Why we pray to Saints

Praying to the Saints. Isn't that necromancy as forbidden in the Bible?

In the Old Testament, in 1 Samuel chapter 28, Saul, leading the army of Israel was confronted by the sight of the encamped Philistine army and was very afraid. Seeking guidance from God and receiving none, he turned to the aid of a medium from Endor, also in some translations known as the witch of Endor. He asked her to conjure up the ghost of Samuel to seek information about the outcome.

Necromancy is this act of conjuring the dead in order to gain information from them. This is forbidden in the Bible several times. (Lev 19:26; Deut 18:10; Gal 5:19-20; Acts 19:19)

Unfortunately, contrary to the teaching of the Church, some of our Christian brothers and sisters have interpreted this to mean that any act of talking to someone that has died is an act of necromancy. The Church teaches that necromancy is the seeking of information from the dead. This contrary belief has caused some of our brothers and sisters to unnecessarily reject what is a valuable link with fellow members of the Body of Christ. Fellow members that have already united with God.

OK, praying to a Saint isn't necromancy. But praying to them is raising them to the level of God.

There is a common difference between different Christian communities, and I'm not talking about beliefs. This time, I'm referring to language. While sharing a common belief system, over the course of 2,000 years of history, we have developed different definitions that apply to the words. Words often have more than one definition, the word prayer being an example. Some Christians consider prayer to be a form of worship, reserved only for God. So by this definition, praying to a saint would be praising and worshiping that saint, and we agree, that would be wrong. But there is more meaning to the word pray.

A look at older English shows that the word was in common usage meaning to ask or request. For example, you might hear the phrase "I pray thee…" prefacing a request. Or you might hear "Pray tell…" when asking a question. Catholics are thinking along the lines of this definition when they refer to prayer. While prayer is used in worship, it isn't worship itself. It is a form of communication. Prayer is talking and asking. Prayer to God and prayer to a saint follow the same path of communication but are different in scope and intent. A prayer to God is worship, praise, and request. A prayer to a saint, on the other hand, is limited. It is a request for intercession. Praying to a saint is asking them to intercede on your behalf, asking them to carry your request to God for you.

But St. Paul tells us that there is one mediator between us and God, the man Jesus Christ. Why should I request a saint to pray for me, when I can just go straight to Jesus?

You can, and should pray directly to Jesus, and to the Father and to the Holy Spirit as well. And you should be praying every day, and even more often. But that's not the complete plan for our salvation.

Consider this prayer:

Heavenly Father,

I love you, I adore you, I worship you and I kneel before you. I ask that your Son Jesus walk with me and guide me and I ask that the Holy Spirit fill my heart and dwell within me. O most blessed Trinity, please help me to grow ever closer to you. I ask that you surround me with good people that will help me to remain close to you. This I ask in your Son's name. Amen.

Sounds like a really nice prayer right up to the end. Look at the request "I ask that you surround me with good people that will help me to remain close to you." It should be completely unnecessary, right? After all, in the very same prayer I asked Jesus to walk with me. Jesus should be all we need. Why should I need or even want to be surrounded by good people that will help me remain close to God?

The unity of the Body of Christ includes all Christians. And as St. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 12:21, we need each other, the entire body of Christians. And we express our bond by loving each other, by caring for each other, by being concerned for each other, and by praying for each other. Praying for each other is a necessary element of membership in the community of Christians. James 5:16 implores us to pray for each other. If I ask you to pray for me, you would, and likewise I would pray for you. Naturally, we are comfortable with requests to pray for one another.

But many of us do not realize that this unity of Christians also includes those that have passed from this life into the next. This knowledge has been lost in time and remoteness from the original thread of Christianity. But we can be assured that it is there. We read of our unity with the saints in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 5:8 the saints (the 24 elders) present our prayers before the Lord. Likewise, in Revelation 8:3-4 we see the angels likewise take our prayers and present them before God. We can be assured that they do hear our prayers and carry them to God on our behalf. They are still active members of the Christian community and continue to be concerned for our well-being.

It is our privilege to have been given the gift of membership in the Body of Christ. And just as I might ask you to pray for me, I can also ask for the saints in heaven to pray for me. As James says in James 5:16, the prayers of a righteous man are powerful.

How can they hear us? They are not God, they are creatures like us. With so many people in the world constantly praying to them at the same time, it must be a loud buzz droning on and on. How can they make sense of it all?

The mechanism of how this works has not been revealed to us. Any answer to this would be incomplete, consisting of theological theory. We have to trust that since it is part of God's plan for us, he will give them the ability to accomplish this task as needed.

I mention this in another page, and it's worth repeating for this one. It is important to note that it is not required of Catholics to pray to our Blessed Mother or any of the saints. Not specifically, anyway. We share unity with the saints. The unity of the Body of Christ includes all Christians, both now and those that came before us. But, as I mention above, it is our privilege, a gift. And as St. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 12:21, we need each other, the entire body of Christians. And we express our bond by caring for each other, and by praying for each other. It would be a profound loss to lose this from our faith life.

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