Praying to the Saints

by James Akin

Q: Why do Catholics pray to saints?

A: Well first, it isn’t just Catholics. It is all of the historic groups of Christians (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Armenians, Copts, etc.) except for Protestants. Asking the saints for their intercession is a basic part of all of historic Christianity, which brings us to the answer for why Christians pray to saints: In order to ask them to pray to God and Christ for us.

Q: Why not pray directly to Jesus?

A: One should pray directly to Jesus. Praying to Jesus is absolutely indispensable to the Christian’s prayer life. However, asking others to pray with one is entirely appropriate and beneficial. The Apostle Paul set us an example of this by repeatedly asking for others to pray on his behalf.

Consider the following verses where Paul requests that people pray for him, exhorts people to pray for him, and even assumes people will be praying for him:

  • “I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30).
  • “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
  • “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • “Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).
  • “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; and pray for us also, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4).
  • “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
  • “At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be granted to you” (Philemon 22).

The principle of intercessory prayer is most clearly set forth by Paul in the following passage:

  • “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Q: But doesn’t the Bible says Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man?

A: Yes, it does; in 1 Timothy 2:5 (“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”), but we just quoted the four verses immediately preceding this one, and you will remember that in them Paul said: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men.”

So the fact that Jesus is the one Mediator between God and man does not prevent other people from acting as intercessors. And we know intercessory prayer certainly does not displease God, for in the same passage we just cited, Paul tells us: “This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

I am sometimes stunned at how people can hop up and down about what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5 and yet miss the subject of intercessory prayer, which is not only the topic of the preceding four verses, but the segue into the discussion of Jesus’ unique Mediatorship.

Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man in two senses. First, because he is the only God-man, the only Person who himself forms a living bridge between the earth and heaven (something Jesus himself pictured when he represented himself as Jacob’s Ladder; John 1:51), but this does not prevent other people from praying for us.

Second, he is the only Mediator between God and man because he is the Mediator of the New Covenant, by which we obtain salvation. This sense of his unique Mediatorship, however, does not prevent other people from being mediators in a parallel sense, for Moses is described as the mediator of the Old Covenant (Galatians 3:19-20), just as Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24; note that the Greek word used in the Galatians and Hebrews passages, mesites = mediator, is the same as in 1 Timothy 2:5). However, since the Mosaic covenant is now defunct, that leaves Jesus as the only covenant Mediator today.

But there can certainly be no doubt that Jesus’ Mediatorship in no way prevents intercessory prayer, for Jesus himself describes this as an essential part of being a son of God:

  • “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45)

The unique Mediatorship of Christ thus no more prevents our brother and sister Christians in heaven from praying for us than it prevents our brother and sister Christians here on earth from praying for us. It is intercessory prayer in both cases.

Q: Why not just ask other Christians here on earth to pray for you, then?

A: Again, one can and should ask other Christians here on earth to pray for one. However, the more people one has praying for one, the better, as their devotion to God is added to ours.

In fact, the saints in heaven are even more suited to this than living Christians (the saints on earth) because they have undivided devotion toward God. Here on earth we are afflicted with lethargy, distractions, difficulty in concentration, and lack of fervor in prayer, but in heaven none of these are the case. Our brothers and sisters in heaven are the perfect prayer warriors, having been freed of the distractions of the body.

One may also cite in this regard admonition of James:

  • “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16b).

The saints in heaven, having been perfectly sanctified (saintified), are even more righteous than us, and so their prayers should have corresponding power in its effects. They are even better able to pray for us than we ourselves.

Q: But doesn’t the Bible say that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to intercede for us?

A: It certainly says that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27), and for this we are to be very thankful. But it nowhere says that this is exclusively his task.

In fact, the very same chapter in Romans also says that Jesus himself makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34), a fact which is emphasized elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1).

And one certainly cannot cite the intercessory role of the Holy Spirit as evidence against the universal intercession of all Christians for each other, which we have already documented so clearly.

Q: Okay, I’m convinced that intercessory prayer is okay, but I’m confused. You’ve been talking about asking the saints to pray for you. Why do you call this praying to the saints?

A: Because the verb “to pray” means “to ask.” The English word “pray” originally simply meant “ask,” and so when one would ask God for something, one was praying to God, and in the same way when one asked another to ask on your behalf, you were praying to them to pray for you.

This usage began to change in English after the Protestant Reformation, when the people running the English language became Protestants. The idealized form of English is “the King’s English,” and the king of England was the head of the Protestant Church of England. In the same way, all of the universities in England went Protestant, and so English began to take on a Protestant ideological bent (see our discussion of this in the FAQ “What is a Saint?”).

One of the Protestantisms that was introduced into English was to begin to restrict the verb “to pray” to God alone, and the semantic range of the word began to shrink in most circumstances. Still, however, there were survivals of the older, broader usage.

One of them is found, for example, in the British expression, “prithee,” as in “Prithee, fetch the book” or “Prithee, do tell.” “Prithee” is a contraction of “I pray thee” or, more contemporarily, “I ask you.” (There are a lot of English contractions like that; “goodbye” is a contraction of “God be with ye” and “zounds!” is a contraction of “by God’s [Christ's] wounds!” Check a dictionary.)

In America, where the movers and shakers of the English language were also Protestants, even this usage dropped off, but even here there are survivals of the older, broader use of the term, for example, in court documents.

Once back when I was a Protestant I had occasion to file a motion with a court, and when I got the paperwork my lawyer had submitted, I was stunned to see him writing things like “My client prays that the court will do thus and so.” My Protestant sensibilities were shocked! “Your client does nothing of the sort!” I thought. But I was only encountering a survival of the older, broader use of the word “pray,” of which I was at that time unaware, thanks to the efforts of my Protestant forebears in amputating it from the English language.

Another survival of the older usage of “pray,” and the one which concerns us here, is of course its use in Catholic circles. English-speaking Catholics never dropped the older usage when the Protestants around them began to restrict its meaning, and so Catholics still today speak of praying to the saints and meaning by it simply asking the saints to intercede for us.

Q: Isn’t prayer an act of worship?

A: In modern Protestant religious usage, yes, but as we have said, that is not the basic meaning of the term, and that is certainly not the meaning of the term in all circumstances.

It is the same with other concepts as well. Honoring God, for example, is an act of worship, but in other contexts honoring a person is by no means an act of worship. For example, Jesus himself reminded us of the duty to “Honor your father and mother” (Mark 7:10), yet he certainly was not commanding us to worship our father and mother.

Praying to God certainly can include acts of worship (praising him and proclaiming his greatness for example), but one could also simply ask God for help in a prayer.

The bottom line is that, when used in reference to the saints, prayer is certainly not an act of worship but is, as we have said, simply a request for their intercession.

For anyone who wishes to be cantankerous about this, all I can say is that there is something very different happening in my heart, and the heart of every Catholic, when one says, “Saints Peter and Paul, pray for me” than when one says, “O Lord God, you are truly supreme, you are the Infinitely-Holy, the All-Powerful, the All-Perfect Father of creation.”

And I can further only say that unless one has been personally experienced with praying to the saints, one is not qualified to judge what is going on in the heart of another as one has no done it oneself. And, in fact, one should not be judging the hearts of others to begin with, but should take them at their word when they say there is a marked difference between the two. One should always remember Paul’s injunction:

  • “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Q: What are patron saints? What are they all about?

A: Patron saints are saints that people pray to in specific circumstances. During their lives, all of the saints were in particular situations that gave them empathy for those in related situations. It therefore is reasonable to pray to them in those cases.

For example, if a saint lived in your town or country, you might pray to that saint as someone who could be expected to have a special concern for people of your area. Similarly, if a saint had held your occupation during life, you might pray to him as someone who could be expected to have sympathy for people in your occupation (having been acquainted with its trials and difficulties, firsthand). And if a saint had a similar life experience to yours, you might pray to him (e.g., a widower who wishes to remarry might ask Abraham to pray for a new wife for him, as Abraham was himself a widower who desired to and was remarried; Genesis 25:1-4).

Q: Many saints are officially declared to be the patron saint of something. What if someone was accidentally declared the patron of something for which their life did not give them any special concern?

A: The saints, being endowed with perfect divine love, would not mind at all, would still care for the situations of those praying to them, and would pray just as fervently for those asking for their intercession. In other words, they would in divine love assume the patronage of that thing.

Q: Won’t we forget everything concerning this life in heaven? Doesn’t that mean that the saints won’t remember us and our troubles?

A: The Bible clearly indicates that we will not forget everything about this life when we are in the next.

Consider the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, in which Abraham and the rich man talk and both display a clear awareness of the fact that the rich man’s brothers are still alive and not with them in the afterlife, and the rich man remembers that they were not followers of God (Luke 16:27-31). Abraham and the rich man certainly have not forgotten about earthly life or the people left behind in it.

The same is illustrated by other passages we will quote below.

Q: Won’t the saints be so caught up in God they have no time to think of us?

A: Again, the Bible shows Abraham being able to think about something other than God, and if one objects that he was at that time not in heaven (it being before the resurrection of Christ), then one should simply note that the book of Revelation also pictures those in heaven being aware of what is transpiring on earth.

For example, consider the following verses and the concern they show those in heaven having for what happens on earth:

  • “Then one of the elders [who represent the hierarchy of the people of God in heaven] addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).
  • “[A]nd they [the elders] sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth‘” (Revelation 5:9-10).
  • “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ [this tells us these are the voices of humans], and he shall reign for ever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15).
  • “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast, that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but thy wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear thy name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth’” (Revelation 11:16-18).
  • “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren [this indicates it is a human voice] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’” (Revelation 12:10-12).
  • After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; he has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and he has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ Once more they cried, ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her [she being a city on the earth] goes up for ever and ever’” (Revelation 19:1-8).

Q: Wouldn’t it ruin heaven for the saints if they were aware of our troubles?

A: It doesn’t ruin God’s heaven, and he is certainly aware of our sufferings. Neither does it ruin heaven for the angels, and they are aware of our sufferings (in fact, the Bible indicates that God sends them to alleviate our sufferings). In the same way, it does not ruin heaven for the saints. They may be concerned at our sufferings, but their beatitude in heaven is not disturbed or ruined. They feel concern and compassion, but without pain.

I imagine that our departed loved ones, for example, will see our sorrow rather like we see the anxiety of an toddler who is alarmed that one of his parents is leaving the house but is too young to understand that this is really nothing to worry about. They will see our sorrow and feel compassionate and touched and flattered, and wish we understood that there is nothing to worry about and everything is okay, the same way we feel when a small child doesn’t want us to leave. They will feel tender toward us in our anxiety, but not hurt or injured by it.

One final example should make the point that in the beatified state we will simply not feel pain, and that is all there is to it: We will be aware of the sufferings of the damned, and those are much more intense than any trials we face during this life. God is not going to cut out the part of our minds that is aware of the existence of hell (in fact we would not appreciate the fullness of God’s justice or his mercy toward us unless we realized the alternative to being in heaven), but he won’t let it ruin our beatitude for us, either.

Q: How do you know the saints in heaven are praying for us?

A: Because the Bible tells us. One passage in which this is made clear is in 2 Maccabees, where Judah has had a vision in which St. Onias the high priest shows him Jeremiah the prophet, now in heaven, and we read:

  • “And Onias spoke, saying, ‘This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God’” (2 Maccabees 15:14).

Protestants will not tend to like that passage since it is from one of the deuterocanonical books-the seven books of the Old Testament that Martin Luther cut out of the Bible-but the same is taught in the New Testament, for in the book of Revelation we read:

  • “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).

This shows us the twenty-four elders, who represent the leaders of the people of God in heaven, offering to God the prayers of the saints on earth. They therefore must be interceding with God by presenting to him our prayer needs.

And it almost goes without saying that the angels intercede on our behalf (the angels also being saints; see the paper “What is a saint?”):

  • “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Revelation 8:3-4).

And Jesus himself told us that the guardian angels of little children have guaranteed access to the Father to intercede on behalf of their charges:

  • “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Q: What makes you think the saints can hear our prayers?

A: The very verses we just quoted. It goes without saying, for example, that our guardian angels are aware of what we are doing. It is their job to guard us, after all, so we can be sure they know what we are doing and when we are asking them to pray for us.

And in the same way, when we read of the saints in heaven offering our prayers to God in the form of incense (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4), we know they are aware of our prayers.

Remember: Most of the saints don’t have physical bodies right now. They furthermore don’t have physical prayer request cards or physical incense or anything like that. This means that when they are pictured as presenting God with our prayers, they are not physically presenting him with our prayers, so they must be mentally presenting them to him. But if they are mentally presenting our prayers to God then they must be aware of our prayers.

If one objects that these prayers weren’t directed to them but to God then one only digs oneself in deeper, because in that case they would be aware of prayers which weren’t even directed to them, but they still take them up and intercede for us on the basis of them.

Either way you go, the saints are aware of our prayers.

Q: How can the saints hear our prayers? Aren’t you making them out to be omniscient and omnipresent?

A: Certainly not! That is a canard often tossed out by anti-Catholics who are not acquainted with the Catholic view of the saints.

The saints certainly have more knowledge than we do in this life:

  • “For [now] we know in part … but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).

We will never be omniscient, and certainly we will not be omnipresent, but we will be aware of many things which we are not now cognizant of.

The standard account for how the saints are aware of our prayers is that, because they have the beatific vision of God, they see in God all of the knowledge they need, all of the knowledge that is relevant to them, and so they see our prayers to them. On the standard account is thus by the omniscience of God that they become aware of our prayers, though they themselves are never omniscient and never take in the full scope of God’s knowledge, only those parts that are relevant to them.

However that may be, there is simply a big, huge difference-in fact, an infinitely huge difference-between being “multiscient” (knowing many things) and “omniscient” (knowing all things). We will never cross from the one to the other, and it is simply a straw man of anti-Catholic posturing to represent the expanded knowledge of those in heaven as if it were infinite knowledge. It is a classic case of triumphalistically bashing a position that nobody holds.

Q: Don’t the more popular saints would receive too many prayers to hear?

A: This is another common anti-Catholic canard. However, consider the following points:

First, even if a saint couldn’t answer your prayer due to too much volume, God knows your prayer, so don’t sweat it.

Second, even if a saint couldn’t personally pray for you due to too much volume, he or she could still pray for you generally-e.g., “Lord, please aid all those who are asking for my intercession.”

Third, when you write the head of a major ministry, who receives too many letters to personally answer, even if that person himself doesn’t read the letter, someone on his staff will. Since heaven is at least as efficient as earthly organizations, if you sent a prayer to a popular saints-the Virgin Mary, let’s say-and she for some reason wasn’t able to answer it, someone on her staff would.

Fourth, time doesn’t work the same way in the afterlife. Those in heaven have all the “time” they need to do every thing they need.

Fifth, and most importantly, it is simply totally false that those in heaven can be overloaded with too many prayers. The information processing capacity of the glorified human intellect and our current intellects is greater than the difference between that of a capacity of a state of the art supercomputer and a primitive abacus.

Consider the following:

a) Paul says that whereas now we know partially, then we will know fully (1 Corinthians 13:9-12)

b) Jesus tells us that on Judgment Day we will have a review of our entire lives, every action that we have performed. This extends down even to the most trivial of our actions, for he tells us:

  • “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36).

But unless Judgment Day is as long as our entire lives (and longer, in fact, since we will know and understand everything we did and its significance better than we do now), then our information processing capacity must be far, far larger.

c) Furthermore, we will not only know everything that we have done, we will know everything that everyone around us has done, for Jesus tells us:

  • “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:2-3).

This means that we will not only be able to process every single action of our own lives and its significance, we will be able to do the same for every single action of the lives of those around us, indicating a truly astronomical amount of information processing power for our intellects once freed of our current conditions.

d) Note how the New Testament describes Jesus as interceding for us:

  • “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • “[B]ecause Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).
  • My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).

In these passages, Jesus is said to be interceding for us in his capacity as Christ and as priest-not just as God the Son. Because Christ and priest are two roles he took on as a result of the Incarnation, he is interceding for us in his human capacity as Messiah and high priest. These passages thus speak of him interceding for us via his glorified human intellect, not his divine intellect. As a result, if Jesus-the man with more prayer requests sent to him than anyone else-is able to intercede for us with his glorified human intellect, there can be no doubt that every other saints, who receives fewer prayers, will be able to do so as well.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible forbids contact with the dead?

A: No, the Bible forbids conjuring up the dead. God forbade the people of Israel to use the pagan practice of mediumship as a means of getting supernatural information, telling them instead that he would send them prophets. Conjuring up the dead to get information out of them was thus right out:

  • “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. … The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so. The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:9-15, NIV).

There is a big difference between humbly asking a departed loved one to pray for you and trying to conjure them up to pump them for information. Saying, “Honey, please pray for me because I need help right now” is not the same as holding a seance, and that is all there is to it.

Only conjuring up saints and angels is forbidden by the Bible. Talking to those in heaven is not forbidden. In fact, it is encouraged, for in the Psalms we pray to the angels to ask them to join us in worshipping God:

  • “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Psalm 103:20-21).
  • “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Psalm 148:1-2).

Q: Did the early Church Fathers support praying to the saints?

A: They sure did! See the following link.

Q: Where does it say in the Bible that we should pray to saints?

A: This question presupposes that there needs to be a place in the Bible to tell us it is okay to pray to the saints.

Not only have we showed in this series of questions that the principle are all in place to ask them to pray for us–so that we can infer a permission from the principles–but the supposition that we need a passage to tell us something is okay is the very essence of legalism-the idea that one must have special permission before one is allowed to do something, the principle “Whatever is not expressly permitted is prohibited.”

A fundamental principle of all law-a principle which legalism rejects-is that whatever is not expressly prohibited is permitted. God gave us intellects and expects us to use them. The function of his law is to set boundaries to make sure we know what we are not permitted do. His law is not meant to create pockets of freedom so that there will be something we are permitted to do.

Nothing can be more legalistic than the idea you have to have an express biblical permission before you can do something, and you will search all day to find permissions to do most of the things we do every day.

This legalistic, soul-scarring misunderstanding is a key part of the Pharisaical mindset that Jesus condemned, for if one follows this principle consistently, one will most assuredly “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4), and the words of Jesus will surely apply to you:

  • “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11:46).

That being said, it only remains to be pointed out that in this series of questions we have already shown verses where we are encouraged to pray to those in heaven. As we stated, in the Psalms we pray to the angels to ask them to join us in worshipping God:

  • “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Psalm 103:20-21).
  • “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Psalm 148:1-2).

These may be prayers in which we are not seeking to get any benefit for ourselves-just asking them to worship with us-but they are requests, and thus prayers, none the less.

And if there is nothing wrong with humbly and sincerely asking God for benefits for ourselves, not anything wrong with asking for others to pray on our behalf, then the same principle applies here. Once it has been shown that it is okay to ask those in heaven to pray for us then there are no restrictions on what we may ask in these prayers, so long as the subject is not otherwise unworthy of a prayer.

The bottom line: Praying to the saints is totally biblical. Period.

Q: I see what you are saying, but am not yet comfortable praying to saints. How can I start?

A: When I was becoming Catholic, I too faced this problem-recognizing that praying to the saints was okay in principle but not yet feeling comfortable with it. To solve it, I began by talking to someone I knew was aware of my situation and who was assigned to intercede for me-my guardian angel.

I then broadened out to cover biblical saints-in particular Saints Peter and Paul-and asked them for their prayers as well.

I also began to pray to the saints of the parishes I attended, figuring they would have special concern for those who attended these parishes.

And I asked departed relatives who I had reason to believed were saved.

By this point I was just comfortable with asking any of the saints for help, and I suspect a similar program would help just about anybody gain comfort with the practice after they have seen its intellectual foundations.

God bless you, and good luck!

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