Angels, Demons, and Prayer

Frank Peretti can write a page-turner. I just read a borrowed copy of This Present Darkness, remembering how some of my associates were reading it (or something like it) in about 1990. Previously, I’d read a copy of The Oath while we were on vacation. Different, yet still a page turner.

The great thing about his fiction is that it assumes the reality of angels and demons, not to mention a personal, almighty, and gracious God. The characters struggle with the usual problems of life, but Peretti manages to cast those struggles in a spiritual light.

I must caution avid Peretti readers, though, about the way he describes angels and demons. It makes for a fiery, swashbuckling story, but there is not enough detail in the Bible to say that his angels and demons bear more than a passing resemblance to the real thing. Personally, I would expect the real thing to be even more awe-inspiring, if we could sense those beings in their fullness. Thankfully, we can’t, and probably won’t until the End.

The problem I’ve seen with Mr. Peretti’s fiction is not in the sincerity of his faith, nor in his storytelling skills. It’s his depiction of the way salvation comes to sinners. In the worlds of his novels, sinners are first convicted by God’s law, made to realize that they don’t measure up to God’s standard of acceptability. So far so good. But then, when the penitent characters realize they need God to save them, the answer is always found in prayer. That’s not good. In these novels, prayer is the ultimate means of grace, the required instrument by which God finally brings the salvation won by Christ to the individual sinner. Without the prayed request for God to save the penitent sinner; without the penitent sinner’s giving of his heart to God in prayer, salvation is incomplete.

With this slightly but gravely mistaken understanding of prayer, it then comes as no surprise that Mr. Peretti’s description of spiritual warfare revolves entirely around prayer, and not the things in which God would have us place our trust (Romans 1:16, 1 Peter 3:21, 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).

For a summary of the biblical doctrine concerning these things, please read The Augsburg Confession.

2 thoughts on “Angels, Demons, and Prayer

  1. Jessie,

    I read the Peretti novels about 15 years ago, I think. What I remember is that neither God nor His angels have any power to do anything unless Christians are down on their knees praying. If Christians pray, then, all of a sudden, God and His angels have wonderful, miraculous powers to deliver. But if Christians aren’t praying, God and His angels are powerless to help.

  2. That’s pretty close. To be fair, though, Peretti doesn’t limit God’s working by the “prayer cover” of Christians — only the working of angels. It was sort of like the prayers of Christians provided camouflage for angels to do their thing without hindrance from demons. As I said in the post: there’s no biblical basis for anything like that.

    That sort of weirdness comes, I think, from a misapprehension of prayer as a means of grace.

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