Praying to Saints is one of those big dividing lines between the Catholic and Protestant worlds. I was very against it as a Protestant. But what I found as I first began to explore the Catholic faith, is a lot of the confusion stems from different definitions of the same word, and an answer that can be found in Scripture about whether or not those in heaven can hear us at all.
The Meaning of The Word
‘Prayer’ is the word a Protestant uses when they talk to God. There is a connotation of worship when a Protestant uses the word ‘prayer’. This is why, as a Protestant myself, I firmly believed prayer was something reserved for our communication to God alone. I certainly didn’t want to worship anyone other than God, and therefore I wouldn’t be found praying to Saints or to anyone else in heaven.
When a Catholic uses the word ‘prayer,’ and are talking about prayer to God, then yes, we mean the same exact thing.
But I think the misunderstanding stems from a second use of that very same word. Because when a Catholic is “Praying to a Saint,” he or she is asking for someone in heaven to pray for us, just as we would ask a friend at church to pray for us. We are not worshipping Saints, or attributing anything divine to them. But, since they are already in heaven and are without the distractions of this life, Saints are actually great people to intercede on our behalf. Yes, we should and do pray directly to God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit. We begin and end all our prayers addressing the Trinity. But, just as we ask our friends on earth to pray for us, so, too, do we ask our friends in heaven.
Can They Hear Us?
This was another big one for me. Okay, sure, if we define Praying to Saints as simply asking for their prayer on our behalf, it isn’t such an odd practice. But, all that is a moot point if those in heaven can’t hear us.
A big scripture for me that addressed this issue was Revelation 5:8.
“Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.”
This verse makes it at least clear that those in heaven are aware of our requests to God, as they are holding up the bowls. Whether or not we ask the Saints specifically, I found it inarguable that they know our prayer requests, and also play an active role in presenting them to God. By offering the bowls up, they are in fact interceding for people on earth.
This is not to mention that those throughout all of Early Church history found it acceptable, and good, even, to ask for the intercession of the Saints in heaven. I found myself time and time again on my own personal journey, assenting the Early Church knew what it was doing.
Because of My Weakness
Another reason I pray to Saints is because of my own weakness.
I have three little kids running around at home. I’m often busy, and sometimes overwhelmed. It is really difficult for my brain to simmer down.
But I know the Saints are there. They don’t have those burdens. They can fervently intercede for me while I’m changing the baby, or while I’m at the grocery store, or tending to a scraped knee. I can pray then, too. But I fully admit I am weak in the area of praying without ceasing. All to often, I’m consumed by the task at hand and I simply don’t remember. It is a discipline I know I need to improve. The Saints, I hope, intercede for me on that issue as well. But, in the meantime, I know they are there, and the prayers of the faithful are powerful prayers indeed. I know I am in good hands.
There are many Catholic things I never thought I’d do. I’ll share more on that another time. Praying to the Saints is definitely one of them. But I am so thankful now for the souls in heaven that can intercede for me in my weakness.
I talk to St. Anthony when something is lost. I talk to St. Teresa of Calcutta about social justice issues. I talk to Mary, our Lord’s Mother, about being a mom, and raising kids. And I talk to Jesus about all that stuff too. Because by being Catholic, it isn’t always either or. This is another example of the very awesome Catholic “Both And.”
Just another of the many things I am thankful for as a convert to The Church.