A Thin Veil between Heaven and Earth

If we believe the Bible is true,
then we should pray to saints and angels.

There are a number of biblical passages which suggest the following:

  • Some of God’s people, both on earth and in heaven, have the ability to see and hear things which happen far away.
  • Based on this knowledge acquired from far-seeing and far-hearing, the inhabitants of heaven pray about such things.
  • These statements apply to those who have previously died (saints), and also to those who have never died (Enoch, Elijah, and the angels).

Each of the following passages demonstrate one or more of these points . . .

Far-Seeing / Far-Hearing

While still living on earth, God’s prophets sometimes receive the ability to see and hear things that occur a long distance away.  For example:

2 Kings 5:
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”
21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?”
22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’”
23 So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him.
24 When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed.
25 Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?”
And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.”
26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?
27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.

If God grants such abilities to men who are still living on earth, then it is not surprising that God grants similar abilities to Christians in heaven, so that they are able to see events and hear prayers which take place on earth.

Jesus said that every time a person on earth repents, all of heaven knows about it and rejoices:

Luke 15:
4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’
7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’
10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Think about the practical implications. A fifteen-year-old boy drives his pickup truck to a farmer’s field on the outskirts of town. He walks into the middle of that field, and he is all alone. There is not another human soul around for a mile in any direction. In tears of conviction, he falls to his knees before God, and he pours out his heart in a prayer of repentance. According to Jesus, that boy’s prayer is broadcast in heaven, and all the inhabitants of heaven rejoice.

How do the angels and saints hear the prayers of men on earth? I have no idea how they do it. I also have no idea how the prophet Elisha was able to see and hear what Gehazi was doing, miles away. All I know is that Scripture says it can be done.

Scripture teaches us to pray to angels. . . . The New Testament tells us to sing/speak/pray the Psalms (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16; James 5:13). If we do this, then one of our prayers will be Psalm 103. When we speak this Psalm, there is a section where we directly address the angels and ask them to do something:

Psalm 103:
20 Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word.
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure.

If it is acceptable for us to directly address angels, asking them to bless the Lord, then it is also acceptable for us to directly address angels, asking them to pray for us. Just as I may ask my mother to pray for me, or my wife to pray for me, I may also ask Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, or my own guardian angel to pray for me.

What do the angels do with our prayers, after they receive them? They do the same thing with them that my mother and my wife do . . . they turn to God and present my prayers directly to Him. The book of Revelation observes that various beings in heaven “fell down before the Lamb,” each of them having “golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Rev. 5:8). But they don’t keep our prayers locked up in those vials forever. They ultimately offer our prayers directly to the Lord Himself:

And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel. (Rev. 8:4)

Angels sometimes hear our prayers, without even invoking the power of far-seeing or far-hearing. Sometimes they hear us, simply because we are talking out loud, and they are invisibly standing right next to us. For example:

2 Kings 6:
15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Passages like this seem to suggest that the veil between heaven and earth is very thin indeed.

Even today, there is no telling how often you are given the opportunity to entertain angels without even knowing it:

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)

If angels can get close enough for you to entertain them, then they can also get close enough to hear you pray.

According to Jesus, the inhabitants of paradise are able to speak with the inhabitants of hell, even though they are separated by a great chasm. In Luke 16, Abraham is in paradise, and he has a conversation with a rich man in hell. With that in mind, it seems reasonable that the inhabitants of heaven can also see and hear what is happening on earth.

The Intercession of the Saints in Scripture

In the Old Testament, centuries after the prophet Jeremiah died and went to paradise, he continued praying for God’s people:

2 Maccabees 15:
12 [Judas Maccabeus] told them that he had seen a vision of Onias, the former High Priest, that great and wonderful man of humble and gentle disposition, who was an outstanding orator and who had been taught from childhood how to live a virtuous life. With outstretched arms Onias was praying for the entire Jewish nation.
13 Judas then saw an impressive white-haired man of great dignity and authority.
14 Onias said: ‘This is God’s prophet Jeremiah, who loves the Jewish people and offers many prayers for us and for Jerusalem, the holy city.’

In the New Testament, after numerous Christians martyrs go to heaven, they continue to know what happens on earth, and they pray to God about it:

Revelation 6:
9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

They knew what was happening on earth. They could see that certain things had not yet happened there. So they prayed for God to take care of it.

Saints and Angels are Alive

It is also important to remember that the saints in heaven are not actually “dead”. They are very much alive. In reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus said that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27). Luke gives us additional detail, informing us that “He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38). As we saw earlier, Abraham is alive in paradise, and he is able to have a conversation with the rich man in Luke 16.

Thus, in truth, prayer to saints is not “prayer to the dead”. Rather, it is communication with the living. They are able to see what happens on earth. They are able to hear the things that we say and pray. They are alive in the presence of God, and they pray for us.

A Recommendation

All things considered, if you want to try talking to someone in the spirit world, you might want to start with your guardian angel, or with your children’s guardian angels. You might simply say out loud, “Thank you for watching over my children and protecting them.” I make this suggestion for the following reasons:

  1. We know that individual people do have guardian angels
    (Matthew 18:10, Acts 12:15, Psalms 91:11).
  2. Angels have never experienced death, so we know that
    talking to them cannot be confused with necromancy.
  3. If any angel is going to be consistently nearby, it is your guardian angel.
    So you don’t have to worry about his ability to hear you.
  4. In this case, you would not be making any requests.
    You would simply be showing your gratitude by saying, “Thank you.”

Do you have any specific objections against talking to one’s guardian angel?
Is there any particular Scriptural command you think you would be breaking?

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 2 Kings 5:20-27, 2 Kings 6:15-17, 2 Maccabees 15:12-14, Acts 12:15, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:15-21, Hebrews 13:2, James 5:13, Luke 15:4-10, Luke 16:19-27, Luke 20:38, Mark 12:27, Matthew 18:1-10, Matthew 22:32, Prayers to Angels & Saints, Psalm 103:20-21, Psalm 91, Revelation 5:8, Revelation 6:9-10, Revelation 8:4. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A Thin Veil between Heaven and Earth

  1. tpkatsa says:

    Brother, I think you have a lot of well-intended conjecture here. Personally, as a former evangelical I’ve never really been able to overcome the difficulty inherent in the whole idea of praying to saints and angels, given that God is He to Whom we should pray; whereas saints and angels, while worthy of veneration, are nevertheless created beings just as we are.

    In order to bridge this difficult divide, it was explained to me that that we don’t actually pray to saints and angels, we merely ask them to pray [to God] for us, as a prayer is by definition addressed to God.* I accept the teaching that the saints are not dead but alive in Heaven and we ask for their intercessions. But I believe praying and asking are two different concepts (otherwise why two different words?); I find it difficult to accept the idea that we pray to the saints in the same way we pray to God. We risk placing God-created beings (saints, angels) as equal to God, which is idolatry.

    Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I think it’s better to be a little more conservative in our approach the spiritual world. Some of the things you say here are interesting and creative.

    *Prayer being an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity or object of worship through deliberate communication; that is, a direct petition to God.

    • Vincent M. says:

      “Pray” in english means “petition.” Think of “prithee” in old english. To pray to someone is to ask something of them.

    • According to Scripture, and according to the English language in general, I do not believe “prayer” is restricted to God alone. Think of phrases like “pray tell” and “I pray thee” in Shakespeare, Jane Austen, etc. And look up the word “pray” in the King James version of the Bible. The first time the word shows up, it is Abraham praying to Sarah. The word “pray” simply means “ask”.

      I appreciate the distinction you make between “praying to saints” and “asking saints to pray for us”, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. After all, people in Scripture commonly asked the OT prophets and NT apostles to heal them and to help them, even though they knew the help would ultimately come from God. So it is with the saints in heaven. If Scripture says that the earthly Elisha could heal a boy via God’s power, then I have every reason to believe that the heavenly Elisha can do the same thing. Surely his entrance into heaven did not make him less able to help us. In either case, God is the ultimate source of healing.

      Nevertheless, for the sake of witnessing to Protestants, I think it is fine to just focus on “asking saints to pray for us”. As far as I know, there is no real need to go beyond that, even when we become Orthodox.

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  5. Lora Goulet says:

    This post is so wonderful, so important, so true! Thank you for this blog! God, prayer and intercession of the Angels and Saints- so inspiring, so true!



    • God bless you! According to Holy Scripture, people in heaven are able to see and hear things which happen on earth. However, I do not know whether God gives this ability to all people in heaven at all times, or only in certain circumstances. But yes, it is possible that your husband is able to see and hear you.

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