Marie and Theresa considered themselves to be “good Catholics.” Both believed in “saints.” Marie believed that she could pray to them for help. Theresa regularly prayed to the patron “saint” of her home village. She also prayed to the “saint” after whom she was named.
LIKE Marie and Theresa, millions of people around the world pray to their “saints” to invoke a blessing. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, “the saints intercede for men,” and “it is ‘good and useful’ to invoke them to obtain . . . benefits from God.”
How, though, does God view the matter? Is it acceptable to him that we pray to “saints” to intercede in our behalf? Consider what the Bible says.
Should We Invoke “Saints”?
In the Bible, the Greek word rendered “saint” in some versions means “holy one.” However, there is no mention in the Bible of any faithful worshipper of God praying to a “saint.” Why is that? The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that it was only “by the 3rd century [that] the efficacy of intercession of the saints was clearly recognized.” That was some 200 years after Christ died. The teaching, therefore, did not originate with Jesus and the inspired Bible writers who documented his ministry. The reason?
The Bible consistently teaches that we should pray only to God, doing so in the name of Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” Jesus said. “No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, Catholic Jerusalem Bible) Those unambiguous words harmonize with Jesus’ teaching recorded at Matthew 6:9-13. While explaining the subject of prayer, Jesus said to his followers: “You must pray, then, this way: Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. . . .” (Matthew 6:9) Clearly, our heavenly Father is the only one to whom we should address our prayers. This truth rests on a fundamental Bible principle.
—An Act of Worship
“Prayer,” says The World Book Encyclopedia, “refers to reverent words and thoughts directed toward God, gods, goddesses, or other objects of worship. . . . Prayer is an important form of worship in nearly all the religions in the world.” (Italics ours.) Ask yourself, ‘Is it proper to bend our knees in worshipful prayer to anyone other than our Creator and Life-Giver?’ (Psalm 36:9) “The true worshipers,” said Jesus, “will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him.” (John 4:23) The Bible also states that our Creator requires our “exclusive devotion.”
Consider the example of the Christian apostle John. After receiving the spectacular visions recorded in the Bible book of Revelation, the awestruck apostle “fell down to worship before the feet of the angel” who had shown him these things. How did the angel respond? “Be careful!” he said. “Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers . . . Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8, 9) Yes, once again the Bible emphasizes that we should worship only Jehovah God.
In harmony with the foregoing, God alone is called the “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2) Moreover, as the Almighty, he alone has the authority, knowledge, and power to answer any legitimate request sought through prayer. (Job 33:4) Even Jesus Christ, by his own admission, has limitations. (Matthew 20:23; 24:36) That said, however, Jesus Christ has been given great authority, including the responsibility of serving as mankind’s Intercessor.
A Sympathetic Intercessor
Of Jesus the Bible says: “He is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) In other words, Jesus can serve as the sympathetic Intercessor in behalf of those who ‘approach God through him.’ This does not mean that we should pray to Jesus and that he will forward our prayer on, as it were. Rather, it means that we pray to God in the name of Jesus, thus acknowledging his authority. Why is Jesus the perfect Intercessor?
For one thing, Jesus experienced life as a human, which enabled him to appreciate more fully the sufferings of others. (John 11:32-35) For another, he demonstrated his love for people by healing the sick, raising the dead, and providing spiritual sustenance to all who came to him. (Matthew 15:29, 30; Luke 9:11-17) He even forgave sins. (Luke 5:24) This gives us confidence, for if we sin, “we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.”
Jesus’ love and compassion are qualities we should try to imitate. True, we are not authorized to serve as intercessors. But we can pray for others. In fact, love should impel us to do so. “Pray for one another,” wrote James. “A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.”
Marie and Theresa learned those precious truths by examining the Bible for themselves. Jehovah’s Witnesses invite you to do the same. As Jesus said, “those worshiping [God] must worship with spirit and truth.”