READER: In Daniel 10 we read of an angel telling Daniel that he was delayed from giving him the answer to his prayer because of spiritual warfare going on. My question is, are angels always involved in answering our prayers?
GREG: It’s impossible to answer this question with any degree of certainty. Having said that, it is clear throughout the Bible that, though he is sovereign, God wants to do things in partnership with created beings. As the Trinitarian God is a social God, it makes sense that he would create a world in which everything is “hard-wired,” if you will, to work socially. So while God sometimes operates completely on his own, it seems that most of the time he works to accomplish his will through others. And for this reason, I’m inclined to believe that God often—if not always—responds to prayer by means of angels.
This means, of course, that the response to prayer depends, to some degree, on the effectiveness of the angel, as well as whether or not there is interference from other angels (as in Daniel 10). The extent to which God makes the accomplishing of his will dependent upon created agents—whether human or angelic—is the extent to which it is uncertain that it will actually be accomplished. Even still, God apparently deems a world with free agents who have genuine “say-so” valuable enough to be worth the risk.
This view also helps us make sense of why God seems to respond to prayer so arbitrarily. For example, why does one parent’s prayer for their child to be healed have miraculous results while another parent’s prayer accomplish nothing? Many Christians would say it was simply God’s will to heal one child but not the other, thereby making God appear arbitrary and unloving. Other Christians would say that the first parent must have prayed with more faith than the second, making the second parent responsible for their child’s death! But we should notice that the delay in Daniel’s prayer had nothing to do either with God’s will or Daniel’s faith. It was rather due to angelic interference. When we accept that there is an invisible society of angelic beings that affect the outcome of prayer, we can appreciate why the answer to prayer seems so arbitrary without blaming God or people.