Praying to the Saints

I came across a friends blog
on this topic and thought it would make for an interesting discussion.
It is something that has been practiced since early Christianity. That
is chiefly that we communicate with our brothers and sisters in Christ
that have gone on before us in life. Catholics and Orthodox both
practice this form of prayer today.

I am not certain where I stand I on the idea, however, I do love the
fact that because of Christ, death has no victory over us. Those who
have gone on before us are still very much alive because of what Christ
accomplished on the cross. Which leads me to believe that we can “pray”
to them in the sense that they are able to hear us. Death has not made
their victory banner mute.

Your thoughts?

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5 thoughts on “Praying to the Saints

  1. You already know my stance on this :). I would say, however, that it is one of the most beautiful things about it. Death cannot separate people in an absolute sense, and the act of prayer to saints actually demonstrates the impotence of death. Conversely, a hard barrier between we and they indicates that death still has considerable power.

  2. Interesting topic for discussion today! I use to be Catholic, was born and raised in that church for 22 years. I love your point about how death can’t separate those dead in Christ from those still on earth, I never looked at the saints from that perspective. As a child I was never taught to pray to the saints, but was taught a little about them. I was always told to pray directly to God. I can’t help but think about who the Bible says our intercessor is. Doesn’t Jesus go to the Father on our behalf? I can’t say I know for a fact, but I think there could be lot of old fashion Catholics out there (especially in the Hispanic culture) who only pray to the saints. If we are praying to the saints for intercession, then what do we need Jesus for? Know what I mean? Don’t judge me just yet…
    I have heard things from people about burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in some corner of your front yard and then you will be blessed with money. That sounds like spiritualism and the Bible speaks clearly on that. According to news reports, Pope John Paul II is on his way to sainthood because of miracles that came about from people who prayed to him….I really don’t know what I think about that. So then Pope JP is healing now and not Jesus? Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, right?
    I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with talking to those who have died in Christ, nor do I see anything wrong in acknowledging the saints, but praying to them….it just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ll be the first to admit that I, on occasion, reminisce about my grandmother and even talk to her sometimes, but I can’t say I am praying to her, that’s almost like idolatry. I only pray to God. But as a former Catholic, I still don’t fully understand the practice of praying to the saints and I can’t say I think it should be practiced. I love my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ nonetheless.
     But here’s the thing that drives me insane about this whole topic: Evangelical Christians, and the like, being anything but Christ-like in putting down, insulting, degrading, and judging those in the Catholic faith for their beliefs and traditions. What bugs me even more are former Catholics who do the same – as if they are better now that they are not Catholic anymore. Gimme a break!

  3. Just a quick point: Praying to saints isn’t anything like spiritualism. I’m not RC, so I can’t speak on the burying the statue of Joseph, but praying to saints is identical in theology to asking someone to pray for you in church. Neither Orthodox nor Roman Catholic theology states that the saints can do anything of themselves, but only what God gives them power to do. In that vein, every objection to prayer to saints is simultaneously an objection to asking anyone to pray for you (Why ask someone else to pray for you when your child is sick? Isn’t Christ the sole mediator?).All requests for intercession are prayer, and it doesn’t matter whether a person is living or dead. This is the root, archaic meaning that makes sense of the word, and the sense is preserved in the phrase “I pray thee…”, which though not in common use, is still common enough to be recognized today. It would, truly, be a sad world if we couldn’t ask others to pray for us, and the same is true about death forming a division.The mediation of Christ, if we are to preserve any intercessory prayer at all, must be something different than intercession. If it is intercession, and the prayer to saints is bordering on spiritualism or idolatry, then the same thing would be true of the “living” praying for others. Since we know that Christians have always prayed for one another, then the Christ’s mediation takes on a completely different character, one that can’t apply to these situations.

  4. Cool! I see you point canicus and have gained a little more understnading on this subject. And good point about having our friends pray for us. I agree with your comment for the most part. But I have to ask, is that theology Biblical? Is it in the Bible? Do you know of anywhere in the Bible where the living ask the dead to pray for them? Just a friendly question 🙂

  5. Your question is more complicated than it seems. Take, for instance, another doctrine, the Trinity. It isn’t articulated at any point in Scripture, but you can piece together the rudiments of the doctrine from Scripture. The doctrine itself, as we confess it today, actually took its form later (we couldn’t remotely call it finished until the end of the fourth century). In all truth, the view that everything must be found in Scripture would cut the heart out of a lot of Christian doctrine (including the view that everything must be found in Scripture).The same thing is true about the prayer to saints. It is nowhere explicitly stated in Scripture, but you can find all that you need to see it in Scripture, and I can’t demonstrate it in some clear “This verse proves it” fashion, which rarely demonstrates anything (one man’s clear Scripture is another man’s hard bone). These pieces if taken together, though, make the doctrine unavoidable.The first piece is that nobody who dies in Christ is truly dead; they all live. Christ said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (Jn. 14.6-7). Then, when the Sadducees questioned Him, He answered “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mt. 22.32).Likewise, we know that those who have passed on pray. Revelation has several places where the twenty-four elders (symbolic of the OT and NT Assembly) throw down their crowns or otherwise pray. We also know that they cry out for vengeance in Rev. 6.9-11. We know that they are conscious, because Moses and Elijah met the Lord during the Transfiguration (Mt. 17.1ff.). In every depiction of the heavenly court, there is nothing but prayer. What else would the deceased be doing if not praying? Even the rich sinner in Jesus’ parable, when he got to heaven, was concerned with his relatives and attempted to intercede on their behalf (16.19ff.). If a wicked man cries out of love for those dear to him, how much more a holy man cry out from love? If they were self-absorbed and not crying out in heaven, then it would be a violation of love itself.Then the third piece to consider is that the bonds of the Church are indissoluble. First, there are the words of St. Paul, “neither death nor life…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8.38-39), but the bond of the Church’s unity is that very love. The Lord prayed concerning the Church that “they may be one just as We are one” (Jn. 17.22), and the bond of the Trinity is love itself, because “God is love” (I Jn. 4.8).Those three things pretty much make the doctrine unavoidable, and unless the Scripture must state everything in a blunt fashion, it’s rather hard to avoid the doctrine. To avoid it, one must deny any one of the following: that the bond of faith is love, that those in Christ survive even death, that existence in heaven is a constant state of prayer, or that the righteous dead do not love those they left behind. If you deny any of these, then you deny the whole system. If, however, you acknowledge them, then prayer to saints falls into place rather quickly and easily.Having said that, it’s also rather old. Extra-biblically, one of the most common prayers inscribed in the catacombs is ora pro nobis, “pray for us” on the tombs of Christians. Often it appears with the image of a woman with uplifted hands, the image which later on became the base for the image of the Virgin Mary praying for people. In the Marytyrdom of Polycarp, they record that they gathered up his bones and had an annual service dedicated to him. In the Martyrdom of Ignatius, the author records St. Ignatius returning to pray for them after his martyrdom. Both of these men were disciples of the Apostle John. These books, though early second century, place prayer to the saints almost certainly within the first century. Coupled with the preceding biblical citations, this forms a very powerful argument.

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