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Should We Ask Saints to Pray For Us?

Q. Where is it in the Bible that we should ask the angels or Mary and the other saints who have passed on to pray for us?

A. When the Jewish general Judas Maccabeus was leading the resistance to the Greek occupation of their country, he told his soldiers about “a dream, a kind of vision, worthy of belief” (2 Maccabees 15:11). In this vision, the general saw Onias, a former high priest who had died, “praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community” (verse 12).

Then he saw “God’s prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city” (verse 14). Jeremiah had also died, many years before. In part, through the assistance of the intercession of these two Old Testament saints, the Jewish fighters won their battle.

The angel Raphael told the couple Tobit and Sarah, “When you … prayed, it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord” (Tobit 12:12). Then God sent Raphael to heal them in answer to their prayer (verse 14).

The New Testament displays similar scenes. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19–31) assumes that the deceased man is aware of those still living, is concerned with them, and wants to pray for them. In St. John’s Revelation, the Christian martyrs in heaven knew what was happening on earth, and they prayed to God to accomplish justice there. In addition, both the saints and the angels in heaven brought to God’s throne “the prayers of the holy ones” (Revelation 6:9–11; 5:6–8; 8:3–4).

In such passages, we find the saints and angels mediating before God for believers on earth, either interceding or otherwise assisting them. (In the parable, even someone in hell is attempting to do so, if unsuccessfully.) Does this contradict St. Paul’s statement that “there is … one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)?

No, because the Apostle wasn’t excluding the participation of others in Christ’s mediating role. In fact, whenever Christians pray for one another, whether in heaven or on earth, they are doing just that. In a similar way, Jesus is the “chief” Shepherd of His flock (John 10:11–16; 1 Peter 5:4), yet He assigns lesser shepherds to take part in this ministry (John 21:15–17; Ephesians 4:11). That’s what the word “pastor” means.

Catholics ask the saints and angels for their help, then, for the same reason they ask Christians on earth to pray for them and assist them in other ways: It has pleased God to make us interdependent as members of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:12–27).

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