Is it biblical to pray to saints?
I received a commonly asked question recently, “Is it biblical to pray to saints, loved ones who have passed away, or anyone besides God?”
I realize that this has the potential to be a volatile question. For one, the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church is not that anyone should pray to Mary, a saint, or anyone else, but that you can ask Mary, a saint, or someone else to pray for you. Of course, this is not the normal practice. Most people who do believe in the idea of saints indeed pray to them, which is contrary to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
As a protestant pastor, I respect my Catholic brothers and sisters who are born-again followers of Jesus, but I have to disagree with both the actual teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the common practice of most Catholics. Here are my reasons why.
First, only God is omnipresent and omniscient. Neither angels, demons (fallen angels), nor people who have passed away possess these qualities that are unique to God and God alone. To hear our prayers - indeed the prayers of the world - they would have to be all-knowing and present everywhere. The scriptures say that those who have passed away in Christ will be like the angels (Matthew 22:30). Every time that angels were addressed as divine beings - with people worshipping them or praying to them - the angels tell them to cease immediately. Worship and prayers are reserved for God and God alone.
When followers of Jesus pass away, they will have glorified minds and glorified bodies, but we will not become God. We will live forever, yes, but our minds will still be finite. In other words, we will spend eternity getting to know and enjoy an infinite. To put it another way, he is inexhaustible and we will spend eternity learning more and more about him without limit. As such, there is no biblical evidence that people who have passed away can hear our prayers or our requests.
Secondly, the Scriptures teach, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). This means that Jesus is the one and only contact between God and people. Furthermore, there is no place for mediators between people and Jesus, such as saints or priests. The scriptures say that all followers of Jesus are priests to serve God. If Jesus is the only mediator, that leaves no room for anyone else to mediate on our behalf.
Often people feel more comfortable praying to Mary or a saint rather than God - as if God is too busy or they aren’t important enough to come to him. Because Jesus is our mediator, we come directly to him with our prayers and our confessions. Because he is our mediator, we are able to BOLDLY approach the throne of God, on which grace incarnate is seated (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16). Simply stated, the only reason that we can engage with God in prayer at all is because Jesus is our mediator. No one else is able to act as the middleman, so to speak, between us and God.
Third, even if a Saint could hear your request and pray on your behalf, his prayers are no more valid than your own if you are a follower of Christ. God doesn’t answer our prayers based upon if you, Jude, Christopher, Frank, Joe, or Cindy is praying. He only answers prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will.
1 John 5:13-15 states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we (as followers of Jesus) have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” This and this alone is the basis for answered prayer - the will of God.
I see no biblical basis nor need to pray to anyone other than God alone. Neither is there scriptural support to ask those who are in heaven to pray on our behalf besides Jesus who intercedes for us. Only God can hear our prayers. Only God can answer our prayers.
The bottom line is this: No one in heaven has any greater access to God's throne than we do through prayer. Hebrews 4:16 encourages us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”