It’s Biblical to Ask Saints to Pray for Us

[ 26 ] September 15, AD 2013 |

(This was originally shared here on AnsweringProtestants.com, as part of a longer post.)

There is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us.

Many Protestants argue that asking the saints to pray for us is “unbiblical,” while throwing around verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. But they are incorrect.

1 Timothy 2:5 — the infamous “one mediator between God and men” verse — refers to salvation, not prayer. The verse reminds us that it is only because of the graces found through Christ (God Himself) that we are able to have any real relationship with God and reach Heaven. It does not, however, absolutely negate relations with angels or heavenly saints. After all, it was an angel (Gabriel) that spoke to Mary before Christ was conceived in her body, not God Himself.

I was raised in several Protestant denominations. They all placed a major emphasis on Christians praying for each other — which is encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and other passages. I would contend that a heavenly saint, one who is holy and in Heaven with God, would have a lot more sway with God than a rebellious sinner on earth would.

To put that another way, if someone asked you to do something for them, would you not be more likely to help them if they were your best friend, as opposed to a complete stranger? Of course, you may very well be willing to do something for a complete stranger, but you would probably be more willing to do something for your best friend.

And there is evidence in the Bible of the saints praying to God.

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” – Revelation 8:3-4

The word for “saints” in that passage comes from the Greek word hagios. Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon says that the best definition of hagios is “most holy thing, a saint”. This would seem to undermine the Protestant assertion that “saints” in this context can only refer to people on earth.

Now, what would the saints be praying for? Themselves? Doubtful. They are in Heaven, so they do not need anything, as eternal life with God is perfect. That really only leaves one option: they are praying for us. And because they are praying for us anyway, how could it be wrong to ask them to pray for us about something specific? It is like interacting with a DJ at an event. He’s playing music anyway, so what is the harm in asking him to play your favorite song?

Here’s my Scripture-based defense of the practice that should answer most Protestant objections:

Matthew 17:3-4 & Luke 9:28-31.
Moses and Elijah (who are clearly heavenly saints, not “saints” in the way Paul would sometimes use the word) are with Christ during the Transfiguration.

Revelation 6:9-11.
The martyrs can talk to God.

From those three passages, we can gather that the saints in Heaven interact with God.

Luke 15:10.
The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events.

1 Timothy 2:1 & James 5:16.
It is good for Christians to pray for one another.

Now, if the saints interact with God and are aware of earthly events (and can therefore hear us), why wouldn’t they pray for us, considering that it is good for Christians (which the angels and saints definitely are) to pray for one another?

Revelation 21:27. 
Nothing imperfect will enter into Heaven.

Psalm 66:18 & James 5:16. 
God ignores the prayers of the wicked, and the prayers of the righteous are effective.

Because the saints have reached perfection (they are in Heaven), their prayers are more effective than the prayers of those that are less righteous, so that’s why one might ask them to pray instead of asking another Christian on earth or simply doing it themselves.

 

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

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Category: Catholic Education, Columnists, Prayer

About the Author ()

Matthew Olson is a college student in the Diocese of Little Rock. He was raised in multiple Protestant denominations before eventually converting to Catholicism on 7 April 2012. His primary interests are theology, Church history, and ecumenism. He is privately discerning the possibility of God calling him to the priesthood. He has a blog, Answering Protestants. He also has a Twitter account, @crucifixwearer.
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  • Trish

    How do we know the saints can hear us?

    • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

      “Luke 15:10.The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events.”

      They’re aware of everything on earth, so they know when we ask them to intercede for us. :)

  • Erin Pascal

    Thank you for this post! It made me realize and understand a lot. As a Catholic myself, I am confused whether or not is it against the bible to ask for an intercession from the saints. I do believe in the points that you have explained so well.

  • Guest

    there’s also Jesus on Mount Tabor with two “dead” men–Moses and Elijah. Why protestants don’t yell “necromancy!” is beyond me. :-P.

  • Becky L

    Wouldn’t a protestant say they have been made righteous by Christ through salvation? Also, there are many protestants who consider themselves to be saints because of salvation. I’m not sure the scriptures from Psalms and James would sway a lot of protestants…I’m not trying to argue, just understand. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

      Good questions.

      Some Protestants might say that Christians are all equally righteous, but that just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. (I mean, for example, does anyone really believe that the average person is just as holy as the Virgin Mary?)

      Yes, they would consider themselves “saints” (which is accurate, because all Christians are members of the Communion of Saints, which includes the earthly and the heavenly). That’s why I made the “heavenly” distinction throughout the post.

      And the verses from Psalms and James would be convincing to the vast majority of Protestants, at least on that particular point in this particular case. (I know that through experience.)

      • dctrtpt

        Have you considered that modern-day Christians are just as holy as the saints, when they were here on earth (including Mary)? Isn’t that what Jesus died for?
        If I can’t bend my knee and pray an effective prayer that will be heard, than what’s the point of God asking us to pray? I suppose that this line of questioning could even logically end with, “what’s the point of salvation?” I don’t think that this reasoning is absurd.

        Further, doesn’t the Holy Spirit fill the gap for us, when we don’t know what to say (Rom. 8.26)? When the Lord taught us to pray, why didn’t he mention praying to the saints, angels, or Mary?

        I feel that the Lord wanted to show us (through his life here) that we have help WITH us here on earth.

  • Phoenix_Lion

    When I was on my journey back to the Church and trying to defend Her to my Protestant friends I would bring up each if those. It would cause them to think but in the end they were to set in their ways. I am beginning to see that most of the Protestants that are vocally anti- catholic ignore what ever you say and just hold on to thier own beliefs. It is like if they change their whole world view is destroyed and if would be.

  • Mario Josh Fajardo

    My Protestant friend believe that his fellow Christian can pray for him and they really do pray to one another. It was a straight NO when I asked him if he could still pray for his friends when he dies. It was just a straight stare when I quoted him Romans 8:38-39

    “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    Yes! not even death can separate each members of the Body of Christ.

    • JoyInTheLord

      Good one!

    • Kit

      Is that really what that verse means? please do your research. You’ve taken the text way out of context.

  • Deb Daily

    My apologetics on this topic has been weak, thank you for this wonderful illustration. In my experience protestants will still deny that which they cannot see. It’s just so heartbreaking sometimes.

    • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

      You are very welcome. I can understand your pain (I feel it, too — and often). May God bless you.

  • alleluiagirl

    Great article Matthew. I’ve been meaning to get to it for a couple of days. Glad I did. Blessings!

    • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

      Thanks, alleluiagirl! Blessings to you, too! :)

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  • Amy Frank

    Thanks for the info. But I am not sure one can sway a protestant. I get tired around them. Many will say the most awful things about Catholics. The latest attack I got is we are the Babalonians and pagans.

  • jenny

    Do we know why there are more men than women saints?

    Just opening any on-line calendar, we can count approx. 66% men and only 33% women. Is it because the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Vatican is comprise entirely of men, who do not understand how a woman can become a saint?

    • Cristina Montes

      I understand that you mean canonized saints, because strictly
      speaking we do not know how many saints there are, let alone how many of
      them are men and how many are women. Everyone who dies and whose soul
      goes to heaven is a saint. Canonization does not make a saint, it is
      simply an official public declaration that a specific person is, indeed,
      already a saint.

      Even with the canonized saints, I’m
      not sure we can conclude that there are more male then female saints
      just by looking at online calendars, since there many lesser-known
      saints do not make it to published calendars.

      Then,
      there are many reasons why many people who deserve to be canonized do
      not get canonized. One is lack of people who are willing to work on
      their causes on a diocesan level. Canonization takes work. RElated to
      this is that not all the causes for canonization get publicized, which
      reduces the chances of people seeking the intercession of the candidates
      for miracles. Often all that it takes for someone to be canonized is a
      person or group willing to endorse his or her cause and promote it.

  • patriot

    i grew up in protestant churches and now go to a baptist church that takes a lot of teaching from martin luther. i bought into all that nonsense about the whore of babylon and the catholic church. recently i have been trying to prove to myself all the things that i thought i believed and was taught and it has led me to the truth that the catholic and orthodox churches are holy and that i have come to despise people like martin luther and john calvin. luther, who i blame for the thousands of watered down denominations and endless stupid and ignorant slogans that western christians like to parrot. its bred christians who scream persecution when a facebook comment is deleted while millions of christians are being slaughtered and crucified in the middle east this very day. i feel like such a fool for all the ignorant things i have said about the catholic church. i do not believe every single thing that is taught but i most certainly have a love for those who do the will of God and whom i consider my allies and brethren

    • http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer Matthew Olson

      Hello! I just saw your comment.

      I’m glad to read that you have done some studying of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. I am actually a convert, and I understand the feeling of realizing that your upbringing has been lacking in history and in depth.

      If you would ever like to talk, just contact me on Facebook or Twitter, and we can go from there.

      Facebook: http://facebook.com/matthewo
      Twitter: http://twitter.com/crucifixwearer

      I’ll be praying for you!

    • shaunmc04 .

      Sounds like you’re going through what many of us had. Conversion is tough. Connect here with Matthew and let him answer any question you might have. And if/when you convert, contact us at Ignitum and lets tell your story.

  • Doulos Theou

    Well, there is nothing in the verse ( 1 Tim 2:5) suggesting that it would be restricted to salvatory mediating, but instead its a forced interpretation to fit your conclusion. But the context doesnt really suggest any restrictions. And of course the NT form of prayer isnt really “Hail Mary”, its in Jesus’ name to the Father, or directly to Jesus in his Name John 14:14.

    Further more, you said there is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us, but the only problem i have with this is that there is clear verses speaking against praying to saints. It was strictly forbidden in the OT, and as we know, Jesus didnt convert to rcc neither did Paul, or anyone else for that matter, since that would historically laughable, and a embarrasing anachronism, they were jews and held to the hebrew scriptures, therefore these clear, simple verses remain true to their context.

    You said “There is only one salvatory Mediator between us and God (1 Tim 2:5), but there are many communicative mediators, like Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).”

    But Luke 1:26-38 doesnt have anything to do with 1 Tim 2:5. And this argument is like saying that you can pray to saints, because God spoke through prophets, which is kind of a desperate argument, if you ask me.

    I suggest that you would read 1 Tim 2:5 in the same light as 1 Jn 2:1, Heb 7:25, Rom 8:34.

    You said: “They (protestants) all placed a major emphasis on Christians praying for each other — which is encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and other passages. I would contend that a heavenly saint, one who is holy and in Heaven with God, would have a lot more sway with God than a rebellious sinner on earth would.”

    Right, and James 5 says “The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” and then he goes on talking about Elia. Think about it, James had the opportunity of lifetime to mention this idea of praying to saints, but he didnt – Ah, James 5 would be the best place to give a small hint of this, but nope, he doesnt, James 5 stays true to its Jewish background. So, you havent touched upon anything that refutes my point, and i still have to say that my tweet stands unrefuted :).

    “To put that another way, if someone asked you to do something for them, would you not be more likely to help them if they were your best friend, as opposed to a complete stranger? Of course, you may very well be willing to do something for a complete stranger, but you would probably be more willing to do something for your best friend.”

    These kind of arguments are the only one’s you can use, i suggest you stop trying to make the bible say something it doesnt, because it doesnt use to work when talking with someone who reads it, and it usually ends kind of akwardly, and put your time in creating philosophical back-flips like this. Arguments like this could make the idea sound logical, but it will never be biblical.

    “And there is evidence in the Bible of the saints praying to God.”

    Sure, Rev 22:3 “And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall do him service – Latreusousin.” But this doesnt in no way shape or form support your argument, neither do Rev 8:3 support your argument, whether you read it as Heavenly saints, earthly, or even angels, it doesnt support your argument..

    You said: Here’s my Scripture-based defense of the practice that should answer most Protestant objections: 1# Mount of Transfiguration”

    Wha..wh..whe… Huh!?

    2# The martyrs can talk to God

    Hm, i see. No comments…

    3# The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events

    No comments…

    4# it is good for Christians to pray for one another.

    Amen, but my argumentin my tweet was about the receiver of prayer. To whom is it good for Christians to pray? God? Come on, with all respect, you are Catholic convert, tell me, isnt there anything in this prayer that really makes your hair rise? Doesnt this sound blasphemous? Unbiblical?

    O Mother of Perpetual Help, thou art the dispenser of all the goods which God grants to us miserable sinners… that thou mayest help us in our misery. Thou art the advocate of the most wretched and abandoned sinners who have recourse to thee. Come then, to my help, dearest Mother, for I recommend myself to thee. In thy hands I place my eternal salvation and to thee do I entrust my soul. Count me among thy most devoted servants; take me under thy protection, and it is enough for me. For, if thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins, because thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because thou are more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge himself, because by one prayer from thee he will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation I may neglect to call on thee and thus perish miserably. Obtain for me, then, the pardon of my sins, love for Jesus, final perseverance, and the grace always to have recourse to thee, O Mother of Perpetual Help.

    Oh dear God bless my Catholic friends…

    #3 Nothing imprefect will enter heaven. (Rev 21:27)

    Now, this is amazing, it really is.. How on earth does this mean you can pray to saints? Its like trying to prove you are an pink elephant, and then refer to this verse, which doesnt have anything to do with it…

    #4 Psalm 66:18 & James 5:16. God ignores the prayers of the wicked, and the prayers of the righteous are effective.

    Sure, Isa 59:1-2, John 9:31 and James 4:8 hints to it to, so this makes it Ok to … Pray to saints? Sorry, im not convinced…

    Im sorry if i sound disrespectful in this comment, it wasnt my intention. I care about you and all your fellow catholics. God bless! If you would put more strenght and effort in this topic, i can take more time to have a more in-depth discussion about this, or any other topic if you want.

    • Charybdis69

      ^^^^^^^^ Hoo boy! Do I remember those days of hubris when I was a Protestant! All those old “Do I really even need to respond what you stupid Traditionalists obviously know is not a good argument” canards. It’s a nice cop-out, rather than to actually have to grapple with the fact that the Church has understood these things for 2000 years. Oh, Doulos, where has God hidden you for the past two millenia when you could have set us all straight so long ago?

      Thank you, Lord, for saving me from the blindness of Protestant pride!

  • Jeffrey

    The dead in Christ are all asleep until the coming of Christ.