How God uses angels to assist our prayers

The word angel means messenger in Greek, and the witness of scripture and many ancient Christian writers suggests one of the main jobs angels undertake is to act as courier for our prayers. The archangels Raphael and Gabriel both identify themselves as angels who stand in the presence of the Lord. Raphael helpfully explains the purpose of this position in the twelfth chapter of Tobit, saying that he “present[s] the prayers of…

What St. Basil and Buckaroo Banzai know about spiritual struggles

Ever feel like changing circumstances would make life easier? You’re not alone. Basil the Great wanted a quiet place where he could abandon the commotion of life and focus on his relationship with God. So he moved from the city to the country, hoping to lower the volume. It didn’t work. Quieter circumstances failed to quiet his mind. “[W]e have derived no great benefit from our present solitude,” Basil wrote to a…

Why you never question Allah: Islam’s trouble with blasphemy

You’d better watch what you say about God if you live in the Middle East or North Africa, where seven in ten governments criminalize blasphemy. In 2014, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was convicted of blasphemy by a Saudi Arabian court. Facing four years in prison and 800 lashes, Fayadh appealed the ruling. He was recently retried, and the court upped the ante. He’s now contending with a death sentence for apostasy. In…

Read this before you pray for that Mercedes

Is it true that whatever you pray for, you’ll receive it if only you have adequate faith? Jesus seems to say so. “[W]hatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will,” he tells Peter and the Twelve. These words from Mark 11 follow Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. While hungry, the Lord spotted a fig tree. But after looking in vain over its barren branches, Jesus cursed the…

Why Bonhoeffer made the sign of the cross

Reading Letters and Papers from Prison, I was surprised to discover Dietrich Bonhoeffer used the sign of the cross in his daily prayers. “I’ve found that following Luther’s instruction to ‘make the sign of the cross’ at our morning and evening prayers is . . . most useful,” he said in one letter. “There is something objective about it. . . .” Growing up evangelical, I always understood signing oneself to be…