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Praying to the Saints

- A Fictional Dialogue on the Communion of Saints

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(Last Updated:  05 Jan 2002 )

This page is a fictional dialogue between a Catholic and a non-denominational Christian (who is somewhat caricatured and not at all representative of mainstream Evangelicalism - the dialogue is supposed to be a little bit humourous).  The dialogue is an adaptation of a presentation I gave recently on this subject, and explores why Catholics consider the saints in heaven to be a very active part of the Body of Christ.  For more on this topic, see my Communion of Saints links page.

Contents

Praying to the Saints is Not Necromancy
The Saints are More Alive than We Are
We Ask the Saints to Pray to God for Our Needs
Our "One Mediator" Jesus, and the Saints
Do the Saints Pray for Us?
Can the Saints Hear Us?
"Show it to Me in the Bible!"



NDC2: Hi, my name's Brandon.

C: [confused] Hi Brandon, you look very familiar.

NDC2: I see you've been talking to my little brother, Brendan.

C: Yeah, he's a great guy...

NDC2: What do you think you're doin' filling his head with all those Catholic lies?

C: Hey, he was asking some questions, I gave him the most honest answers I know.

NDC2: Yeah?  Well I know all about you guys and your Jesuit philosophies and traditions of men!  Trying to make your Romish falsehoods sound like sweetness and light!  Trying to sucker everybody in to joining your false religion, so you can set up the New World Order and usher in the anti-Christ.  I'm on to you guys!

C: Well, you're on to something, but I don't think it's the Catholic Church.

NDC2:  Are you a Jesuit by any chance?

C:  Why do you say that? I'm just this guy in an airplane.

NDC2: Yeah, well that's just what you'd say if you were a Jesuit!  I've read all about you guys, how you were behind the assassination of JFK and Abraham Lincoln, how the Vatican financed the Nazis - Hitler was a faithful Catholic, you know, and the Pope backed him all the way - you guys are clever, I'll give you that much.

C: I really think you've been reading the wrong sort of books.  Look, do you love Jesus?

NDC2:  With all my heart!

C: And you've asked him into your heart to be your personal Lord and Saviour?  You've repented, you've been baptised, you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead?

NDC2:  Amen to that!

C:  Good, me too!  That makes us brothers.  Let's talk. Why don't you sit down?

NDC2:  I don't think I want to talk with any statue-worshipping slave of Rome.

C:  Hey where have you been all last year?  Don't you know we've changed?

NDC2: What do you mean?

C:  Well, ever since the Jubilee 2000, we don't worship statues any more, we worship banners.

NDC2: Well, it's still idolatry, and it's detestable to the Lord.

C: Hey, I was only joking.  Look, we don't worship statues, we're not allowed to.  We only worship God.  I just explained that to your brother before.

NDC2: In that case, why do you pray to dead guys?  You do pray to them don't you?  And that's worship isn't it?  And if you're not worshipping them, then you're consulting the dead, and that's necromancy, that's almost as bad.  Here, you've got a Bible - ugh, it's a Catholic Bible - you should use the King James.

C: Hey, I've got a lot of respect for the King James, but it's OK to use a more modern translation too you know.
 

Praying to the Saints is Not Necromancy

NDC2: Nope, if the King James is good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me.  Anyway, in Deuteronomy 18:10-11 it says that anybody who does necromancy is an abomination to the Lord.

C: Brandon, there's a big difference between asking a departed brother in Christ to pray for us and holding a seance.  Look, have you seen this?  It's the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the best official summary of Catholic teaching you can get.  Every home should have one.  Here's what it says about necromancy: "All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to 'unveil' the future" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2116).

NDC2:  So you say.  But show me where the Bible says you should pray to dead guys.
 

The Saints are More Alive than We Are

C: Show me where the Bible says that the saints in heaven are dead!  Here's what Jesus says about it, in Luke 20: "... that 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 Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him" (Luke 20:36-38).

Christians who have died are still a part of the Body of Christ; they're closer to God, they're more alive than we are!

NDC2:  Hey, it doesn't matter how alive they are, you still shouldn't pray to them!
 

We Ask the Saints to Pray to God for Our Needs

C: Do you even know what we mean when we say we pray to the saints?

NDC2: Sure I do - I've spoken to a few ex-Catholics in my time, so I know all about you guys.  You're worshipping the saints, and that is a blasphemous sin.

C: No we're not. "Pray" just means "ask", when we're talking about praying to the saints.  I know that for you, prayer is a big part of the worship you give to God, but the language has changed a little bit since Protestants ditched the really cool parts of worship, like the Eucharist, but just because you use the word "pray" in a modern way that always means "worship" doesn't mean we have to.  Got your Bible?

NDC2: Always!

C:  Why don't you look at what your Bible says in Acts 27:34 about St Paul asking the guys he was with to have something to eat?

NDC2: "Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health".

C: Yeah, he's asking them to eat.  We use the word "pray" in the same sense with the saints - we ask for their intercession. We ask them to pray to the Lord on our behalf.
 

Our "One Mediator" Jesus, and the Saints

NDC2:  Yeah?  Well maybe someone should tell you about 1st Timothy 2:5 - "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus".  You should pray straight to Jesus.

C: Of course we should pray straight to Jesus.  That's absolutely necessary for the Christian life.  But that's not all there is to it.

NDC2: Really?  Why would you let saints come between you and Jesus.  He's our only mediator.  Go straight to the top!

C:  Brandon, would you consider yourself a "prayer warrior"?

NDC2:  Sure I am.  Every Christian should be.

C: So if someone in your family or in your church asked you to pray for them for their needs, you'd help them out?

NDC2:  It would be my duty and my pleasure as a brother in Christ.

C: You wouldn't tell them to go away and just pray straight to Jesus would you?  If you pray for them, are you coming between them and Jesus?

NDC2: Uh, no...

C: Same with us and the saints.  They are the best prayer warriors around, because they are standing in the presence of God.  See, right before that verse you quoted, St. Paul tells us to pray for each other: "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men...  This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior".  Then St. Paul says straight after that, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus".  It's because Jesus is our one mediator that we have a relationship with God that lets us pray for our brothers and sisters.  And the saints in heaven have this relationship through Jesus just like we do - except even more closely.
 

Do the Saints Pray for Us?

NDC2: Yeah, well, you tricked me, which is just what I'd expect from a Jesuit.  Of course I agree that we should pray for each other.  But what makes you think the saints in heaven are praying for us?

C:  Because the Bible tells us. Like in 2 Maccabees chapter 15: Judas Maccabeus has a vision where Onias the high priest shows him Jeremiah the prophet, who died hundreds of years ago and is now in heaven, and Onias says:
"'This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God'" (2 Maccabees 15:14).

NDC2: Aw, look, that's not even in the Bible.  You guys added that book at the Council of Trent in the Middle Ages.

C:  No, that's not true: the Protestants ditched that book, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.  Anyway, there's the same sort of thing in the book of Revelation, where we see the twenty-four elders, who represent the leaders of the saints in heaven, offering to God the prayers of the saints on earth:

"And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (Revelation 5:8).

The elders in heaven are interceding with God by presenting our prayer requests to him.

NDC: I don't know... is that before or after the bit about the Russian attack helicopters?

C: It's definitely before.  But that's not all; it's the same thing with the angels in heaven, they offer our prayers to God as well - Revelation 8 says:
"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 hand of the angel before God" (Revelation 8:3-4).
 

Can the Saints Hear Us?

NDC2: Well, maybe they might pray for us, but how can the saints hear our prayers?  You guys make them out to be omniscient, like God.

C: C'mon Brandon, there's a big difference between knowing a lot and knowing everything.  The saints don't need to be omniscient to be aware of our prayers - they've got the beatific vision of God, and they can see in God everything they need, so they can see our prayers too; it's through God's omniscience that they can know what's going on.  And the saints in heaven do know more than we do: 1 Corinthians 13:12 - "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

And don't forget, Hebrews 12, we're surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses, who cheer us on in the race that we're supposed to run.  These witnesses are the saints in heaven.

NDC2:  Look, even if they could somehow hear our prayers - which I still don't believe - your most popular saints would receive way more prayers than they could ever hear and respond to anyway.  I mean, take Mary: how many prayers do you think she gets?

C: Hey, we could work it out: uh, 1 billion Catholics, let's say 1% of them say 1 decade of the rosary once a week, that's uh, 10 'Hail Mary's x 1% x 1 billion, that's 100 million 'Hail Mary's a week, which is about, uh, well, it's about 165 prayers a second.

NDC2: 165 prayers a second, huh?  Well, maybe God could handle that, but there's no way anything else could!

C: Hey, I get nearly that much spam in my Hotmail account!  And just think, plenty of e-mail servers handle more than 165 messages a second; don't you think things in heaven would be at least a little bit more efficient than they are at Microsoft?

NDC2:  Very funny.  I wonder what Mary's e-mail address is.

C: It's arkofthecovenant@heavenlyjerusalem.com

NDC2: What?

C: Long story.  I bet it's not in your address book anyway.  Look, even if Mary did get too many people asking her to pray for them, God still knows about them all, so it's no big deal.  But even if she couldn't personally pray for you because her in-box was too full, she could still pray for you generally - like "Lord, please help all those who are asking for my intercession."

Besides, I don't think you could explain to me how time works in the afterlife anyway, could you?  The saints are in eternity, they're outside of time, so time to deal with prayer requests is not too much of an issue for them, is it?

NDC2: Well...

C: And I don't think the saints in heaven can be overloaded with too many prayer intentions.  Their glorified intellects are pretty capable.  Think about what happens on Judgment Day.  Jesus says "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken".  On Judgment Day we'll see a review of our whole lives, everything that we've done, and we'll understand the significance of it all, and we'll see the same sort of thing in the people around us.  Now that is a huge amount of information processing that we'll be able to handle when we're no longer in our current condition.

NDC2:  You are a Jesuit, aren't you!

C: Hey, like I said, I'm just this guy on an airplane.
 

"Show it to Me in the Bible!"

NDC2:  Look, you can make this necromancy business sound all fine and dandy, but you show me somewhere in the Bible that says it's OK to communicate with anyone in heaven besides God!

C:  Brandon, there's nowhere in the Bible that says something has to be in the Bible for it to be OK.  The Bible's not some legalistic contract or something that just creates tiny little pockets of freedom for stuff we're allowed to do.  We're free in Christ, and as long as we are consistent with his principles, we're fine.  And we are being consistent: the saints are still part of the body of Christ, so we can ask them to pray for us just like we'd ask any other Christian brother or sister to pray for us.

NDC2:  You're arguing just like a Jesuit.

C:  I'm not finished.  You can't show me where the Bible says "everything we're allowed to do must be in the Bible", so you're the one with a problem in your belief system here.  But even though I don't have to, I'll answer your question anyway: you asked where the Bible says it's OK to communicate with someone in heaven besides God - read Psalm 103:20-21.

NDC2: "Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.  Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure."

C: You see?  Here we have a Psalm where we ask the angels and the hosts of heaven to worship the Lord with us.  The angels and the hosts of heaven are not God, but they're still part of the body of Christ, so we're still in communion with them, through Jesus.

NDC2:  You're a Jesuit, no doubt about it.

C: Come on, Brandon.  I've shown you that asking the saints in heaven to pray to God on our behalf is no different, in principle, from me asking you to pray for me that I have a safe airplane trip.  And I'll tell you what: if we crash, and I die, you just say the word, and I'll pray for you!

NDC2: Thanks.  I think.  Well, I've gotta go and slap some sense back into my brother.  I'll think about what you said, but don't go asking any saints to pray for me, OK? [Gets up and goes back to seat]

C [quietly]: Sorry, too late. 
[Puts on long black robe, collar, starts reading 'Jesuit Monthly' (headline: "How I Infiltrated the United Nations")].



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