Friday, August 11, 2006

Prayer to Saints

A while back, a reader asked if I would comment on the issue of praying to saints. There are many different places or angles from which to attack this question, but the primary angle should be to answer the question “how should I pray?” The best place to look for this answer is the one given by our Lord Himself.

Before we get to the instruction of how to pray given by Christ, let me define what the Bible indicates prayer to be. The definition will, however, be based upon the instructions that Christ gave to us in what is called the Lord’s Prayer. Prayer is to be directed solely to God Himself (Matthew 6:9; Romans 10:1; 1 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 13:7), and it is primarily for the bringing of our petitions before God and the exercise of showing complete and total dependence upon God to provide all things and to elevate God in all things. It is a spiritual act of worship that finds it’s fullest that is most glorifying to God when the intention is of “Thy will” and not “my will” be done.

In Matthew 6:9, Jesus says this, “Pray, then, in this way: `Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.’” The question of whether or not people should be praying to saints should end here. It is inconceivable that people who claim to follow Christ ignore this template for all prayers. He doesn’t say “repeat after me” or “always pray this” but He seemed to give us the form of what God honoring prayer should look like.

I say that this is a template for prayer, and not the rote prayer that we should speak because in the previous verses, Christ tells us not to pray in the same manner as the hypocrites when they pray “that they may be seen by men” (Matthew 6:5) or with “meaningless repetition” (Matthew 6:7). But Christ tells us that we are to pray by going in private (Matthew 6:6) contrasting to the practice of praying to be seem by men.

I do not believe that Christ is saying that every prayer has to be done in a closed room where no one will hear ever us, nor does it mean that we cannot repeat requests if we are burdened about them. It means that we are not to make a spectacle for the purpose of being seem and esteemed by men.

But specifically to the point of this article, Jesus said that we are to pray to our “Father” and not to anything else. I am not going to into detail over whether we should pray to the other members of the Trinity in this article, but whether you hold that we pray only to the Father, only to the Son, or to all members of the Trinity, lets just agree (at this time) that Jesus says that we are to pray God.1

This is a clear text that shows us Christ Himself explaining how we are to pray. But I know that my Catholic friends will not be satisfied with this, I want to look at one other angle. Not only do we have the directed way that we need to pray, but we also have the reaction from beings other than God when they were prayed to.

John, the beloved apostle, made the mistake of falling down to worship the angelic messenger that was near him, but the angel rebuked him both times and said that he was a fellow servant (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-11). The point is that an angel of the Lord will refuse to be worshipped because only God is worthy of worship. Paul and Barnabus were the recipients of worship when witnesses of a miracle started referring to them as Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:11-15). Notice that Paul and Barnabus reacted by saying that they were men just like the people around them. There is nothing special about any believers, and all true believers will recoil at any hint of being elevated to “god”.

Furthermore, just looking through the Bible and seeing all of the times when “prayer” is used, you will find that prayer is made to God. Sometimes a petition (translated as “pray”) is made of other living me, but this is in a sense of a petition made to a government official or someone with authority to pronounce temporal judgment, and never in an eternal, spiritual, or heavenly sense.

My conclusion is that prayer that is made to anyone but God alone is nothing short of idolatry since it places the recipient of the prayer on the same level that the Bible shows God alone to occupy.


1 I believe that according to the example of Christ and the apostles, we are to address our prayers to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit.

10 comments:

St. Michael the Archangel said...

Thank you for answering my question I asked you. I am not able to answer it right now, I am currently in the hospital undergoing surgery and will be unable to answer this worthily until I go home and recooperate.

Please keep me in your Prayers!

J-M-J

Anonymous said...

Is it just that catholics get the idea of praying to saints from extra-biblical sources (tradition, apocryphal books, etc)? Or what?

St. Michael the Archangel said...

THE INTERCESSION OF THE SAINTS

". . .we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . ." (Hebrews 12:1 - RSV)

What Catholics call the invocation or intercession of the saints means not so much praying to saints, as it does praying with them to God. This devotional practice has strong scriptural warrant, much more than Protestants suppose, since they tend to regard it as idolatrous, without trying to understand the biblical and logical rationale for it. The practice existed with development - from the beginning of the Christianity, and was only questioned at the time of the Protestant Revolt in the 16th century. If anyone, then, is to be accused here of introducing a "late tradition," or of "corrupting" Christian doctrine, it must be Protestantism, not Catholicism.




SAINTS IN THE AFTERLIFE ARE AWARE OF EARTHLY AFFAIRS

Dead Christians are unquestionably more alive and holy than we are, since they are with God (Rev 21:27), and they are aware of earthly events (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 13:9-12). Some have even come back to earth. For example: Samuel (1 Sam 28:12-15), Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:1-3), and "many saints" (Mt 27:52-3). In all these instances, much communication, and even dialogue, takes place. How, then, could such discourse be considered unlawful and idolatrous? Obviously, God allowed these occurrences, so therefore He must have condoned them. Such "traffic" between heaven and earth lessens the artificial dichotomy which Protestants create by the unspoken, uncritical assumption that those in the "other world" have nothing to do with us in this world. This is neither biblical nor reasonable, and goes against the Bible's view of the one Body of Christ, which is not sundered by death or anything else (see, e.g., Rom 8:38-39).

SAINTS IN THE AFTERLIFE PRAY AND ACT AS INTERMEDIARIES

In Revelation 6:9-10, "the souls of them that were slain" pray for those on earth, using what is known as an "imprecatory prayer," as in Psalms 35:1, 59:1-17, 139:19, and Jer 12:20 against the wicked and on behalf of the righteous. In Revelation 5:8-9, the "24 elders," usually interpreted as representing the Church (perhaps the 12 tribes and 12 apostles), act as intercessory intermediaries, presenting the "prayers of saints." This is just common sense, provided one will allow the possibility of its occurrence. Saints in heaven are not just sitting on clouds playing harps, as our cultural mishmash religion would have it. No, they are vitally active in prayer on our behalf. Thank God they are!




ANGELS ARE AWARE OF OUR THOUGHTS AND ACT AS INTERMEDIARIES

Angels are joyful over sinners' repentance - an inner change of heart (Lk 5:10), and it appears that they observe us (1 Cor 4:9). Like saints, they offer the "prayers of the saints" to God as intercessory intermediaries (Rev 8:3-4). Even "grace" itself is said to come both from God and the "seven spirits before his throne" (Rev 1:4; cf. 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). Again, this all follows from spiritual common sense. All Protestants agree that angels (excluding the demons) are benevolent and active on our behalf. So why is it so difficult to believe that they might be praying for us? All loving beings (whether angels or humans) are concerned for other beings, and prayer is one way of expressing that love. Why should mere location on one "side" of death rather than the other have any bearing on that? Love demands otherwise.




GUARDIAN ANGELS

Many Protestants, such as Billy Graham, agree with the Catholic belief in Guardian Angels for each person. This doctrine is largely derived from Matthew 18:10: ". . . their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Other scriptural indications: Ps 34:7, 91:11, Acts 12:15 and Heb 1:14. If God has provided this supernatural protection for us, we must not neglect it on the illogical grounds that it somehow detracts from the worship of God. It's foolish to throw off any of God's provisions for us simply because they don't fit into our preconceived notions of theology, oftentimes perpetuated by unwitting ignorance of the magnificent heritage of Christian Tradition.




THE VENERATION OF SAINTS

If saints and angels are so holy and so aware of our affairs, why should we not ask them to pray for us, since "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (Jas 5:16)? Protestants say that this raises them to the level of God (thus, the charge of idolatry). But they need not be all-knowing, nor perfect, like God, only out of time and glorified, to hear our prayers. We venerate them (particularly Mary) because of their proximity to God - this is not worship or adoration, which is reserved for God only. St. Paul urges us to "imitate" him (1 Cor 4:16, Phil 3:17), as he, in turn, imitates Christ (1 Cor 11:1, 1 Thess 1:6), and we are told to honor the "heroes" of the faith (Heb 6:12, 11:1-40, Jas 5:10-11). None of this detracts from the Infinite Glory and Majesty of God in the least. Rather, it enhances it, just as the painter is honored when one admires his masterpiece, and just as the dewdrop can reflect the brightness of the sun.

Jeff said...

Michael,

I see you're cut & pasting from Dave Armstrong again. I hope you have permission to do so.

St. Michael the Archangel said...

HA! Yes I did cut and paste from armstrong, what a great theologian. I don't think he would mind me using his work to show Prots that they are not right in their teachings. What would old Macarthur have to say about that?

Exactly, what I copied and pasted left you speechless, all you could do was comment on how I posted it. by the way, I didn't claim it to be my work, so there is no problem in doing so.

EJ said...

Michael – Since you're obviously not interested in a dialogue and you just want to copy and paste information from someone else instead of searching the scriptures for yourself to look to God's Holy Word, I won't take the time to respond to your copied points myself. You can read a quick refutation of the whole concept of praying to saints or asking them (those who have died) to pray for us by clicking here.

I wonder if you’ll even take the 2 minutes to read that…hmm.

EJ said...

actually, Michael, if it is copywrited, there is a problem. FYI

St. Michael the Archangel said...

EJ,

Your bible is copywrighted.. hmm.. for years I have heard the same garbage from Prots like yourself over and over and over... and it gets kinda old. So a good copy and paste every now and again feels pretty darn good instead of retyping things for years on end. I don't think that you are interested in dialogue either, all you want to do is try to confuse those that don't know their faith very well, or in my case, you want to try and prove me wrong. (Earth to EJ, that'll never happen)! I am a very happy Catholic, and I will continue to follow Christ in his true religion and not some false hypocrite faith where everyone except for myself is damned to hell.

EJ said...

The Bible that I quote from, the New American Standard, is copywrited, yes. And it is a good thing that you brought that up. I have been meaning to make sure that my blog is adhering to their guidelines, but this conversation has been the catalyst to finally make my citations and use of the text correct. You can notice the disclaimer at the end of my profile.

I don’t want to be too aggressive, but it seems that the majority of your actual self-written comments are more personally attacking as opposed to using scripture to articulate and defend your position.

“I will continue to follow Christ in his true religion and not some false hypocrite faith where everyone except for myself is damned to hell.”

I am not sure if this is more of an attack on me or on Christ? First of all, I never said that only I am going to escape hell – all of those found in Christ will escape hell. I have simply been attempting to articulate the exclusiveness of Christ and the gospel that He preached. To say, on any level, that a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, pagan, or an atheist - who don’t forsake their false view of God and cling to only Christ by faith for salvation - may go to heaven is to miss one of the primary themes of the gospel of Jesus. It is Jesus who says that only He is the way, truth, and life and we only have access to eternal life through Him. Whether a person has ever heard the gospel or not makes no difference (read Romans 3-5 to see this), all are guilty under the law, and that law is written on all men’s hearts (Romans 2:14,15).

Solus Christus

DOC said...

Of course the Bible is copywrited. That is why EJ has gone to extensive lengths to give credit where credit is due. Which is also like the Christian's life. We give all credit to Christ and His work on our behalf instead of some work that we do for our own benefit. From my perspective, it is you, Michael who is hard-hearted. And copying and pasting every now and then feels good to you because if you do not credit your source, God sees that as sin, and if sin didn't feel good, no one would ever do it. But that still makes it wrong. FYI.

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