Yes, we ask the saints to pray for us.

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.

When I was contemplating converting to Catholicism, one of the biggest factors in my decision was, as silly as this may sound, this clip of the Litany of the Saints being prayed (in Latin!) before the 2005 Conclave:

I was so in awe of the sheer beauty of the procession and the Litany itself. The clip opened my eyes to the glorious splendor that is found only in the Church.

I have asked many saints to pray for me, but my most profound experience was before my conversion, when I — after watching a movie about her life — asked St. Therese to pray for me about something that weighed heavily on my mind. I also asked her to send me a red rose (I was very specific about it being a singular red rose, too) to let me know that she had heard my plea. Three days later (Trinitarian symbolism!), a red rose appeared in my house. It obviously got there due to, at least in part, human action (my grandmother happened to bring it home with her that day), but that does not undermine the importance of it to me. Soon after that moment, my big problem was solved, and it was then that I truly believed in this practice.

Catholics do not “worship statues,” as some Protestants have accused. I know that firsthand.

Image

St. Therese of Lisieux

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

*Updated.

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About Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a student in the Diocese of Little Rock.

6 responses to “Yes, we ask the saints to pray for us.”

  1. Dave says :

    Awesome blog entry, but one question . . . regarding the passage from Revelation that you cited, how would you respond to Protestants’ claims that the saints being referred to were merely Christians and not souls in heaven? After all, St. Paul does often refer to Christians as saints. Thanks in advance.

    • matthewolson2 says :

      When you take everything into account, not just that passage, it becomes clear.

      The following is from Catholic Answers:

      “No one prays to dead saints, because those in heaven are more alive than we are. The Lord is God of the living, not of the dead. The fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful (Jas 5:16). Those in heaven are surely righteous, since nothing unclean can enter heaven (Rv 21:27). Those in heaven are part of the Mystical Body of Christ and have not been separated from us by death, but surround us as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). They stand before the throne of God and offer our prayers to him (Rv 5:8) and cheer us on as we run the good race. Intercession among members of the body of Christ is pleasing to God (1 Tm 2:1-4) and even commanded by him (Jn 15:17). Those in heaven have a perfected love, so how could they not intercede for us? Christ is the vine, and we are the branches; if we are connected to him, we are inseparably bound together as well. Can the eye say to the hand, “I need you not”? Neither are we to say we don’t need the prayers of our brothers and sisters (alive here or in heaven), because salvation is a family affair.”

      http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-is-the-biblical-reason-catholics-pray-to-saints-for-intercession

  2. Carol Jackson says :

    Good luck Matthew!

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