Friday, October 19, 2007

Defending Prayers to the Saints: In 4 Easy Steps

The complaint is often made that, since there is no command in Scripture for us to pray to the saints, there is thus no biblical warrant for such a practice. But, we do a lot of things as Christians, not b/c there is an explicit command to do so, but b/c they logically follow from what we believe. For example, there is no verse that says, "You must protest outside of an abortion clinic" or "You must vote for a pro-life politician," but we do these things anyway b/c they follow from what we believe (and what the Bible teaches) about the gift of life and the dignity of the human person.

Catholics pray to saints for the same reason: b/c it logically follows from what we believe (and what the Bible teaches) about the Body of Christ. One way to show this is through the following syllogism:
  1. Members of the Body ask for each other's prayers (cf. Rom 15:30; Eph 6:19; Col 4:3-4; 1 Thes 5:25; 2 Thes 3:1; Heb 13:18)
  2. Members of the Body pray to God for each other (cf. Mt 5:44; Acts 8:15; 9:40; 28:8; 2 Cor 9:14; 13:9; Eph 6:18; Phil 1:9,19; Col 1:3,9; 2 Thes 1:11; 1 Tim 2:1; Phm 1:22; Jas 5:14,16; 3 Jn 1:2)
  3. The saints in heaven, as persons filled with grace and united to Christ, are:
  4. Therefore, we can ask for their prayers (which is what we do when we pray to them) and they can pray for us, just like any other member of the Body.
Now, to anticipate a possible objection, it could be said that, even though the saints in heaven are members of the body, b/c they are in heaven and not on earth we cannot speak to them. I would ask in reply: How can two groups (the saints in heaven and the saints on earth) be connected to the Head, but not also connected to each other? There is no verse in scripture that says that the saints in heaven have been cut off from the saints on earth. Such a division in the Body is totally arbitrary.

Scripture tells us that the members of the Body, in their connection to the head, are also connected to each other (see 3b above). If we aren't, if we are divided so that there is the Body of Christ in heaven and the Body of Christ on earth, then that means Christ has two bodies. But, Scripture tells us that we are all united in one body (cf. Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 10:17; 12:12-13,20; Eph 4:4; Col 3:15). That union is what allows me to bring my concerns to the saints in heaven in the same way that I am able to bring my concerns to my Christian brothers and sisters on earth.

This, along with the verses that show their awareness of our actions (cf. Psa 34:7; Mt 18:10; Lk 15:7-10; 1 Cor 4:9; Heb 12:1) and their intercessory role (cf. Job 33:23-24; Jer 15:1; Zech 1:12-13; Heb 1:13-14; Rev 5:8; 6:9-11; 8:3-4), proves that the saints in heaven do in fact hear our prayers and that a communication can exist between the saints in heaven and the saints on earth. So, there is nothing to prevent the premises above from reaching their logical conclusion.

What all of this shows is that praying to the saints follows naturally from what Catholics believe (and what the Bible teaches) about the Body of Christ. The only way you can say that I have not defended the conclusion is to refute one of my premises. That is your task.........not to demand from me that I give you some explicit Scriptural command to pray to the saints.

Pax Christi,


  1. Hi Nicholas,

    I came across your blog while out Blogwandering. With regard to your post about praying to the saints, may I raise a point?

    Exactly, how do saints in heaven hear our prayers? Are they omniscient and omnipresent? Can one popular saint, for example Padre Pio, hear millions of prayers at the same time? If so, he would be God.

    I can ask my friend in England where I live to pray for me as I prepare for an exam. I can ask you in America to do the same, through the internet. But someone in Sydney, Australia who does not know me, cannot hear my request or know I am preparing for an exam can only make a general prayer "for anyone sitting an exam" because they are not omnipresent or omniscient.

    Your Biblical references (1 Cor 9 and Heb 1: 13, specifically refer to angels, not the saints in heaven.)



  2. Came over from the Catholic Carnival. Nice summary!


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