This post is concerning the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church of saints in heaven praying to the Father for us upon our request. I want to start this article by explaining the differences between saints on Earth and our responsibility to pray to the Father and the saints who are in heaven with the Father. I believe there is a change of roles once you go to heaven and I’ll out line that later. I also see it as dangerous to attempt contact with anyone deceased whether they are in heaven or in hell. Another problem is how this teaching downplays the weight that your faith backed prayers hold, as long as you have faith your prayer is on equal value as Mary’s faith backed prayers where. God has no favorites. The biggest problem of all is that there is no scriptural foundation for this teaching. Please open your mind and Bible as we look into this subject.
“The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,41 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”42 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.”
Roman Catholic Catechism # 2683
Saints Alive and Dead
First, I want to point out that saints who are in heaven are much more alive than we are now on Earth, they are in their resurrected bodies (1Cor 15) and are enjoying God’s fullness. However to lessen the confusion in this post I will refer to those saints in heaven as dead saints, they died, were judged, and passed because they were saved by Christ. We however (assuming you are a Christian) are living saints. As I studied this subject on various Catholic sites I discovered an interesting mind set among all of them: Catholic doctrine teaches that dead saints carry the same responsibilities, abilities, and duties as us living saints. This, however I do not agree with. Once Christians die and are in heaven they enjoy God’s fullness and await the Second Coming of Christ where they will return with Him in their resurrected bodies to enter in to yet a third set of responsibilities and duties as they dwell in the New Jerusalem during the millennial reign. However, Catholics uphold that because the New Testament encourages the living saints to pray for other living saints that saints who have passed on to heaven should continue to do the same. This is something I find no where in the Bible.
In the Bible I have yet to find any example of
- a saint in heaven praying to God
- a living saint asking a dead saint to pray for them or with them
- an Apostle or author encouraging their audience to speak to a dead saint
The actual activity of saints in heaven is not very detailed in the Bible so to interject ones own opinions (aka the Catechism) is dangerous. A common error is considering that the angels of God and saints of God (in heaven) do the same stuff. I found many scriptures of angelic activity being mentioned as proof for the Catholic teachings of praying to or through the saints. This simple cannot be done, angels and dead saints have different roles and cannot be held at the same level. Angels are used to deliver messages to man and to report to God, they even travel from heaven to Earth often. However heavenly saints are not ever recorded as having these same duties or abilities. Angels in heaven are active servants of God unto the saints (Heb1:14), however heavenly saints are not. The few mentions in the Bible of contact with the dead are connected to the sin of witchcraft and divination. The one time that a dead saint was reached was when Saul and a witch did a seance, however Samuel who was contacted was in Sheol (not heaven) and he was not happy about what Saul had done (1 Samuel 28:7-19). This contact was a sin in God’s eyes.
Interaction With Dead Saints
The account of Jesus’s transfiguration where Elijah and Moses appear next to Jesus is often cited as some kind of scriptural foundation for saints hearing our prayers and interceding for us. If you simply examine what happened on that mountain you will find the opposite. First of all Elijah and Moses were talking with Christ, they interacted with Him in the supernatural realm openly and did not give attention to Peter, James, or John. Second, when Peter said “…if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” God interrupted Peter’s proposition and reminded them to pay attention to Jesus, His son, and to hear Him. It appeared that Peter wanted to make a tent or tabernacle for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses to dwell there with them but this interaction and glorification of Elijah and Moses was not what God wanted. We should learn from the lives of the saints who went before us, let them be inspiration, and instruction to you as you honor the saints and serve God. However, glorifying, praying to them, or worshiping them is not in God’s will. If we acknowledge any dead saint with any level above that of normal human honor we have begun worshiping them. But as God reminded Peter and the others – Jesus is God’s son whom He is well pleased in, hear Him!
Intercession is prayer that one prays on behalf of another person, when you pray protection for your family or that your friend at school would come to God, that is intercession. We can find numerous places throughout the New Testament where we are told to pray for other Christians (1Tim 2:1, Rom 15:30-32, Eph 6:18-20, Col 4:3 etc.). These scriptures are often quoted in Catholic teaching when explaining that “the saints in heaven are simply interceding for us as your friend or pastor would if they prayed for you see these scriptures…” However as explained previously saints in heaven do not pray to God for they are in His full presence and glory, they worship Him and perhaps talk with Him. They do not pray for us, that is our responsibility!
There is a type of intercession that goes on in heaven but it’s not from any heavenly saints, it’s from Christ and the Holy Spirit. Christ makes intercession for us before the Father on behalf of the price He paid that is always enough.
Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
The Spirit is also said to make intercession in heaven for us.
Romans 8:26 – Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
So if two thirds of the trinity makes intercession for us isn’t that enough? Why would we rather saints intercede rather than Christ and the Spirit, or why do some think that Christ and The Spirit need help? I’ll go with God’s way rather than man’s.
“The intercession of the saints. Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…”
Roman Catholic Catechism # 956
The Power of Our Prayer
Another disturbing thing about the teaching of prayer through the saints is how it unintentionally plays down one’s power of prayer. Think about it: if a Catholic has something to pray about – health, lost keys, tough test etc. who do they go to? They go to the saints because they should be more effective with their prayers right? Wrong.
John 14:13 – “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 14:14 – “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
You are made just as righteous, by Jesus’s finished work, as someone in heaven we simply have not put on the incorruptible like them. God does not play favorites with us and thus does not hear or consider the prayers of a canonized saint more than Joe Shmoe who has faith in God as a mustard seed. Imagine someone who takes this doctrine to the next level and always passes off prayers, needs, and concerns off to saints so that they may pray to God for them. In the end – they may not have ever prayed to God their own Father! Because of God’s great work of redemption we can go straight to the Father on Jesus’s righteous merit and ask anything that we need!
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Click here to see an interesting and even entertainingly honest list of Saints and the areas over which they supposedly pray for.