Six Biblical Passages to Revolutionize Your View of Prayer and Heaven

Matthias Gerung, The Triumph of the Lamb / The Fall of Babylon (1532)
Matthias Gerung, The Triumph of the Lamb / The Fall of Babylon (1532)

Protestants tend to be opposed to praying to the Saints and Angels for two reasons: (1) it’s offensive to the dignity of God, since we’re going to someone besides Him; or (2) it’s a waste of time, since we can go directly to God. This hints at the underlying issue – that Catholics and Protestants tend to think of prayer and Heaven very differently.

There is no monolithic Protestant vision of Heaven, and Protestants are far from alone in having erroneous conceptions of Heaven. As I’ve argued before, our normal conceptions of Heaven are too selfish and too small. Three popular errors are:

  1. Soul sleep. This is the belief that the souls of the just don’t even go to Heaven until the Last Judgment. Luther famously favored this view of “soul sleep,” writing to a friend in 1522: “I am inclined to agree with your opinion that the souls of the just are asleep and that they do not know where they are up to the Day of Judgment. I am drawn to this opinion by the word of Scripture, “They sleep with their fathers.””
  2. The Celestial Toy Store. In his early days, Billy Graham described Heaven like this: “We are going to sit around the fireplace and have parties, and the angels will wait on us, and we’ll drive down the golden streets in a yellow Cadillac convertible.”
  3. Me and Jesus. The focus here is that I, the saved individual, get to encounter God. In (rightly) emphasizing the need for a personal relationship with Christ, this view totally ignores the rest of the saved. There’s no sense of there being anything like a Church in Heaven.

If you’re taking these views of Heaven, it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t know what to do with the Saints and Angels (unless it’s to summon them to get you another drink while you party by the fireplace).

In contrast, the Catholic vision of Heaven is one in which God pours out His Glory upon the Saints and Angels, and chooses to incorporate them in the most intimate aspects of prayer. If that vision of Heaven is correct, we don’t need to worry about God being jealous of His glorified creatures, as if He were insecure in His Glory, and it makes even less sense to worry about something as banal as “efficiency” in prayer. So the core question ought to be: is the Catholic vision of prayer and Heaven true?

Scripture points to a clear “yes” to both halves of that question. Here are six Biblical passages that might help us to see these topics with fresh eyes:

(1). Hebrews 12:22-24

The passage:

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, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.

Why it matters: This passage isn’t talking about how we will approach Heaven when we die. It’s about the way that we approach Heaven, “the heavenly Jerusalem,” right now. How do we do that? In large part, through prayer. And how does Hebrews 12 describe this heavenly Jerusalem? Here are who we meet, in the order listed in the Biblical text:

  1. The Angels.
  2. The “firstborn who are enrolled in Heaven.” John Calvin suggests that this is a reference to the Patriarchs. Whatever the case, it seems to be a reference to Saints of particular prominence.
  3. God.
  4. Just men made perfect. Calvin recognized that this means “that we are joined to holy souls, which have put off their bodies, and left behind them all the filth of this world; and hence he says that they are consecrated or “made perfect”, for they are no more subject to the infirmities of the flesh, having laid aside the flesh itself. And hence we may with certainty conclude, that pious souls, separated from their bodies, still live with God, for we could not possibly be otherwise joined to them as companions.” (In other words, Calvin is showing why Luther was wrong to believe in soul sleep – the Saints are in Heaven right now!)
  5. Jesus.

That’s a much bigger, busier Heaven than “me and Jesus.” And it means that when we pray, we’re not just going to God: we’re going to the angels and going to the Saints. In his commentary, Calvin speaks of us joining the Saints in Heaven as companions, and that’s true. But it’s more than just going with them; we go to them. That’s what Hebrews 12 says. And it says it like that’s a good thing, not a wicked thing to be avoided. How can this vision be harmonized with either soul sleep or a rejection of going to the Saints and Angels in prayer?

(2). 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

The passage:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering— since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why it matters: God is made glorious in His Saints. That’s why God isn’t jealous of the honor we pay to the Saints. He honors the Saints by glorifying them, and He wants to do that for me and you. Protestants rightly tend to focus on the fact that God calls the unworthy. But His Promises are better than simply saving the unworthy, and loving the seemingly unlovable. He wants to make us worthy.

(3). Matthew 6:7-8

The passage:

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Why it matters: This is how Christ introduces the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father. And Jesus succinctly shows us the absurdity of focusing on “efficiency” in prayer. He condemns empty phrases, and belaboring prayers by making them needlessly long. But He also reminds us that God already knows what we need. So prayer is inherently inefficient, since it involves us telling the Father what He already knows.

The logical end-point in treating prayer as an efficient ordering system is to simply not pray at all, since God already knows. But that’s clearly not the Biblical model. So this passage should make us seriously re-examine why we pray. It’s not to tell God something He doesn’t know, and it’s not to give Him a better plan than the one He already has. Rather, it’s about living and communicating in that relationship with God, articulating our needs and wants, letting our own wills be conformed to the Divine will, and so on. It’s also about growing in union with our neighbor, which is why we pray for others, and ask them to pray for us. But this also points to one reason we ask the Saints and Angels to pray for us, as well.

(4). Revelation 5:6-14

The passage:

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; and he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

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; and they sang a new song, saying,  “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Why it matters: Let’s start with the incense. The four living creatures and the 24 elders are offering up the prayers of the Saints before Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb. Are these the prayers of the Saints in Heaven or the Saints on earth? Seemingly both, since the passage presents “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea” offering a single chorus of worship, and the creatures and elders responding by saying “Amen!”

Think about the implications of this. First, it’s yet another “inefficient” Biblical description of prayer. The Angels are acting as mediators, even though God hears our prayers perfectly fine without them. He is somehow glorified all the more by His Angels offering up these prayers. Second, it points to the reality that the Saints in Heaven are praying (and of course they are). So why not ask them to pray for you?

(5). Revelation 19:9-10

The passage:

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Why it matters: A popular Protestant misconception is that it’s idolatry simply to speak with the Saints and Angels in Heaven. If I tell my grandma here on earth how much I need her prayers, that’s fine; but if I tell the exact same thing to my other grandma, the one in Heaven, that’s idolatry and ancestor worship. It’s unbiblical paranoia, but it’s so widespread a belief that it’s worth tackling head-on.

This passage shows why that’s not true. St. John has been conversing with this angel throughout the Book of Revelation, and that (obviously) is not wrong. It’s only when he goes to worship him that the angels rebukes him. So talking to the Saints and Angels in Heaven = good. Worshiping them = bad. And that’s pretty clear evidence that talking to someone isn’t the same as worshiping him (even if that someone is in Heaven…. as the angel in Revelation 19 is.)

(6). Genesis 22:10-11

The passage:

Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”

Why it matters: It’s Abraham praying to an angel. That is, he’s conversing with an angel who is speaking to him from Heaven. That’s what we’re allegedly not allowed to do. And Abraham doesn’t just go unpunished for this. God responds by sending a Messianic prophecy to Abraham through this same angel (Genesis 22:15-18).

These selected passages are, of course, part of a much broader Biblical vision of Heaven and of prayer. But I think that for many people confused or troubled by the prospect of praying to Saints or Angels, it’s precisely this vision that needs discovering. Hopefully, this is something of a start.

35 Comments

  1. I am sorry if the “tone” here is off-putting. Rather, I hope that what I present here is helpful in testing your logic.

    1. “This passage isn’t talking about how we will approach Heaven when we die. It’s about the way that we approach Heaven, “the heavenly Jerusalem,” right now. How do we do that? In large part, through prayer. ”

    Where does Heb 12:22-24 refer to prayer? I thought the reference was to the metaphyscial reality that we are already seated in the heavenly realms as spoken about in Eph 2.

    2. “God is made glorious in His Saints. That’s why God isn’t jealous of the honor we pay to the Saints. ”

    Why would one follow the other? Rom 9:23 says that God is pateint with those destined with wrath in order “to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” God is made glorious in His saints, because the mercy shown to them reflects His glory in appointing eternity to such vessels instead of wrath, which He easily could have had done simply by not moving their hearts towards faith. It does not make them an object of veneration, logically.

    3. “So prayer is inherently inefficient, since it involves us telling the Father what He already knows.”

    So? How does that serve as justification for praying to someone other than the Father when Christ is asked, “How do we pray” and He’s like, “Let me show you, Our Father…” It’s as if you missed the forest from the trees.

    4. “Are these the prayers of the Saints in Heaven or the Saints on earth? Seemingly both…”

    I would agree, but this does not logically necessitate praying to the saint in heaven in order that he would pray so the angels would present his prayers to the father. Because it does not necessitate it, and nothing but idle speculation would even lend it any credibility, I don’t see the reason to simple infer this means we should pray to saints in heaven because their prayers are presented to God. if anything, being that our prayers are offered along side their’s, it would defeat the purpose.

    5. “but if I tell the exact same thing to my other grandma, the one in Heaven, that’s idolatry and ancestor worship. It’s unbiblical paranoia…”

    It is also “unbiblical” speculation to presume your grandmother even hears your prayers (as the Bible does not tell us if she does). So, there’s a lot of unbiblical stuff going around.

    6. “It’s Abraham praying to an angel. That is, he’s conversing with an angel who is speaking to him from Heaven. ”

    There are all sorts of problems with this. 1. That angel “from heaven” is intervening on earth. 2. Most Fathers, and modern theologians for that matter, agree the “angel of the Lord” is a Christophany. While I am not convinced of this thesis, the fact that Abraham worships this angel (elsewhere, it is not mentioned in the passage you cite, a pretty glaring error) lends credibility to it.

    I look forward to reading something which I can respond to without sounding so critical. That is not my intention. I just find the arguments presented here as weak. I welcome correction.

    God bless,

    Craig

    P.S. Most Protestants reject soul sleep, your caricatures as of late are a little misleading to Catholics who might not know enough about Protestantism as a whole.

    1. A brief follow up to your points (if I come across as ill toned, I apologize — I’m trying to moderate my argumentative nature with Charity):

      1. What you point out here is what Joe refers to, the metaphysical reality of our union with God and the Saints. Joe adds here that since we practice union with God through prayer, it seems right that we would experience our union with the Saints also through prayer. Therefore, on this account, praying to saints is not a sin.

      2. Actually, it does make them an object of veneration. “And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.'” (Luke 1:46-49) We call Mary blessed (this is the substance of veneration, nothing more, nothing less) because God has done great things to her. So to with all the Saints, who on account of being prepared in Glory for God are worthy of honor as much as any of the sacred objects of worship in the OT are worthy of honor. We don’t pray to the sacred objects of worship, of course, because they’re not people. This particular of Joe’s points defends honoring the saints, answering the objection that praying to saints is a sin because we ought not to honor the saints past.

      3. The Our Father is clearly and scripturally not the only prayer that Christians pray. Rather, it’s the normative one. You seem better than arguments of this kind.

      4. True, but it does leave the door open. Remember that we’re defending the innocence an existing practice from Tradition, not proposing a new practice. Since the whole Church came to practice and teach this practice, it seems untenable to believe that it’s a mortal sin (and if it’s any kind of sin, it’s certainly mortal, not venial).

      5. I’ll let more capable people answer this objection. This is the substantive objection, and I’m not that capable of answering it.

      6. I didn’t think Joe’s argument here was very convincing either.

      P.S. When I was a protestant before I became Catholic, I, for a time, believed in soul sleep. Joe is just pointing out that a disturbing number of people believe in soul sleep. Joe also pointed out that Calvin rejected soul sleep, who is the father of the Reformed, Baptist, and in part, Anglican traditions. I don’t think Joe is misrepresenting protestant belief here.

      I’m pretty sure your objections here boil down to regulative principle of worship vs. normative, and that you hold that there is no reason to believe the saints can hear us.

      The regulative principle of worship makes the New Covenant just as restrictive as the Old Covenant. I don’t think that you should allow this to be a restriction on your Christian Liberty any longer. Christ taught us the way to worship Him and the 7 sacraments by which to receive His grace. Beyond this, we simply worship God in Spirit and Truth, by Charity. There is no need to be scrupulous as to what exact form this worship takes, unless we are talking about nullifying the sacraments or utterly ignoring the norms which Christ set forward for us (although it ought to, due to respect for our Christian forefathers, be in keeping with tradition).

      As I said above, I’m not going to answer the argument that we don’t know whether Saints can hear us. I want to see what other people say.

      Pax Domini
      Alex

      1. Alex,

        1. I understand your point, but one does not necessitate the other and the emphasis he puts on Heb 12:22-24 appears to be misplaced, as Paul actually addresses the same issue and its importance in Eph 2.

        2. The prooftext you used does not show Mary venerating an angel, she is clearly addressing God. So, when addressing what makes the saints glorious we don’t need to speculare that because they are glorious they are worthy of veneration. Rather, we are told how saints are glorious and what that should lead us to do (give glory to God.)

        3.I think it is simple when interpreting the passage, we are supposed to apply its obvious point. The Scripture is not made to be bent so any tangential inference drawn from an otherwise clear passage can be used as justification for doing the exact opposite of what the passage is simply admonishing.

        4. Leaving a door open does not mean you jump through it. The Scripture does not specifically condemn lots of things which we, in better judgment, will refrain from doing.

        5. Thank you for your conciliatory tone.

        6. I am sure Joe thinks that the passage is suggestive, though like I said its literal rendering makes it hard to square with its conclusion.

        “I’m pretty sure your objections here boil down to regulative principle of worship vs. normative, and that you hold that there is no reason to believe the saints can hear us.”

        I am not defending the regulative principle. This would mean I can say, with certainty, because we are not commanded to pray to saints that it cannot be done. I am not taking this position. I am being more cautious. I am arguing that we are given a compelling rationale to pray to the Father with out petitions a plethora of times. So, even if the door is open to something else, I would rather follow what I am explicitly told to do and given a rationale for than speculate as to something else that is maybe possible.

        The normative practice Scripturally is to pray to the Father in the Son’s name. We do well if we follow this mold.

        God bless,
        Craig

        1. 1. Fair enough. I’ll let that lie as is. This removes an obstacle, but doesn’t get us to Rome.

          2. No speculation here. In glorifying God, Mary prophesies that all generations shall call her blessed. All generations calling her blessed is a form of veneration, unless you want to argue that she was prophesying that it would happen, but not condoning it.

          3. Fair enough. We do pray the Our Father and a great majority of prayers in the mass are prayed to the Father in the name of the Son (Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum: Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus: per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.).

          4. Sure. I agree. But when the whole church of the past eagerly jumped through the door, we can’t go back and say “that was mortally wrong”, because the whole church did it.

          I am very relieved for your sake that you don’t defend the regulative principle.

          I would say that in addition, from the Scriptures by themselves, we know that we can pray to Our Blessed Lord and the Holy Spirit directly as well as to the Father.

          Acts 7:59
          “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'”

          Acts 5:3-4
          “But Peter said: Ananias, why hath Satan tempted thy heart, that thou shouldst lie to the Holy Ghost, and by fraud keep part of the price of the land? Whilst it remained, did it not remain to thee? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God.”

          One lies with one’s mouth. Therefore, it was revealed to St. Peter this person prayed to the Holy Spirit, lying about how much he was giving. This passage and the principle that He is the 3rd person of the Blessed Trinity is enough to defend prayer directly to the Holy Spirit.

          1. Is calling Mary blessed a prayer though? Isn’t it ascribing to her worthy praise? I here of great men called, “Men of God,” and others saints, and others blessed.

            I am not saying I can conclude that your presuppositions are wrong, but clearly there are presuppositions that are affecting how these verses are interpreted.

    2. Craig,

      Your fifth objection presupposes a sola scriptura paradigm which we are under no obligation to adhere to, especially since it was not the paradigm of the apostles. Furthermore I would like to ask you, why would you not want all the Angels and Saints of heaven praying for you? A righteous man’s prayers have great power in it’s affects.

      May God be with you.

      Matthew

      1. Matt,

        “Your fifth objection presupposes a sola scriptura paradigm which we are under no obligation to adhere to, especially since it was not the paradigm of the apostles.”

        I totally agree! 🙂 This is exactly the point I made to Joe. The difference in our respective authorities lead to different conclusions. But, because Joe is making Scriptural arguments I think its legit to make Scriptural counter-arguments.

        “Furthermore I would like to ask you, why would you not want all the Angels and Saints of heaven praying for you?”

        I would, and I think they already are. Our disagreement is over how specifically any given saint is praying for me, and how many, and whether we can choose which saint(s) pray for us.

  2. Craig –

    Please explain why prayers to the dead happened in Judaism and historical Christianity AND WHY PROTESTANTS rejected this practice? Was there was some new exegesis that showed these practices were wrong?

    1. Clay, I’d be interested if you can give an example of a prayer to the dead within Judaism. I am only aware of 2 Macc 12 and the passage does not endorse the practice, but rather the doctrine of the resurrection.

      1. Actually, it does endorse.

        He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind; 44for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. 46Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.

        Notice, it says it is foolish and superfluous to pray for the dead if you don’t believe in the resurrection. So the passage is basically saying it’s needless to pray for the dead if you don’t believe in the resurrection.

        But what if you do believe in the resurrection? Since the passage says it’s only needless if you don’t believe, the vice-versa must be true.

        It also says it was noble, which is an endorsement, for an expiatory sacrifice to be offered, for the fallen. If sacrifices for the fallen are endorsed, why would prayers be different? And are not most sacrifices a form of prayer?

        Augustine sure seems to think it’s clear:

        We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place” (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).

      2. “if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.”

        The embolden is an obvious qualification. So, being that it would have been foolish to pray for the dead if there were no resurrection, it was a holy and pious thought that the resurrection is in view.

        The glaringly obvious point is that the belief in the resurrection is being extolled, not the act of praying to the dead itself. This is clearly what the author is saying. Perhaps Augustine or Calvin disagrees, but to disagree one must read into the passage ideas that are not there. What the passage says in the above is rather simple.

        But, let me use a similarly worded example pertaining to cooking:

        She then took up a collection among all the soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which she sent to the store to buy headcheese for everyone to eat. In doing this she acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as she had the soldiers’ hunger in mind; 44for if she was not expecting the soldiers to be hungry, it would have been superfluous and foolish to buy so much headcheese. But if she did this with a view to the satisfaction of a soldier’s hunger, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus she bought headcheese for the soldiers to satisfy their hunger.

        In the above, would we regularly read it as an endorsement of headcheese, or rather the attitude of the woman in buying the headcheese?

        Let me make it even more obvious:

        He then belted his son tenaciously so that the boy would never again be late to school. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the boy’s discipline in mind; for if he were not expecting the beating to actually discipline the boy, it would have been superfluous and foolish to beat the lad so tenaciously. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those parents who discipline their children, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he belted his son tenaciously so that the boy would never again be late to school.

        Is the above an endorsement of belting or discipline in general?

        So, being that language should be understood in a consistent way, it is obvious that the author of Maccabees was to some degree uneasy with the actual prayer, the wholeheartedly agreed with the intention. In the above two examples, one obviously more extreme than the next, we can see this is obviously the conclusion the reader must draw from the construction of the wording.

        God bless,
        Craig

        P.S. In case it was not clearly implied, I am against belting and condemn the practice.

        1. Hi Craig,

          I agree we should be consistent.

          I am going to assume that at some point in your life’s journey, you had a geometry class.

          This passage in question is a simple if/then geometry proof, where if this part of an equation is true, then the other part must be true.

          So first let’s look at your belting analogy:

          He then belted his son tenaciously so that the boy would never again be late to school. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way,

          What is he doing that he acted in a very excellent and noble way? You haven’t even mentioned that he’s belting because of discipline, as of yet. So this, cannot be referring to discipline, because it hasn’t even been mentioned yet. All inasmuch is doing, is telling you the why of the action. But the way you constructed the passage, noble and excellent way is talking about the belting. So yes, you are endorsing belting in that passage.

          The same holds true for the Maccabean passage. If there is no resurrection, then praying for the dead is foolish.

          All your but qualifier is saying, if they did this for any other reason than the resurrection in mind, it would be foolish. But again what is the “this” that the author is talking about. What did they do? They gave you the why they did it? And the “this” passage, like your belting analogy, is pointing to the action of prayers for the dead.

  3. Regarding point 6:

    The following scriptures detail human interaction with the dead, either by voice or by touch. Note particularly that in many of these cases names are used in these interactions, that is, they were called out to in a personal address by their names.

    OLD TESTAMENT:

    1SAM. 28:15

    “..Saul knew it was Samuel, so he bowed down low. 15 “Why are you bothering me by bringing me up like this?” Samuel asked. “I’m terribly worried,” Saul answered. “The Philistines are about to attack me. God has turned his back on me and won’t answer any more by prophets or by dreams. What should I do?” 16 Samuel said: If the Lord has turned away from you and is now your enemy, don’t ask me what to do. 17 I’ve already told you: The Lord has sworn to take the kingdom from you and give it to David.”

    Kings 13:21

    “And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

    NEW TESTAMENT:

    Luke 8:52

    “And all wept and mourned for her. But he said: Weep not; the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. But he taking her by the hand, cried out, saying: Maid, arise. And her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And he bid them give her to eat.”

    Mark 5:41

    “And taking the damsel by the hand, he saith to her: Talitha cumi, which is, being interpreted: Damsel (I say to thee) arise.”

    Luke 7:14

    “And he came near and touched the bier. And they that carried it, stood still. And he said: Young man, I say to thee, arise. And he that was dead, sat up, and began to speak.”

    John 11:43

    “Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. ….When he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. And presently he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding bands; and his face was bound about with a napkin.”

    Acts 9:40

    “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.”

    1. We shouldn’t be using the Samuel passage. That one specifically condemns Saul’s action, as it was actual divination.

      1. But the scripture does show that communication between the dead and the living IS possible. Even more proof of the dead being able to hear the living can be found in the scriptures detailing the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of both Moses and Elijah. Moreover, the apostles Peter, James and John were witnesses:

        “And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: [2] And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. [3] And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. “

        1. Even if necromancy is possible (and not a demonic deception) it does not mean we should be employing alternate means. As for the other passages, they miss the mark I believe but we can agree to disagree.

          1. That Moses and Elias are physically dead and yet are talking with Jesus about His death is missing the mark regarding praying or communicating with deceased saints?

            The question should then be: Why did Jesus need ( or God desire) Moses and Elias to discuss with Him the imminent events of His upcoming passion and death, in the quote cited above? Why would God use them as intermediaries, almost as if they were angels? And Jesus did say earlier in the Gospel ” …in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.” ( Matt.22:30)

            Of course this is a divine mystery. But we do have here a good example of how God uses intermediaries to communicate His Divine will in this life. And if Moses and Elias can be used for such an ‘angel like’ purpose, why wouldn’t we expect the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is greater than Moses or Elias, or any other Christian saint, to be used in a likewise manner, if God so desired to help the members of His mystical body here on Earth?

          2. Then it is possible also for other saints, such as the Blessed Virgin Mary ( who is greater than Moses and Elias), in a likewise manner to be imminently/physically present when God wills; whereby these and other deceased saints can communicate God’s messages in a similar way that angels do.

            It is not known whether Jesus asked for the aid of Moses and Elias, or that God the Father provided the help without Jesus’ intercession. And it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus is not receiving the instructions directly from the words of His Father, but through the aid of intermediaries who are creatures of God. And that God could indeed have spoken directly to Jesus with His own words, without the needs of creatures as intermediaries,is provedn by the fact that God the Father addressed the apostles Peter, James and John using His own words at that very same hour, i.e…:

            ” And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.”

            So, it is very clear that God’s intention is, for whatever divine reason, to make use of His own creatures, whether angelic, human, or other, to convey His divine will to us here below. As a king on earth does not need to involve Himself in every affair of the kingdom, it appears that God also acts in this way. He allows other servants in the hierarchy of His kingdom to participate in His divine governance. Thus we understand the role of angels in the Kingdom of God, and thus we understand the role of saints such as Moses and Elias in the Gospel story above. This also, is why Catholics believe in the intercession of saints and angels. These servants and messengers of God ‘do know’ what is taking place here below, as GOD ALLOWS them to know in His own divine way. And the transfiguration story is a proof of this. Moses and Elias knew MORE than Jesus did of things passing here below.

  4. To me veneration of the saints along with intercessory prayer are ways of putting the second great commandment into practice. The first great commandment orders our direct relationship with God, but the second is almost as important ordering our relationship to God through each other. That’s the nature of love, to be diffusive and inclusive. The first commandment does not exclude the second; rather, demands it.

    1. This is a very good defense for the practice, which is why I think Christians have and will continue the practice even if we find out in the end of the day it was misplace piety. Thanks for your insight John.

  5. Craig –

    Duane answered your question to me. Why does history overwhelmingly demonstrate the practice? Everyone was wrong??

  6. Craig –

    Praying to the dead is not necromancy unless you make up a new definition of the word. First you incorrectly interpret 2 Maccabees and now you use the word necromancy incorrectly. Why should anyone believe you know what you’re talking about on this subject? These are massive errors.

      1. Thing is Craig, the Saints aren’t dead because God is not a God of the dead but of the living for all are alive to Him. And that is especially true for the Saints in heaven. You would admit that it is perfectly possible for God to make our situation known to the Saints in heaven. And then scripture clearly shows the Saints in heaven praying. It’s not hard to imagine that they could then pray for us. And let me tell you, the Saints in heaven are the most powerful prayer warriors in existence, especially the Blessed virgin Mary. The only thing keeping you from this is you don’t see prayers explicitly being made to Saints in scripture. Honestly, the ubiquitousness of the practice in the early Church kind of reveals that the did not have that sola scriptura paradigm that you do.

        May God be with you.

        Matthew

        1. Excellent point Matt and why I try to get Craig to deal with history. Was everyone just dumb and misguided? Yes if you’re a Protestant. Otherwise, history makes no sense and is unbearingly Roman Catholic. Of course, most weren’t dumb and misguided.

  7. Craig –

    Your response to Craig doesn’t explain the reality of the historical practice. Why is history different then your position? The Jews and Christians were just misguided in this practice? I want you to deal with historical reality.

  8. One reason why Protestants might not believe that prayer to deceased saints is advantageous, or pius, is because they think that it is a complete waste of time and claim that the deceased saints cannot even hear our prayers in the first place. But do the scriptures teach otherwise?

    How the saints hear our prayers doesn’t really matter, that is, whether God teaches them directly, or whether it is just an attribute that comes with the attaining of eternal life. This will always be a mystery here below…the question of ‘how’ exactly it is that they hear, or understand, our prayers to them.

    But, if anyone examines carefully the accounts in the Bible relating to life after death, and especially 1. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus noted by Joe above; 2. The meeting of Moses and Elias on the mount of the Transfiguration; 3. The conversation between Saul and Samuel at Endor in the Book of Kings; And 4, the many souls of the dead raised by Jesus following the earthquake after His passion and death …what we find is that these deceased saints all have a familiarity with the lives and current events of those still living her on Earth.

    In the case of Samuel and Saul, regardless of the morality of trying to conjure the dead, which of course is wrong, we learn that Samuel is very familiar with the impending battle that is to take place the next day. And he correctly prophesies that Saul will die in the same battle. Samuel says:

    “the Lord will do to thee as he spoke by me, and he will rend thy kingdom out of thy hand, and will give it to thy neighbour David: [18] Because thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord, neither didst thou execute the wrath of his indignation upon Amalec. Therefore hath the Lord done to thee what thou sufferest this day. [19] And the Lord also will deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines: and tomorrow thou and thy sons shall be with me: and the Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines. [20] And forthwith Saul fell all along on the ground, for he was frightened with the words of Samuel..”

    so we can see here that Samuel not only knows past events, that Sul did not execute punishment on Amelec since Sauls death, but also Samuel still has the gift of his former prophetic powers, stating that Israel will lose the battle and Saul and his sons will join him in sheol the very next day.

    So, because Samuel has this knowledge, it was obviously provided to Him in one way or another. The important point being that he does have the capability of acquiring information regarding earthly matters in his state of rest. And again, how this happens is a mystery, but THAT it happened is a lesson for us that deceased Saints can understand current events happening on Earth after their deaths. Does not this story prove that?

    Then we have the Transfiguration account. Moses, who lived centuries before Jesus, and Elias as well, are discussing with Jesus intimate details of His upcoming passion. How would they know these details if they were not aware of the current events happening in the life of Jesus at that time? Who gave them the power to travel to that mount and appear to both Jesus and the disciples who were with Him. If God speaks directly to the apostles from the cloud of Heaven, why does this same God allow for Moses and Elias to speak to Jesus, and he Himself not teach Jesus concerning His upcoming death?

    These are mysteries that might never be known, but should definitely be considered and meditated on. But one fact is sure, and that is that both Moses and Elias were intimately aware of what was happening with Jesus at that time. If not, they would be completely incompetent advisors to Jesus. And this doesn’t make any sense. So, again, we have deceased saints teaching and prophesying after their physical deaths, and the length of time and even cultural changes since their deaths don’t seem to matter. Even though Moses and Elias never met each other on Earth, they seem to be very comfortable with each other in this account. So this is another mystery we can ponder from the Gospels regarding communicating with saints that have already passed on to their glory. Apparently they have intimate knowledge of what is passing here below, even as angels do also.

    The we have the parable of Abraham and Lazarus that Jesus taught to His disciples. Here too, we have an account which portrays Abraham being very familiar with the sufferings of Lazarus while he lived and begged in front of the rich man’s mansion gate. And Abraham is shown having knowledge also of the rich man, enough to have an intimate conversation with him. This is also an indication that deceased saints have powers similar to angels, wherein they can observe events and occurrences of things passing here below on Earth.

    Last we have the story of the resurrection of the dead after the earthquake on Mt. Calvary, wherein these dead appeared to ‘many in Jerusalem.’ If these risen deceased saints had the ability to travel through Jerusalem to find their relatives and loved ones, it shows that they have these special powers given to them by God. If they can communicate with their friends and family, why cannot our departed saints, friends and family members…who were faithful to God in their lives, do likewise? It seems that these souls had a particular love and care for those whoo still lived on earth, for why would they bother to appear to them if this was not the case?

    But, if indeed this is the case…and deceased saints are like the angels, which angels it is said by Christ that ‘they rejoice over the conversion of one sinner more than 99 just persons’…then it is easy to understand that both angels and saints have intimate knowledge of what passes here below, and therefore they indeed DO HEAR OUR PRAYERS WHEN WE PRAY TO THEM.

    What other conclusion can we draw from these scriptural accounts?

  9. Protestantism rejects the metaphysical on this earth and is steeped in scientific and intellectual pride. All man needs is his post modern enlightenment to figure out Scripture and what it means without regard to history. This is probably part of the reason why Craig rarely offers up a historical explanation of his views or dares to explain historical reality with something other than the other side was just wrong.

    1. “Protestantism rejects the metaphysical on this earth”.
      Most of Protestantism does. Current miracle-driven Pentecostalism doesn’t. It’s all miracle, all-over. Not the classical rational Protestant.

      “is steeped in scientific and intellectual pride.”
      Intellectual pride, yes; scientific, no. Well, again, it depends. Craig here doesn’t believe in science, unless it’s some “science” he defines for himself — so yes, but it’s intellectual and scientific hubris, not pride.

      ” All man needs is his post modern enlightenment to figure out Scripture”
      No need to argue about “enlightenment” here. Craig here doesn’t believe in the enlightenment principles, but many Protestants (and many Catholics) do.

      ” without regard to history.”
      Oh, yes, that’s the common thread among Protestants. Even post-Enlightenment, scientifically-minded Catholics are better than most Protestants in this regard.

      “This is probably part of the reason why Craig rarely offers up a historical explanation of his views or dares to explain historical reality with something other than the other side was just wrong.”

      His historical explanation sums up as his defense of: “everthing after CE 300 is worthless”, because I say so through my individual Baptist inner-godly-light-driven hobbyist/amateur “theologian” insight, because I read so much. So the other side is just wrong, that’s what I always say on my blog and when they let me speak in my congregation.

      1. How about this classic, “you need to start interpreting Scripture rightly,” and though I’m not saying it, to interpret it rightly is you aligning your view to my interpretation.

        Or this classic, “such and such a passage doesn’t endorse what you Catholics do.” Wait a sec, church fathers say that what it says. The fathers of the Reformation say that’s what the passage says, and that’s why they don’t include the book as Scripture. “Well they’re all reading something into it that’s not there. You see, the Catholic Church got that interpretation of Scripture wrong, for 2,000 years, and the Reformers for the last 500 years also got it wrong. Lucky for you that I am here to give it the correct interpretation.”

        1. Duane, yes, as time passes, we know by heart all their arguments. They’re never sincere enough to admit they are wrong on something of substance, just picky details.

          Yes, your last paragraph nailed it, and summed up most the discussion going on, by many apologists. At least that explains why they don’t have a magisterium, and why they don’t really have a community of interpreters, and why denominations don’t matter in the end (for most of them). I read somewhere that there are Protestant seminaries that accept many different denominations. In the end it may be just a coincidence that each one ends up in a different denomination. I can only imagine the morose, hodgepodge atmosphere of those who can only find a common ground diverging from the Catholic church. Anyway, what I mean is that the result is always what you describe above. If another Protestant says “Luther and Calvin are right, the passage really says that, it’s so obvious” — then Craig says, “No, you are all wrong”.

          It’s like: “Traditional Protestants”: Catholics are right in their interpretation, but the book itself is wrong.
          “Craig: Catholics are wrong in their interpretation, but the book itself is right”.

          I wonder why Craig would give himself the trouble of reinstating the acceptability of the “Apocripha”, not as canonical, but as at least useful. “Oh, it’s useful, but not for doctrine.” Whatever. There is either truth in it or there isn’t. The classical reformers thought that they weren’t canonical and couldn’t be so, because there were errors in them. And because the Jews didn’t accept them as canonical. Not that Luther & Co has ever given much credit to Jews or Jewish institutions, it’s clear he despised them. But he needed some historical leverage. On the other hand, to interpret it like Craig is to say: “the book is true, just Catholics interpret it wrong. See, there is no doctrinal error here (according to his doctrine), if you interpret it according to my doctrine and my exegetical principles.”

          I once saw another guy who wrote: “You Catholics can take anything from scripture. You take cult of saints from Maccabees, importance of works from Jesus’ parables, importance of Mary from Luke and Revelations, importance of priests from so and so etc etc etc. You say you can base all your doctrines from the Bible”.

          That almost made me laugh — well, they ask for scriptural basis for everything, and when they are presented with evidence, they say the text doesn’t say what it says, and that only their interpretation is right. The same goes for Patristics, with the advantage that they can say: “Oh, the ECF aren’t scripture, so that when they don’t agree with me I just say they’re wrong”. And they use the same method for their fellow Protestants. That’s why there’s no heresy in Protestantism. The only true heresy in Protestantism today is traditional churches: Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy (non-Chalcedonians) and maybe cults (like Mormonism).

          It all ends up when it started: sola scriptura = solo scriptura = free interpretation of scripture.

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