The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should You Pray to the Virgin Mary?
MARY is a familiar figure to most people who know anything about Christianity. The Scriptures relate that Almighty God particularly blessed this young woman by choosing her to be the mother of Jesus. Jesus’ birth was unique in that Mary was a virgin when she conceived him. Certain churches of Christendom have long reserved a special veneration for Mary. In 431 C.E., the Council of Ephesus proclaimed her “Mother of God,” and today many people are taught to pray to her. *
Sincere worshippers know that they must address their prayers to the right person. What does the Bible teach in this regard? Should Christians pray to the Virgin Mary?
“Teach Us How to Pray”
The Gospel account of Luke records that one of Jesus’ disciples requested of him: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” In response, Jesus began: “Whenever you pray, say, ‘Father, let your name be sanctified.’” During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likewise instructed his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.”—Luke 11:1, 2; Matthew 6:9.
The first thing we learn, then, is that prayer, or worshipful address, should be directed to Jesus’ Father, who is Jehovah. Nowhere does the Bible authorize us to pray to anyone else. This is appropriate since, as Moses was told when he received the Ten Commandments, Jehovah is “a God exacting exclusive devotion.”—Exodus 20:5.
What About the Rosary?
Many who pray to Mary have been taught that blessings can be gained by the repetition of set formulas—prayers such as the Hail Mary, Our Father, and others. For Catholics, “the most widespread form of Marian devotion [that is, devotion to Mary] is without doubt the rosary,” says the book Symbols of Catholicism. The rosary is a religious exercise in honor of the Virgin Mary. The term also refers to the string of beads used to count prayers. “Five sets of ten beads, separated by an individual bead,” explains the same book, “are an invitation to fifty recitations of ‘Hail Mary’, five of ‘Our Father’, and five of ‘Glory be to the Father.’” Does God listen with favor to the devout recitation of the rosary?
Again, the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples provide us with an authoritative answer. “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do,” he said, “for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words.” (Matthew 6:7) So Jesus specifically told his followers to avoid repeating set formulas in their prayers.
‘But didn’t Jesus teach his disciples to repeat the Our Father, which is part of the rosary?’ someone may ask. It is to be acknowledged that Jesus provided a model prayer, which has come to be known as the Our Father, or the Lord’s Prayer. We should note, however, that he did so immediately after giving the above warning against saying “the same things over and over again.” That Jesus did not intend for the model prayer to be repeated by rote is also evident from differences in his expressions in the two recorded instances in which he taught his disciples to pray. (Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:2-4) The ideas Jesus expressed on those occasions were similar, but his words were not the same. This leads us to the conclusion that Jesus was simply providing models or examples of how his followers can pray and of what they can appropriately pray for. Most important, his words indicated who should be the recipient of prayer.
Respect for Mary
The fact that the Scriptures do not teach Christians to pray to Mary in no way implies a lack of respect for the role she played in the outworking of God’s purposes. The blessings that come through her Son will be to the eternal benefit of all obedient mankind. “All generations will pronounce me happy,” Mary herself stated. And her cousin Elizabeth said that Mary was “blessed . . . among women.” Indeed, she was. It was a wonderful privilege for Mary to be chosen to bear the Messiah.—Luke 1:42, 48, 49.
However, Mary is not the only woman whom the Scriptures call blessed. Because of the actions that Jael took for the benefit of the ancient nation of Israel, she too was said to have been “most blessed among women.” (Judges 5:24) Faithful Jael, Mary, and many other godly women mentioned in the Bible are certainly worthy of our imitation—but not of our veneration.
Mary was a faithful follower of Jesus. She was present on various occasions during his earthly ministry and also at his death. After Jesus’ resurrection she was “persisting in prayer” with Jesus’ brothers. This gives us reason to believe that along with them she too was anointed with holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. and thus shared the hope of being part of the bride class that will reign in heaven with Christ.—Matthew 19:28; Acts 1:14; 2:1-4; Revelation 21:2, 9.
None of this, though, authorizes us to pray to Mary. Heartfelt prayer is an essential part of worship, and Christians are encouraged to “persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) However, all such worshipful devotion should be directed to Jehovah alone, through Jesus Christ.—Matthew 4:10; 1 Timothy 2:5.
^ par. 3 The idea that Mary is the mother of God is based on the unscriptural Trinity doctrine, which says that Jesus is God.