Intercessory Prayer with Mary and the Saints
|In 1 Tim 2:5, St. Paul tells us that
"...there is one God. There is also one mediator
between God and the human race, Christ Jesus..."
Why, then, do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints and
ask them to mediate to God on our behalf? Let's get a few
things straightened out right away.
Now lets get to the problem at hand. (much of this explanation is taken from Fr. Mario Romero's Unabridged Christianity) A "mediator" is a person who serves as a go-between or an intermediary between two parties. In 1 Tim 2:5, St. Paul teaches that Jesus is the one mediator between God and the human race. Catholics have no problem accepting this scriptural truth. Here's a visualization of 1 Tim 2:5:
If you read the four verses preceding 1 Tim 2:5, you will see that Paul instructs Christians to pray to Jesus on behalf of each other. "...I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone... This is good and pleasing to God our savior..." (1 Tim 2:1-4). Here's a visualization of 1 Tim 2:1-4:
In this diagram, "Christian B" approaches Jesus in prayer on behalf of "Christian A" and petitions Him to grant the physical and spiritual needs of "Christian A." By praying in this fashion, "Christian B" is serving as a go-between (mediator/intercessor in prayer) to Jesus on behalf of "Christian A." And we know that this type of prayer "is good and pleasing to God our savior" (1 Tim 2:3).
Note that in 1 Tim 2:1-5 St. Paul describes two types of mediation. We'll call them primary mediation and secondary mediation (you can call them whatever you want). Primary mediation is Jesus' mediation because it is the ultimate mediation between humanity and God. Secondary mediation is "our" mediation because it is subordinate to and totally dependent on Jesus' primary mediation.
When St. Paul tells us to pray to Jesus on behalf of each other, he is asking us to take the role of secondary mediators in prayer. Obviously, our secondary mediation is totally dependent on the primary mediation of Christ. Here's a visualization of the two types of mediation that Paul talks about in 1 Tim 2:1-5:
On many occasions, Paul asked the Christians of his time to pray to God on his behalf (Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:10 are a few) He also prayed to God on behalf of his fellow Christians (Col 1:4, 9-10; Rom 10:1; 2 Tim 1:3) Is there any reason to believe that upon entering heaven, Paul's charity and desire for other's salvation would end and his prayers would cease? The Bible calls all Christians to mutual charity. Aren't the commandments of the Lord eternal, established in heaven and on earth?
When a Christian minister preaches a sermon, he is mediating the Word of God to his congregation. The preacher is acting as a "go-between" between the words in the Bible and the audible message that the preacher feels called to communicate to his church members. Is there anything wrong with this? NO! The preacher is only acting as a secondary mediator of God's word. Jesus is still the primary mediator.
When a Christian minister conducts a healing service, he is acting as "go-between" in that God is using him as an instrument to communicate His healing power. God could easily heal these people directly, but, sometimes, he chooses to mediate His healing through His human ministers. Is there anything wrong with this? NO! Once again, the preacher is a secondary mediator of God's healing power. Here is a visualization of Mary's position as a secondary mediator in prayer to her Son, Jesus:
Remember, Catholics do not pray to the saints. The word "to" is very misleading and implies that the prayer stops there. Catholics ask Mary and the saints to pray with us and for us as we pray to God. The rosary is not a prayer "to" Mary. It is a prayer to Jesus through Mary (who we read in Rev 12:1-5 is looking upon the face of her Son Jesus in heaven. You don't get much closer than that!).
Also remember that Mary and the saints are not Divine. We look to them for inspiration as we try to live holy lives: "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7).
In the Book of Revelation, we read about the saints in heaven offering worship to God:
Is it so unconceivable that while the saints in heaven are worshipping God that they could also offer prayers (as they did often on earth) for their fellow Christians who are still struggling to be faithful to Jesus? It would seem logical. In Eph 6:18-20 St. Paul instructs all Christians to pray for one another. Since God's laws are binding not only on earth but in heaven, the heavenly saints must also carry out this Biblical command.
Can Mary and the saints hear us? Of course they can! Jesus says in Luke 20:38 "...[H]e is not the God of dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." St. Paul tells the Romans that he is "convinced that neither death nor life ... will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says about the inhabitants of heaven: "...there will be rejoicing in heaven among the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10). The heavenly inhabitants are very much aware of and are in communion ("common union") with the lives of fellow Christians on earth.
Can someone pray directly to God? Of course! Catholics and Protestants offer prayers to God and also ask their fellow Christians to pray with them and for them. The big difference is that Catholics don't restrict the term "Christian" to mean "only Christians living on earth." Catholic convert Tim Staples says:
|In the parable of the rich man and
Lazarus found in Luke, we can read about what kind of
interaction a soul can have after the death of a person's
body. "...send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger
in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment
in these flames..." (Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus and the
rich man, after the death of their bodies, were certainly
not "sleeping." The "dead" rich man
intercedes (unsuccessfully in this case) to Abraham in
heaven on behalf of his five unfaithful brothers still
living on earth. In Luke 9:28-36, Jesus is transfigured
in between two very active "dead" saints -
Moses and the prophet Elijah. Refer to Heb 11-12:1 and
notice how the "dead" saints in heaven are able
to witness the faith journey of earth-dwelling Christians
and "cheer us on" to victory. (Other examples
of the "dead" interceding can be found in 2
Macc 15:7-16 and Tobit 12:11-12).
Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid writes:
What Did the Early Christians Believe?
Praying to the Saints - A great Question & Answer on praying to the saints.
Can the saints hear our prayers? - Biblical assurance that they can hear us
The Rosary - what is it, how did it originate, and how do you pray it?