Is prayer to saints / Mary biblical?
Question: "Is prayer to saints / Mary biblical?"
Answer: The issue of Catholics praying to saints is one that is full of confusion. It is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church that Catholics do not pray TO saints or Mary, but rather that Catholics can ask saints or Mary to pray FOR them. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that asking saints for their prayers is no different than asking someone here on earth to pray for us. However, the practice of many Catholics diverges from official Roman Catholic teaching. Many Catholics do in fact pray directly to saints and/or Mary, asking them for help – instead of asking the saints and/or Mary to intercede with God for help. Whatever the case, whether a saint or Mary is being prayed to, or asked to pray, neither practice has any biblical basis.
The Bible nowhere instructs believers in Christ to pray to anyone other than God. The Bible nowhere encourages, or even mentions, believers asking individuals in heaven for their prayers. Why, then, do many Catholics pray to Mary and/or the saints, or request their prayers? Catholics view Mary and the saints as "intercessors" before God. They believe that a saint, who is glorified in Heaven, has more "direct access" to God than we do. Therefore, if a saint delivers a prayer to God, it is more effective than us praying to God directly. This concept is blatantly unbiblical. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we, believers here on earth, can "approach the throne of grace with confidence."
First Timothy 2:5 declares, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." There is no one else that can mediate with God for us. If Jesus is the ONLY mediator, that indicates Mary and the saints cannot be mediators. They cannot mediate our prayer requests to God. Further, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ Himself is interceding for us before the Father: "Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25). With Jesus Himself interceding for us, why would we need Mary or the saints to intercede for us? Whom would God listen to more closely than His Son? Romans 8:26-27 describes the Holy Spirit interceding for us. With the 2nd and 3rd members of the Trinity already interceding for us before the Father in heaven, what possible need could there be to have Mary or the saints interceding for us?
Catholics argue that praying to Mary and the saints is no different than asking someone here on earth to pray for us. Let us examine that claim. (1) The Apostle Paul asks other Christians to pray for him in Ephesians 6:19. Many Scriptures describe believers praying for one another (2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:19; 2 Timothy 1:3). The Bible nowhere mentions anyone asking for someone in heaven to pray for him. The Bible nowhere describes anyone in heaven praying for anyone on earth. (2) The Bible gives absolutely no indication that Mary or the saints can hear our prayers. Mary and the saints are not omniscient. Even glorified in heaven, they are still finite beings with limitations. How could they possibly hear the prayers of millions of people? Whenever the Bible mentions praying to or speaking with the dead, it is in the context of sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy, and divination—activities the Bible strongly condemns (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-13). In the one instance when a "saint" is spoken to, Samuel in 1 Samuel 28:7-19, Samuel is not exactly happy to be disturbed. It is clear that praying to Mary or the saints is completely different from asking someone here on earth to pray for us. One has a strong biblical basis; the other has no biblical basis whatsoever.
God does not answer prayers based on who is praying. God answers prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). There is absolutely no basis or need to pray to anyone other than God alone. There is no basis for asking those who are in heaven to pray for us. Only God can hear our prayers. Only God can answer our prayers. No one in heaven has any greater access to God's throne than we do through prayer (Hebrews 4:16).
Recommended Resource: The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and The Word of God by James McCarthy
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