Do I pray to dead people?

A non-Catholic (actually, a quite anti-Catholic) fellow recently asked me in an e-mail, “Do you pray to dead people?” Below is my response:

Do I pray to dead people?

I worship God alone and pray directly to him frequently. I also ask for living saints in heaven to pray for me to the Lord, just as I ask living believers on earth to pray for me.

An aspect of the Catholic faith that many Protestants don’t understand – or at least, I didn’t understand when I was Protestant – is the idea that the righteous departed (i.e., the saints in heaven) pray for us.

Where do we get this idea that the saints in heaven are even aware of our prayers? Consider this passage from scripture:

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).

Scholars commonly understand that the “twenty-four elders” mentioned are men, most likely the twelve apostles and the twelve sons of Jacob who headed the tribes of Israel. Note what these men do: they take the “prayers of the saints” (i.e., the saints on earth) in the form of incense to the Lamb (i.e., Christ). We see here scriptural support for the Catholic understanding that saints in heaven not only hear the prayers of Christians on earth, they deliver our petitions to Christ’s throne on our behalf.

Other passages in the Old Testament also show how the saints in heaven pray for us. For example, God is asked to hear the prayers offered by the dead:

O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel and of the sons of those who sinned before thee, who did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, so that calamities have clung to us (Baruch 3:4).

In the book of 2 Maccabees 15, a vision is recounted involving two of Israel’s righteous dead – the departed high priest Onias and the deceased prophet Jeremiah – praying on behalf of the Jews on the earth:

Onias was stretching out his hands and praying for the whole Jewish community (2 Maccabees 15:12).

And Onias spoke, saying, “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).

The saints in heaven are indeed interceding for us. How comforting to know that we have friends in high places!

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5 Responses to Do I pray to dead people?

  1. prasanth says:

    dear friend what ever you say no one in this world or any saints cant take you to god, only jesus.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I agree with prasanth. If Christ Jesus is your only interceder, why would you need a saint to intercede between you and your true interceder? God isn’t convoluted like that. Furthermore, Christ taught that if you accept Him, then you are in Him who is in the Father. Why do you need to praise and give adoration to the dead when you have the Holy Ghost inside of you, helping you with your prayers? Nowhere is the practice of praying to fallen brethren condoned or supported in Scripture.

  3. While Jesus is our “one mediator” in the ultimate sense (1 Tim 2:5), we are told to act as intermediaries as well, by offering “prayers” and “intercessions” for all men (1 Tim 2:1). It is not true, as prasanthon wrote, that “no one can take us to God, only Jesus.” Believers witness to unbelievers all the time, taking them to God and leading them to salvation. Fellow believers are encouraged to “pray for one another” (James 5:16). This in no way compromises Jesus’ place as the “one mediator between God and men.”

    You and I are connected as fellow members of the body of Christ. Death does not break that connection. We see the deceased prophet Jeremiah praying in heaven for God’s people on earth (2 Macc 15:14). We see Jesus on earth communicating with the deceased Moses and Elijah (Matt 17:3, Luke 9:30). This indicates that there is a real connection between the members of the body of Christ in heaven and the members on earth.

    The saints in heaven are aware of the happenings of earth. They surround us as a great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) and intercede for us (Rev 5:8; Baruch 3:4).

    If the prayers of imperfect believers here on earth are beneficial (James 5:16), how much more do the prayers of perfected believers (Heb 12:23) in heaven benefit us!

  4. Realx!ian says:

    Dear Lawson., i c, u hav lots of misinterpretations of bible.. Let me tel u a few things- wot does exodus 20:4 say, u r not supposed to make any graven image of nethin in heaven, earth or below d earth or bow down n worship it.. But i c, der is not catholic church widout idols of mary n a number of saints inside it. N ppl do bow down.. y go so far, pope john paul 2, had publicly accepted dat he was a great mary lover, der are snaps of him bowing n adoring d statue of mary.. Oxford dictionary says- worshippin means- adoring, great devotion.. Isnt it idoltary?? Now are u goin to find ne words from d bible supporting dis? In order to make it legal, pope removed dat commandment.. Now comin bk to d topic of praying to saints.. U did justify dat protestants ask each other to pray for dem. Do keep in mind dat, dose prayer requests r only like- my someone is ill, pls pray so dat he or she gets wel., i need to write dis exam, pls pray dat i’m able to do it well… N it is never of d sort of please pray for forgiveness of my sins, or please pray dat i go to heaven.. Wot paul meant is praying for each other, supporting each other.. N its not praying to each other to pray for us.. Most of Catholic doctrines are like first a law is framed, n den dey search verses to support it.. Even if it doesnt support, dey make it support.. Can u show me one example where neone has prayed to a saint in bible? Saints can hear, or see, or pray is none of ur business.. Can dey read ur mind? Dey r not present everywhere.. Dey go to heaven, doesnt mean dat dey hav all d powers like God.. U do show revelations dat d saints had a bowl of prayers.. But, did i ever say dat saints pray for dose prayers? Infact wherevr its talked abt saints, bible does mention dat, d ones in heaven are ever praising God,.. N not taking care of ur prayer requests.. D portions which u showed from some macch, n tobith, hav been evaluated to be not portions of d standard bible.. N even if u say jeremiah prayed for d ppl, noone from earth prayed to him to pray.. N where do u find d names of dose hundreds of saints dat u hav – st.lawrence, st.dominic, st.besant, st.sebastin, etc etc.. On wot basis do u ask dem to pray? Bible clearly says not to eat d food which has been sacrificed to idols of other religions, i cannot for sure trust d doctrines of a church which, goes beyond bible n grants permission to eat it,.. I cant believe it wot u ppl r taught in ur catechism- dey hate protestants like hell, but dey feel dat if a hindu prays to his god properly, he’l reach heaven! Dis was said to me by a catholic, who accordin to ur scarement stuff only marriage was remainin. Just evaluate urself my dear.. Remember v r not ur enemies. V r all brothers in christ. Feel so hurt to c u ppl following wrong doctrines n headin to hell.. Just c ur rosary thing. More dan worshippin father, it includes hail mary. Y so much honor to her, n so less to father? When u read dis, instead of justifyin ur acts just scrutinize ur church’s teachings in d face of word of God. Even baptism.. Lots to tel u. If u wish to know, pls write bk… I wud be more dan happy to tel u…

  5. Making statues isn’t idolatry. Worshiping statues as gods is idolatry. God forbids idolatry (Exodus 20), but also commands that statues and other graven images be made to worship the true God (Exodus 25). See my essay “Do Catholics Worship Statues and Images?” at http://www.optionc.net/essays/do-catholics-worship-statues-and-images/

    I and my fellow Catholics worship only God. We show honor to the saints, but not worship. I suggest that you read this article to better understand our belief and practice:
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Saint_Worship.asp

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