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Archive for the ‘Saints & Prayers’ Category

Actually….they we do. 😉 We also ask for intercession from others as well. In fact, just last night I asked some friends to pray for me. Not one of them refused my request telling me just to take it directly to God. They were all glad to intercede for me. This is sort of how it is with Catholics and prayers to the saints. When a Catholic says he or she is praying to a saint, what they really mean is they are asking for intercession from that saint. They are basically saying “St. So-and-So, pray for me”. Even in the Rosary, we ask Mary to “pray for us sinners”. This practice of asking the departed for their intercession dates back to the earliest days of the Christian Church. The confusion is often one of semantics and being unfamiliar with Catholic-ease. If not explained, this practice can be a cause of great concern among non-Catholics. (Just as an aside, the word “saint” can mean different things to different people. In the Old Testament, King David used this word to refer to the Jews. In the New Testament, Paul uses it to refer to believers. Catholics also use the term “saint” to refer to Christians who have run the race and achieved the crown of heaven.)

But isn’t Christ supposed to be our “one mediator”? (1 Tim. 2:5)

Absolutely! I don’t think I need to convince anyone here that in asking my friends to pray for me, they are not detracting in any way from Christ’s unique role as mediator between God and man. I also don’t think I need to convince anyone that having others pray for us is good and right. Paul exhorts us to intercede for one another:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ” 1 Timothy2:1-4

Saints in heaven are praying. We are told that in Scripture:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” Rev. 5:8

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” Rev. 8:3-4

And also in writings from the Early Church Fathers (ECF’s):

“But those who are weak and slothful in prayer, hesitate to ask anything from the Lord; but the Lord is full of compassion, and gives without fail to all who ask him. But you, [Hermas,] having been strengthened by the holy angel [you saw], and having obtained from him such intercession, and not being slothful, why do not you ask of the Lord understanding, and receive it from him?” Hermas, A.D. 80

“But not the high priest alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels…as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep.” Origen, A.D. 233

That those in heaven pray is supported in scripture and by the ECF’s. The choice to invoke them or not is completely mine. There is no mandate of the Church to seek the intercession of the departed. However, since I know this is true:

“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” James 5:16

…and since I need all the help I can get, then I say why not?!? 😉

July 2012 Update:  Of all the posts on this blog, the one continues to garner the most attention.  I am incredibly blessed to know this post has helped so many (whether they agree or disagree) have a better understanding of Catholic prayer.  I wish I was able to dedicate time to answering questions that have come up in the combos.  However, I just don’t at this season in my life.  When I started this blog, I was the mother of 4 young girls.  Now, I have three teenagers, a ten year old, and a toddler boy who I strive to keep from injuring himself every day.  🙂   If you are sincerely interested in digging deeper into this topic, may I suggest you take a look at my reading list.  I had many of the same concerns I’ve seen voiced in the comments and those books were extremely helpful.  Some good websites that also might be helpful are:

Please keep in mind that you will get the most accurate and thorough answers to your questions about Catholicism by reading articles/books written by Catholics themselves rather than those who think they understand Catholicism.

I continue to welcome your comments and questions but please understand that it’s unlikely I will be able to give you the thoughtful response your sincere questions deserve.  I will delete any comments that are unkind or snarky.

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Below I’ve pasted (in purple) a comment from Ethan that I recently received to an earlier post . My response is the black text which follows the comment.

I think the Bible uses the word “saint” to say those who are fellow believers on earth and also those who are in Heaven. (I can go into this further is need be.) If you were talking of “saints” here on earth and asking for their prayer, then I can agree with that. If you were talking of “saints” in Heaven that are actively interceding for us, I would have to disagree with you. Besides the two verses you listed in Revelation, that I personally don’t think paint a good picture of what you are using them for, where in the Bible does it talk about saints interceding for us? There are 7 verses in the Bible that use the word intercede, or a form of it. 6 of the 7 use the word in the context of Jesus or the Holy Spirit interceding for us (Heb 7:25, Ro 8:26, 27, 34, Isa 53:12 and 1 Ti 2:1). The other verse is using it in a little different context then what we are talking about (Job 16:20).

Can saints hear/see us, I don’t know for sure. But, I can say that from a Biblical standpoint, there is no evidence that can support that. Looking through Revelation again would point us to the fact that saints are spending their time worshiping God.

Ethan, what you and I agree on is that there is LOTS we don’t know. Our finite minds simply cannot comprehend all the things of God. However, I’d like to explain why I believe there is biblical evidence that saints hear, see, and care for you and me.

Now, I realize I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, and Eph. 4:4, we read that there is one Body of Christ. But those verses put together with this next one really opened my eyes:

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Romans i:38-39

Death does not separate the saints from the Body of Christ and since there is only one Body, we are connected with them in that same Body. And lest you think there are dead people within the Body of Christ, we are told this in Matthew:

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:31-32

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli’jah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah.” Matthew 17:1-4

The saints in heaven are very much alive. Our Lord Jesus himself communicated with them and Peter, James, and John witnessed this. So for us to communicate with those in heaven and expect that they hear us isn’t doing anything other than imitating our Lord.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Cor. 2:9

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” 1 Cor. 13:12

“But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. ” Matthew 22:29-30

Saints are “partakers of the divine nature” and are like angels. We aren’t able to fathom the abilities they have. That just blows me away!

These saints who partake in the divine nature and who live without the same limitations that you and I have are aware of what is going on in our lives:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10

In these verses, the martyrs are crying out in heaven for those who who still dwell on Earth. Other examples of saints having knowledge of Earthly situations include 1 Samuel 28 where Saul “calls up” Samuel and Luke 16:19-31 where the rich man in hell asks that Lazarus (who has also died) be sent to warn his brothers to change their ways. But probably one of the most familiar examples of this can be found in Luke 15:

” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15: 7

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

As I said in my original post, it is not mandated that I ask saints to pray for me. I could just choose to ask my husband, friends, and kids to pray for me. But what of the following verses? Obviously, some peoples’ prayers are more effective than others.

“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Jams 5:16

“For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil. ” 1 Peter 3:12

“None is righteous, no, not one….” Romans 3:10

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Hebrews 12:22-23

Could it be that there are instances where the saints in heaven are the only ones righteous enough for their prayers to be heard by God? We see below where God would not accept the prayers of Job’s friends:

“After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eli’phaz the Te’manite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eli’phaz the Te’manite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Na’amathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. ” Job 42:7-10

I’ll continue to ask my husband, friends, and kids to pray for me but I’ll also ask for the prayers of that great cloud of witnesses which surrounds me.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Ethan, I’m so thankful for your comments and whether you agree or disagree, I hope this has been helpful. I completely understand where you’re coming from because I was there too once. I had never questioned these things and never even thought to look into them. I’m so glad I did! The more I read, the more I learn, the more deeply I love my Savior! 🙂

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Since my posting has been sparse of late, I wanted to let anyone who might be interested know of an interesting “conversation” going on in the comments box of this post.  If you have anything to add to the discussion feel free.

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Today (Thursday) is now 1 week since sweet, 2 year old, Jude fell into his grandparents’ pool and nearly died. Medically speaking, his odds are very poor. He needs a miracle. Would you join me, his parents, and many around the world who are offering up pleas to our Heavenly Father for Jude’s life? Here is his website: Jude. His parents are taking great comfort in the beautiful prayers and messages being written to them there if you feel so inclined.

 

Prayer of Saint Jude

(patron saint of the impossible)

Most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly – (for little Jude’s life) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

 

 

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We’ve been caught up with living life lice around here. That’s not a typo. We really have been fighting a major lice infestation as much as I hate to admit it. I’d like to be able to tell you we got ourselves into this pesky predicament serving in a third world country or ministering in our local homeless shelter, but, alas, it was our vanity that precipitated this mess. We got it trying on hats at the Goodwill store. (Quick! Run! Right now before you read any further and tell your kids there is to be NO TRYING ON OF HATS AT THE GOODWILL STORE! Ever!!!)

Now I’m sure there are some reading this blog who are dealing with much more serious medical conditions and I don’t want to make light of that. But I don’t think there’s anyway you can appreciate how consuming lice fighting can be until you’ve experienced it. It is utterly exhausting and (although I’ll spare you the gory details) humbling. We have thought often of Corrie Ten Boom who chose to be thankful for the lice flea infestation in her barracks at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. God used the lice fleas to keep the guards away while Corrie and her sister shared the Word of God with other prisoners.  (A friend alerted me that it was actually fleas in the prison barracks and not lice as I originally wrote.) While I’m not sure I can go so far as to thank God for these annoying pests, there are definitely some good things to be learned from an experience such as this.

For starters, there’s great family conversation time to be had whilst sitting around in the evenings “nit picking”. Secondly, when most of the house is quarantined and therefore off limits, including the rooms where the favorites toys are stored, you really have to get creative about how you use your time. Since lice don’t like books, board games or playing cards, we’ve had some really rousing games of Old Maid. 😉

Another thing I’ve gained from this experience is an appreciation for structured prayers. I tend to pray spontaneous prayers rather than structured prayers. In my exhaustion of dealing with our current circumstances, I have found myself with a heart full of sentiments but no words to express them. One recent morning, I sat myself in my favorite chair (off limits to the lousy crowd of which I’m NOT one) with my bible, Magnificat, and Handbook of Prayers.

If you’re not familiar with the Handbook of Prayers, it’s quite a handy little resource. It’s full of not only pages and pages of various prayers, but also includes the Order of the Mass, many wonderful devotions, and an excellent Examination of Conscience. (The link is just an example and not nearly as thorough as the one in the book.) It has been a great “how to” guide for me.

Here is one of the beautiful prayers I found in my Handbook…..

“O my God,

I love you above all things,

with my whole heart and soul,

because you are all-good and worth of all love.

I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.

I forgive all who have injured me

and ask pardon of all whom I have injured. “

and one more to close…..

“My Lord and my God:

into your hands I abandon the past and the present and the future,

what is small and what is great,

what amounts to a little and what amounts to a lot,

things temporal and things eternal.

Amen.”

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Since I’m feeling like I have to schedule an appointment just to catch my breath these days, I’m going to point you to some interesting things being said by some other folks in various places.

Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, shares some thoughts on praying to the saints here and has commented further on his blog entry Talking Past Each Other.

Chris at the Catholic Converts blog has a nice explanation of Apostolic Succession, a concept I had never even heard of (much less understood the importance of) until within the past 5 years.

And for my homeschooling friends, I’m linking Elizabeth Foss’s reflections on her Rule of Six. I found it very thought-provoking.

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Red Neck Woman has posted a wonderfully thoughtful explanation of the Rosary here.  Go take a look.  My favorite line…..”The Rosary is a prayerful conversation.”

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