Prayers directed to Mary and saints

By Kathy Schley


There are five popular arguments thrown at Catholics by non-Catholic Christians regarding prayers to saints:

(1) the saints in heaven are dead.
(2) the dead saints cannot hear our prayers.
(3) praying to saints is worship that belongs to God alone.
(4) God forbids contact with the dead.
(5) and why not pray directly to Jesus?

We will examine these arguments using the Bible.

The first argument is the saints are dead. Okay, where in Scripture does it say the saints in Heaven are dead? If the saints in Heaven are dead, this would make God "the God of the DEAD." But instead, Jesus tells us the very opposite: "But the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Issac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him." (Lk. 20:36-38)

The second argument is the dead saints cannot hear our prayers. Well, as we have seen taught in the Scriptures, God is not the God of the "dead" saints, but of the LIVING saints. And Jesus shows us in Scripture departed saints CAN hear our prayers when He converses with the "deceased" Moses and Elijah during His Transfiguation. (Mt. 17:3; Mk. 9:4; Lk. 9:30) Although Elijah was taken up, Moses' body had been dead and buried, and yet he heard Jesus. St. Paul tells us we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. (Heb. 12:1) He also tells us that we do not come to God alone, but also to "His Family" (the heavenly Jerusalem of His angels and saints). (Heb. 12:22-24) We are surrounded by saints in Heaven who are alive and watching us. According to the Scriptures, they are aware of our needs and our prayers to them and they pray for us: "And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;..." (Rev. 5:8) "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 hands of the angel before God." (Rev. 8:3-4)

The third argument is praying to saints is worship that belongs to God alone. Praying is not limited to a form of worship that is due to God alone. For example: If we pray to God and say, "I'm mad at you, therefore do not expect any worship from me today or any day soon!" Would this prayer to God be worship? Of course not! What about when we are praying to God and at the same time during our prayer we are experiencing torment of Satan who is trying to discourage our thoughts with "God is not listening to you," and so during our prayer with God we at the same time rebuke Satan. The fact that we are rebuking Satan in our prayer, are we worshiping Satan also? The definition to "PRAYING" is also "to make a request." Praying is not limited to a form of worship that belongs to God alone. In Psalms 103:20-21 we see prayers directed to angels: "Bless the Lord, O YOU HIS ANGELS, YOU MIGHTY ONES WHO DO HIS WORD...." Since God wants us to pray the Psalms, we cannot help but also pray directly to the angels in this Psalm. God knows our directed prayers to His angels (as we see in this Psalm) is not a form of worship that belongs to God alone. And if God allows our prayers directed to His angels, why not also allow prayers directed to His saints? As we see in Scripture, God also allows us to pray directly to His saints because the saints bring our prayers to the throne of God. (Rev. 5:8; Rev.8:3-4)

The fourth argument is God forbids contact with the dead. This is true. (Deut 18:10-11) However, God forbids seances. Praying to the saints is not conjuring up their spirits through a séance to have a two-way conversation through another person. If talking to departed saints is a sin, then Jesus committed sin when He talked to Moses whose body had been dead and buried. (Mt. 17:3; Mk. 9:4; Lk. 9:30) But we know Jesus is not a sinner, but THE WAY and THE TRUTH and THE LIFE (Jn. 14:6) who calls us to follow in His footsteps.

The fifth argument is, "Why not pray directly to Jesus?" Who says Catholics do not pray directly to Jesus? God also wants us to ask others to pray for us as well. St. James says, "pray for one another...the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effect...." (James 5:16-18) We see this to be true by the example of Job having to pray for sinners whose prayers would not be heard by God, but only through Job, God's righteous servant. God tells the sinners to go to Job for intercession and He will then receive Job's prayers for them. "After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7-8)