By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
When you need healing, you may think of the archangel Raphael. This popular angel is associated with all kinds of healing for body, mind, and spirit. Who is the archangel Raphael, and what can we learn from the healing assignments that God sometimes gives angels to work on?
Is the Archangel Raphael Found in the Bible?
The Bible used by most Protestant denominations doesn’t mention the archangel Raphael. However, the Bible used by Catholic and Orthodox Christians does include information about Raphael, in the Book of Tobit. The Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish religious text that Christians in the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox churches consider a part of their sacred canon of scripture, also mentions Raphael.
In Tobit 12:15, Raphael declares: “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in the glorious presence of the Lord, ready to serve him.” These seven angels are known as archangels in Christian tradition because they’re angelic leaders who each direct many other angels and focus on specific types of assignments from God. The Protestant Bible mentions two other angels who are traditionally considered part of God’s 7 archangels (Michael and Gabriel). Raphael and the angels who works with him are all healing angels, according to Christian tradition.
The Book of Tobit describes how Raphael heals both physically (healing a father named Tobit of blindness and keeping his son Tobias safe while traveling), and spiritually (delivering Tobias’ fiancée Sarah from a demon). The family whom God sends Raphael to help has lived faithfully. When they hire a guide in a foreign country, they don’t realize that the guide they hired is actually the archangel Raphael in disguise, sent by God to help them. Along the way, Raphael directs Tobias to use an ointment made from a fish to heal his father Tobit's blindness. Raphael also helps get rid of a demon named Azazel who had been tormenting Sarah. When Tobias and Tobit try to express their gratitude by paying their guide, they discover that he is actually the archangel Raphael – and Raphael declines personal thanks, directing them to thank God instead. Tobit 12:6 says: “Then Raphael took them both aside and said, ‘Bless God, utter his praise before all the living for the favor he has shown you. Bless and extol his name. Proclaim before all people the deeds of God as they deserve, and never tire of giving him thanks.’” Then Raphael finally reveals his identity to Tobit and Tobias. Raphael says in Tobit 12:13-14, “… I was sent to test your faith, and at the same time, God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law, Sarah.”
After Raphael reveals in verse 15 that he is one of God’s archangels, verses 16 to 21 describe the rest of the story: “They were both overwhelmed with awe; they fell on their faces in terror. But the angel said, 'Do not be afraid; peace be with you. Bless God forever. As far as I was concerned, when I was with you, my presence was not by any decision of mine, but by the will of God; he is the one whom you must bless as long as you live, he the one that you must praise. You thought you saw me eating, but that was appearance and no more. Now bless the Lord on earth and give thanks to God. I am about to return to him who sent me from above. Write down all that has happened.’ And he rose in the air. When they stood up again, he was no longer visible. They praised God with hymns; they thanked him for having performed such wonders; had not an angel of God appeared to them?”
In The Book of Enoch, God gives Raphael a healing assignment: “Restore the earth, which the [fallen] angels have corrupted; and announce life to it, that I may revive it” (Enoch 10:10). Enoch’s guide also mentions Raphael, saying in Enoch 40:9 that Raphael “presides over every suffering and every affliction” of people on Earth.
Other religious texts that mention Raphael include the Zohar (from Jewish Kabbalah) and the Hadith (from Islam).
Who Is the Archangel Raphael?
The archangel Raphael is a holy angel who works for God on healing assignments for humanity. Raphael also leads other angels who also specialize in healing work. All archangels are high-ranking angels who lead angelic groups focused on specific types of work. Raphael and other healing angels are available whenever God calls them to help people heal their bodies (from any illness or injury) or their minds (from anxiety, sorrow, anger, or other concerns).
When Raphael works, it is only God’s power that flows through that work and makes healing possible. Raphael (and other angels) aren’t magical beings who summon power on their own. Instead, they are faithful messengers of God. So, anyone who experiences healing from Raphael’s work is really experiencing God’s healing, delivered through Raphael or one of the other angels who work with Raphael on healing assignments. Raphael’s name points to this reality: Raphael means “God heals.” It’s important to remember who is actually doing the healing work – God – and to stay focused on God, like the holy angels do. Only God is worthy of worship, and all angels who serve God direct people to worship God alone. As Raphael says in Tobit 12:18: “As far as I was concerned, when I was with you, my presence was not by any decision of mine, but by the will of God; he is the one whom you must bless as long as you live, he is the one that you must praise.”
Christians from the Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox churches celebrate the archangel Raphael as the patron saint of people in the medical profession (such as doctors and nurses), patients, counselors, pharmacists, love, young people, and travelers. Christians traditionally chose those patronage areas for Raphael because of his healing missions, and also because of how he helped the family in the Book of Tobit.
What Should Christians Know about Him?
The main important fact to know about Raphael is that he is a leading healing angel who serves humanity on God-given missions. When you think of the archangel Raphael, let that motivate you to reach out to God for the healing you need in your life. Ask God for healing, and expect God to answer in whatever ways are best – including possibly sending healing angels to help you. Healing often works holistically – engaging all aspects of body, mind, and spirit – as the scriptural stories of Raphael’s healing work show. Well-being research also shows that healing works in ways that reveal connections between our bodies and souls. My book Wake Up to Wonder describes research on managing stress that illustrates this dynamic. Emotional stress takes a toll on people’s physical health, but research shows that when people practice prayer and meditation to manage stressful emotions well, their telomeres (the protective caps on chromosomes) can lengthen, which increases cellular protection and reduces disease risks.
So, when you pray to God for healing, God will answer your prayer in ways that take into account every aspect of what’s best for you: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. God will decide what help to send you, and that help may come from healing angels like Raphael. You likely won’t be aware of everything that God sets in motion to answer your healing prayers. Just as Raphael was disguised when helping Tobit’s family, healing angels often complete their assignments from God incognito. What you can be sure of, however, is that God will work powerfully to help you behind the scenes when you pray for healing.
Let Raphael’s work serving God inspire you to praise God for his healing work. Psalm 103:2-3 encourages us all to “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.”
The archangel Raphael is an important angel to know about because he does important healing work for people on assignment from God. However, it’s also important not to focus more on Raphael than it is on God. Keep in mind that it is God’s power at work through Raphael and other healing angels. If you experience a healing of any kind, give God – the source of your healing – your gratitude and worship.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ana Bórquez
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.