Ask the Pastor – Should We Pray to Mary and the Saints or Images of them?
Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – firstname.lastname@example.org or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)
One question submitted this week in response to the sermon on the 2nd Commandment from Sunday by a person in our congregation was:
Should we pray to Mary and the saints or images of them?
Before you read the below…
We know this is not an easy question and may “hit home” with many people or people you know. Our goal is not to be pig-headed, bigoted, or anything else. Rather, as we do with all things, we want to be like the Bereans who examined the “Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). We want to know what is biblical truth and what is error.
We mean no ill-will to anyone reading this. We mean no offense. However, we are called to, as 1 John 4:1 says:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The Bible also reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:18:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to e-mail us or post here. We are happy to take time to discuss and study with you.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph 2675 (underline is mine)
Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries…
In paragraph 966 of the same source (underline is mine)
You [Mary] conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.
And from the Vatican Council II on pages 420-21:
. . . when she [Mary] is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son . . .
In practical terms, the idea is the God is tough, wrathful, and somewhat transcendent. And you really don’t want to go directly to God. You don’t want to go directly to God because He’s preoccupied, He’s somewhat indifferent, and transcendent.
And you don’t want to go to Jesus because he can be tough as well. But Jesus can’t resist His mother and God can’t resist Jesus. So, you go to Mary because Mary will “soften up” Jesus and Jesus will take it to the Father.
What’s the Bible say?
Yet, this flies in the face of what God is told of being compassionate, tenderhearted, and shows loves to thousands (Exo. 20:6; Deut 7:9, etc.). The assault is on the very nature of God—who is our Savior—and who is full of compassion, mercy, and with whom we can plead in prayer with directly.
An honest survey of the Bible comes back with no instruction or proof that true Christians are to pray to anyone than the one triune God.
The Bible says the following:
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
According to the Bible, no one else is qualified or able to go to God for us except the God-man, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one and only go-between and mediator. There’s no indication here of saints, Mary, or anyone or anything else.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
When we hear someone make exclusive statements about religion that sets off alarm bells with us. Traditional Christianity holds that Christ alone is the way and that we are saved by knowing and recognizing Him exclusively.
This is what the book of Hebrews is all about (see Hebrews 1)! Throughout the Old Testament, there wasn’t one final disclosure of God’s will–it was incomplete. God has spoken to us today through the Son (Heb. 1:2).
The last days refers to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t just the end of the line; He is the point of it. He is not just God revealing Himself through Christ, but He was Himself the Word of God. He IS the message, not just the one who brings it. The whole Old Testament can’t tell you as much about God as Jesus can. The writer is saying that the revelation we have is superior.
So, when we pray, we have confidence to go through the God-man, not through a dead person who wasn’t God (e.g., Mary and the saints).
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
This text teaches us about the nature of prayer. Prayer is not just a speech, but a deeply spiritual exercise. One in which the Holy Spirit is deeply involved. It is the Holy Spirit that helps us along in prayer, working within us. But this is not something that happens overnight. It is a work in progress. The Holy Spirit progressively turns our eyes away from ourselves and toward God.
How does the Holy Spirit help us?
He draws us from the world of futility into the world of redemption. Hebrews 4:15 says that we do not have a high priest who does not understand, but one who is able to sympathize with our weakness. Jesus walked the same road that we walk, yet was without sin.
He sympathizes with our weakness. Our weakness is anything that makes it hard for us to follow Christ faithfully. These weaknesses are the doorway to sin and intrude upon our prayer life.
Does your mind wander in prayer, thinking about inconsequential things? We do not think of the One who we are praying to. This is when the Holy Spirit helps us.
What an act of humility! The Holy Spirit conceals his authority and comes along side of us and helps us to pray. Much like Christ, who put his Godhead aside with the incarnation, the Holy Spirit humbles himself so that He can intercede for us.
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us differently than Jesus. The work of Christ is always standing between us and the Father, based on the work of Christ. The Holy Spirit, however, wraps Himself with us. He lifts and directs our prayers to the Father.
What a wonderful encouragement! God wills to bless us through intercession. We may think of God as reluctant to give, but the reluctance is actually on our side. Look at the evidence: God has given us both Christ and the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf. God wishes to bless us more abundantly than we can think or ask.
Bottom line: It is a gross act of idolatry to be praying to Mary and the saints. It is a very serious matter.
Other Biblical Examples of Prayer Important Here
- Paul asked other Christians, not Mary or the saints, to pray for him (Col. 4:3; Eph. 6:19; 1 Thess. 5:25, etc.).
- The command of Scripture is to pray for other Christians to God through Christ (2 Cor. 1:11; Philemon 1:22; Heb. 13:18, etc.)—not anyone or anything else.
- Nowhere in Scripture is speaking to the dead confirmed to the positive. In fact, these are considered acts of sorcery, witchcraft, etc. (Deut. 18:10-13, etc.)
Other Thoughts Related to This Issue
No matter all the other good things they do—opposing the abortion, affirming the Trinity–the anathematizing (Gal. 1:5-9) of the Gospel at the Council of Trent and reaffirmed over the years since disqualifies it as a true church.
So, every true Christian who really is trusting Christ has a moral obligation to leave the church and identity themselves with a valid church (for a great overview a biblical church, check out this link). A biblical church doesn’t deny the essential truth of the Christian faith. As long as the Gospel is an essential truth of the Christian faith—and it will be forever—you can’t be in a place that denies that.
Truthfully, most people who go to churches are not all that deeply informed about the theology of the church or what is going on in the worship service.
As one who has studied in depth the teachings and theology of the Roman Catholic Church and conversed for hours upon hours with priests, theologians, and the layperson, I can never participate in a Catholic mass because I know the doctrine of the mass. Church teaches that you have a real sacrifice of Christ in the mass (again, please see our article last year on this). Unbloody, to be sure, but still a sacrifice. At Trent, it is defined in terms of sacrifice.
The Latin term is sacficio da missa—a real sacrifice. There are priests who don’t believe it is real and even an unbloody one. But that’s the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
How can you believe in the once-for-all atonement of Christ and participate in the celebration of Jesus again and again? It is ghastly and strikes a blow against the gracious character of God in Christ—the one whom we trust alone for salvation, for our prayers, and our eternal security.
Thankfully, our God answers prayers based on whether they are His will (1 John 5:14-15; John 14:13; 1 John 3:22, etc.), not based upon who is praying.
Again, nothing in Scripture warrants prayers to anyone or anything else other than through the one Mediator Jesus Christ to God alone (see verses above). Those humans who have passed before us are not divine—they are human—and, thus, cannot pray for us. Only God can answer our prayers. No one in heaven has any greater access to God’s throne than we do through prayer (Hebrews 4:16).