Why do Catholics pray to saints?
Since Christ has but one body (1 Cor 12:20), not two bodies; one in heaven and one on earth, and since the saved are not separated from that one body by death (Rom 8:38), and since no part of that body can claim to not need another part (1 Cor 12:21), why would we think it wrong to seek the prayerful assistance of the saints in heaven?
Sometimes, those who object to prayers to the saints point to 1 Tim 2:5 which states that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “See?” They say, “what part of ‘only’ don’t you understand?”
The next time this happens to you, ask them to read the prior four verses. What they’ll see read is St. Paul exhorting us to pray for one another, calling it “good and…acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”. If I can ask a “saint” on earth to pray for me without usurping the unique mediatorship of Christ, why can’t the same be true of a heavenly one.
Because they’re dead? But that’s false. They’re more alive than we! (Mk 12:27), and not just alive but fully righteous (Rev 21:27)! You do remember what St. James wrote about righteous men don’t you? (James 5:16)
Confusion often arises in the minds of Protestants at the word pray which they typically use to mean worship. When Catholics use the word pray, they mean it in the traditional English sense – to ask. If you’ve ever read the King James Version of the Bible you may have run across the verse “I pray thee, say me not nay” (1 Kgs. 2:20). It is clear from the context of this passage that Bathsheba is not worshiping her son Solomon, but asking something of him.
Sometimes Catholics feel the need to say, “no we do not pray to the saints, we pray with them.” While this is technically true –we do pray with them to God– once you understand what a Catholic means by pray, you’ll see that Catholics do in fact pray to the saints and that this does not constitute idolatry.
In the book of Revelation, we see that those who reside in Heaven are receiving the prayers of the saints on earth and are offering them to God (Revelation 8:3-4 and Revelation 5:8). It shouldn’t surprise us that our brothers and sisters in heaven surround us like a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) interceding on our behalf. Being perfected in love they are more, not less, concerned for our salvation.
Consistant With the Early Church
A final point to consider is that the early Church prayed to the Saints in heaven. Though the early Christians were not inerrant, a non-Catholic Christian should not dismiss this lightly. He should ask himself: How likely is it that the earliest Christians were all wrong and I, 2000 years removed with my NIV study Bible under arm, right?
Here’s just one example from St. Augustine:
“A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers” (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).
Click here for more quotations from the early Church.