When you reflect on your life so far, you can probably think of many moments when it seemed like a guardian angel was watching over you -- from guidance or encouragement that came to you at just the right time, to a dramatic rescue from a dangerous situation. But do you have just one guardian angel who God has personally assigned to accompany you for your entire earthly lifetime? Or do you have a huge amount of guardian angels who may potentially help you or other people if God chooses them for the job?
Some people believe that each person on Earth has his or her own guardian angel who focuses mainly on helping that one person throughout the person’s life. Others believe that people receive help from various guardian angels as needed, with God matching guardian angels’ abilities to the ways that any person needs help at any given time.
Catholic Christianity: Guardian Angels as Lifetime Friends
In Catholic Christianity, believers say that God assigns one guardian angel to each person as a spiritual friend for the person’s entire life on Earth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares in section 336 about guardian angels: "From infancy to death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."
Saint Jerome wrote: "The dignity of a soul is so great that each has a guardian angel from its birth." Saint Thomas Aquinas expanded on that concept when he wrote in his book Summa Theologica that, "As long as the child is in the mother's womb it is not entirely separate, but by reason of a certain intimate tie, is still part of her: just as the fruit while hanging on the tree is part of the tree. And therefore it can be said with some degree of probability, that the angel who guards the mother guards the child while in the womb. But at its birth, when it becomes separate from the mother, an angel guardian is appointed to it."
Since each person is on a spiritual journey throughout his or her life on Earth, every person's guardian angel works hard to help him or her spiritually, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote. "Man while in this state of life, is, as it were, on a road by which he should journey towards heaven. On this road man is threatened by many dangers both from within and from without... And therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel guardian is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer" (Summa Theologica).
Protestant Christianity: Angels Helping People in Need
In Protestant Christianity, believers look to the Bible for their ultimate guidance on the matter of guardian angels, and the Bible doesn’t specify whether or not people have their own guardian angels. However, the Bible is clear that guardian angels do exist. Psalm 91:11-12 declares about God: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."
Some Protestant Christians, such as those who belong to Orthodox denominations, believe that God gives believers personal guardian angels to accompany and help them throughout their lives on Earth. For example, Orthodox Christians believe that God assigns a personal guardian angel to a person’s life at the moment that he or she is baptized.
Protestants who believe in personal guardian angels sometimes point to Matthew 18:10 of the Bible, in which Jesus Christ seems to refer to a personal guardian angel assigned to each child: "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." Another Bible passage that may be interpreted as showing that a person has his or her own guardian angel is Acts chapter 12, which tells the story of an angel helping the apostle Peter escape from prison. After Peter escapes, he knocks on the door of house where some of his friends are staying, but they don't believe at first that it's really him and say in verse 15: "It must be his angel."
Other Protestant Christians say that God may choose any guardian angel from among many to help people in need, according to whichever angel is best suited for each mission. John Calvin, a famous theologian whose ideas were influential in the founding of the Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, said he believed that all guardian angels work together to care for all people: “Whether or not each believer has a single angel assigned to him for his defense, I dare not positively affirm…. This indeed, I hold for certain, that each of us is cared for not by one angel merely, but that all with one consent watch for our safety. After all, it is not worthwhile anxiously to investigate a point which does not greatly concern us. If anyone does not think it enough to know that all the orders of the heavenly host are perpetually watching for his safety, I do not see what he could gain by knowing that he has one angel as a special guardian.”
Judaism: God and People Inviting Angels
In Judaism, some people believe in personal guardian angels, while others believe that different guardian angels may serve different people at various times. Jews say that God may directly assign a guardian angel to fulfill a specific mission, or people may summon guardian angels themselves.
The Torah describes God assigning a particular angel to guard Moses and the Hebrew people as they travel through the wilderness. In Exodus 32:34, God tells Moses: "Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you."
Jewish tradition says that when Jews perform one of God's commandments, they call guardian angels into their lives to accompany them. Influential Jewish theologian Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) wrote in his book Guide for the Perplexed that "the term 'angel' signifies nothing but a certain action" and "every appearance of an angel is part of a prophetic vision, depending on the capacity of the person that perceives it."
The Jewish Midrash Bereshit Rabba says that people may even become their own guardian angels by faithfully fulfilling the tasks God calls them to do: "Before the angels have accomplished their task they are called men, when they have accomplished it they are angels."
Islam: Guardian Angels on Your Shoulders
In Islam, believers say that God assigns two guardian angels to accompany each person throughout his or her life on Earth -- one to sit on each shoulder. These angels are called the Kiraman Katibin (honorable recorders), and they pay attention to everything that people past puberty think, say, and do. The one who sits on their right shoulders records their good choices while the angel who sits on their left shoulders records their bad decisions.
Muslims sometimes say "Peace be upon you" while looking at their left and right shoulders -- where they believe that their guardian angels reside -- to acknowledge their guardian angels’ presence with them as they offer their daily prayers to God.
The Qur'an also mentions angels present both before and behind people when it declares in chapter 13, verse 11: "For each person there are angels in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah."
Hinduism: Every Living Thing Has a Guardian Spirit
In Hinduism, believers say that every living thing -- person, animal, or plant -- has an angelic being called a deva assigned to guard it and help it grow and prosper.
Each deva acts like divine energy, inspiring and motivating the person or other living thing that it guards to better understand the universe and become one with it.