Now when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and likewise whenever you used to bury the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury that dead man, I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord – Tobit 12:12-15
I recently went through the epic account of Tobit and his son. What a remarkable pair of men. It was very fascinating to see in this book how the angel St.Raphael had interacted with them throughout their entire journey. I don’t recall many other similar examples of an angel interacting so much within the bible up to this point. My short reflection is specifically on the line where St.Raphael quoted above.
In this specific context, Tobit was praying to the Lord and seeking help. I don’t think there is a similar account when someone outside of God is shown to interact with the prayers of humans. For example, when Moses, Joshua, and Elias prayed, they would pray directly to God and he would answer their prayers. This specific passage seems to highlight an interesting dynamic between Tobit’s prayer, the angel and the Lord. I was very struck by the fact that it was St.Raphael who presented the prayer to the Lord. In my small mind I began to wonder why on earth did God need someone to bring Him prayers as middle-man so to speak? Could the Lord not have dealt directly with Tobit as with Moses and others? And while the answer would seem to be a very strong yes, we nevertheless see that it was St.Raphael that brought the prayer to the Lord. I almost get the sense that in this case, St.Raphael took it upon himself to bring the prayer to the Lord and that the Lord then used St.Raphael to exact His will upon Tobit, which resulted in Raphael appearing and eventually healing him. Of course, the will of the Father unchangeable, so the will of all saints is that of the Lord’s. This is something very specific that the Lord willed Raphael to do in order to teach us something.
I immediately tried to develop some objections to this thought and the one that sticks in my mind is on the order of how prayers are presented to the Lord. Could it be perhaps that the angels that stand before the Lord bring the prayers of everyone to Him and from that He responds? If this was true than we would have likely seen far more accounts of angels dealing with the ancient men of old than we do. Although we do have some examples of angels interacting with figures in the Old Testament, it is just never done like this. So this to me would indicate that perhaps this is not necessarily their role as the seven angels. The one other possibility that stands out for me was that St.Raphael, being aware of Tobit’s prayers and action, interceded for Him to the Lord that he may hear and grant the petition of Tobit. This to me seems to be the only conclusion. Why else would St.Raphael mention those words to Tobit? What would he benefit from divulging that he brought his petition to the Lord vs saying plainly that the Lord heard your prayer and I am simply here to exact His will? Personally, it seems to me that he chose his words very carefully. I think it sheds light as to how the saints can interact with the Lord. We have to bear in mind too that before Christ, no human souls are in heaven yet (presumably, I don’t want to discuss where Enoch or Elias went in this post). Only the angels are present in heaven at this point!
I guess it makes you think: if angels can intercede for us since they are with the Lord and enjoy His company, is it fair to say that other human souls post Jesus Christ are also able to intercede for us now that they too are present in His company? It would seem like a big tragedy if we did not ask these great saints to intercede for us because as we see with Tobit, St. Raphael was there to take his prayer and I am certain other saints will as well (especially the Blessed Mother!)