learned that icons are “windows to heaven,” they “make present” what they represent, the Fathers taught. I can be real technical and note that the fathers taught that this presence is “hypostatic” rather than “substantial,” whereas in the Eucharist it is truly substantial. An icon is not a sacrament. The Eucharist truly becomes Christ’s body and blood. An icon does not become anything, but it makes present to us the person (hypostasis) that it represents.

    It’s a very subtle but important distinction. Wrote chapters on it when I was doing my degree at Duke. St. Theodore the Studite is perhaps the most important father in writing on this aspect. Sorry to be so obscure.

  8. Meg Says:

    Maybe the popularity of this post lies in your son’s prayer. I had forgotten about it, till I re-read it here. I don’t think any of the saints could top it.

  9. AR Says:

    Please don’t apologize, Father Stephen. Those distinctions are very important to me as my own schooling, such as it was, centered on the theological. I often need this level of explanation in order to fill out my understanding of a issue. (Though I very much appreciate the general, big picture explanations as well because they often get at the nature or essence of something and that sets the categories for more detailed discussion.) So go ahead, be ‘obscure.’ I’ll let you know when I get lost. 🙂

  10. Roland Says:

    The most-viewed post on my blog was the vulture post. At one time, that post accounted for about half my hits. With the help of Sitemeter, I determined that they were all coming from Google searches on turkey vulture. Every search on that term, in addition to the text links, would produce three images at the top of the page, and the vulture picture in my post was one of them. I’m not sure why Google was sending searchers to me instead of to the original source of the photo, but that’s what was happening. Since it was skewing my stats, I dropped that picture. A couple months later, after Google got around to updating its image links, then I restored the original vulture photo.

    I just did a Google image search on guardian angel icon, and a link to the image from your original guardian angel post showed up on the first page of results. Clicking on it brought me to that post on your blog.

  11. Andrew Says:

    If I may add to Fr. Stephen’s remarks, St. Gregory the Theologian said that in the process of theosis we ‘become by grace what God is by nature’. If this is true (and it is!), then of course the saints can be omnipresent, and of course they can hear even our silent prayers — they have become by grace what God is by nature.

    The Protestant flinches when he hears such things, most likely because he’s inherited a tradition that makes a distinction between the communicable attributes of God (i.e. love, holiness, etc.) and the incommunicable (omniscience, omnipotence, etc.). (Never mind the fact that this is a completely arbitrary distinction.) For the Westerner, the attributes of God are tied up with His essence, and therefore their impartation would amount to the communication of God’s very essence, which everybody agrees is absurd. Hence the gut reaction many have in presupposing that such an impartation makes the saints deities.

    But drop that Western understanding of God’s attributes, lay hold of the Eastern essence/energies distinction, and voilá! — problem solved.

  12. fatherstephen Says:

    Andrew,

    I would only note that what most Orthodox imagine by “become by grace what God is by nature,” might be almost too much. It is to exist in God who alone can give us life. I have become more and more cautious not to give the impression of a conferring of grace that somehow makes us independent of God, sort of “gods on our own.” You, of course, did not suggest that. But I fear that many people, not used to how the Orthodox understand the term “grace” hear us say something we are not saying.

  13. AR Says:

    Wait – so you two are saying I was wrong about an angel being a ‘limited’ being? Or is this just human holy ones? Sorry, I’m always a little suspicious of “voila” theological solutions. (Though I realize we’ve created many unnecessary problems by asking the wrong questions in the first place.)

    But how can God’s lack of limits be his grace or energies? Or is his ever-presence something more than merely a lack of limits? Is it a going forth from himself to fill everything – and he takes those he loves with him? But what about Incarnation and Atonement? Isn’t that what brought us near? Or was it to reconcile our turned nature to what was there all along?

    Yikes, I feel like I was going along a narrow path in the woods and suddenly I walk out into an open field, so sunny I don’t know what I’m looking at yet. Am I blathering like an idiot?

    Are you a convert, Andrew? Do you have ANY sympthy for converts?

  14. fatherstephen Says:

    AR,

    I’m sure he has sympathy, we must forgive each other much on the internet – it’s such a lousy place to communicate. You’re right God’s lack of limits is not just his grace or energies. But in Orthodox dogma we speak of His manifestation to us and encounter with us (outside the incarnation) as encounters with God in His energies or Grace, rather than with His essence. Incarnation and Atonement also draw us near and into union with Him, a union which continues to be brought about in us by His grace working within us.

    I think you’re doing fine.

  15. AR Says:

    Well then, he must forgive me as well, because I sometimes get tired of doing one of these. 😉 Yes, my “scolding” for Andrew was in jest; I was laughing at myself for being at a loss theologically, pretending to blame it on him. You are right, communication via the internet and so on.

    Well, thank you, I’ll keep studying and praying. God keep you.

  16. Andrew Says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    Of course. Grace is God Himself, God’s very energies, and therefore any notion of grace that leads to independence from Him is to be avoided.

    AR,

    Yes, I am a convert; or more accurately, I will be one next Pascha, for that’s when I’ll be received into the Church (Lord willing!). So yes, I definitely sympathize with those who are trying to grasp, to the best of their abilities, the Orthodox Faith. And to sing the praises of Fr. Stephen, this blog is a commendable place to do it. Fr. Stephen writes with a lucidity and attractive simplicity that keeps me, as I’m sure it does for everyone else, coming back again and again.

  17. Dean Arnold Says:

    See the last paragraph of this article:

    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8S36RLG0&show_article=1

  18. fr john w fenton Says:

    Fr Stephen,

    In your opening comments you wrote yesterday it had more views on that day than on its first day.

    The “yesterday” you refer to was 2 October which, in the Western Rite, is the commemoration of the Holy Guardian Angels. Perhaps searches that day generated the views of your excellent post.

  19. Meg Says:

    I came across your site accidently and kept reading to see if you were going to quote the prayer I say to my guardian angel. I don’t remember not knowing this prayer and have said it since before I could read!

    “Angel of God, my guardian dear,
    To whom God’s love entrusts me here,
    Ever this day be at my side,
    to light and guard, to rule and guide.
    Amen.”

    It’s part of my “circle” of prayers I say at night when I can’t sleep or I’m feeling stressed.

  20. Amanda McDonald Says:

    I am Catholic and as a child I prayed for my angel with this one:
    “Angel of God, my guardian dear,
    to whom His love commits me here,
    ever this nights (day) be at my side,
    to light and guard,
    to rule and guide. Amen.”

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