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Should we pray to Saints?

Today's Question: I was talking with a Catholic, and we got into an argument about praying to Mary. I told him that it was wrong to pray to Mary, but he said that he does not pray to Mary but instead he ask her to pray for him just like other Christians ask others to join them in prayer. He also said that this was the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Is he right?

Bible Answer: He is right. The official teaching of the Catholic Church is for Catholics to ask departed saints to intercede for them. Even though this is the official teaching of the Catholic Church, many Catholics are not aware of this. The person you talked with sounds like he has been catechized well in Catholic teaching.

            The question is: Should Christians seek the prayers of those who have past from this life into the next? Catholics would argue "yes." They often quote the passage in Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

            Using this scripture they will say that we are all part of God's family, whether we are living here on earth or living with the Lord, so it is proper and good to ask those recognized by the Church as saints to pray for us since they are closer to God than we are.

            However, the above scripture does not tell us to ask the cloud of witness to pray for us. Most biblical scholars agree that the term "cloud of witnesses" is an analogy that the Hebrew writer took from the Olympic Games. Some translate this term as "those in the grandstand." The picture the writer gives is of those who have finished running their race are now in the grandstand, and we know that those in the grandstand cannot run the race for us. Those that are alive are the ones running the race. Those who have died in the Lord have "ceased from their labor." They have already "finished the race." (see Rev 14:13 and 2 Tim 4:7)

            To ask the great Christians in the past to pray for us is to get them back into the race again. But they have already run their race. They are resting from their labor. Why get them to work again?

            Besides, Jesus told us clearly who can pray with us. He said in Matthew 18:19, "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." Notice the important clause "on earth." The people who pray together must be "on earth." This definitely rules out those who have left this earth.

            When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He never encourages the disciples to ask Abraham or Moses or Noah to pray for them. Asking the deceased to pray for us is unheard of in the Bible, and contradicts the teaching of the Bible.

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