Why I don’t pray to saints

February 13, 2009

I was reading an autobiographical description of Dr. Kreeft’s journey from Calvinism to Roman Catholicism. One of the objections that he had before his conversion was the practice of praying to different saints, particularly Mary. The way he answered this objection was that you ask your friends to pray for you all the time. So how is it any different when you ask a saint (and we know that God is the God of the living) rather than your friend?

There are several differences. First is the difference in the type of dialogue. When we ask our friends to pray for us, we do not equate that as the actual prayer itself. Prayer is between the Divine and a creature, between Infinite and finite. Praying to a saint is between a creature and another creature, between finite and finite. It therefore does not even deserve to be categorized as a type of ‘prayer.’ Job talking to his friends isn’t prayer – only him talking with God is. As Dr. Kreeft says in one of his lectures, Job isn’t counted righteous because of his right theology, nor his friends counted unrighteous because of their wrong theology. God only counts Job righteous because he prayed to God!

The second difference is that of Trinitarian understanding of who Christ is. It’s okay to ask your friends to pray for you; it is not okay if you do not pray yourself, or think that we cannot boldly approach the throne of grace ourselves. It is a characteristic of unbelievers to ask others to pray for them without praying themselves. It is the characteristic of an enemy to ask for a mediator. But when we come to Christ, we have that mediator; we are no longer enemies of God. We do not need a mediator to the Mediator.

Thirdly, there is a difference in the function of prayer. The primarily function of prayer isn’t supplication. It is adoration. Only through adoration, only by acknowledging and worshiping God can we see how small all our problems really are, how blessed we truly are, how sinful we have been. Praying to saints seems like it focuses entirely on supplication, forgetting all these different functions of prayer.

You may concede that ‘praying’ to saints is wrong, yet think that it’s still permissible to ‘ask’ them. In that case, think about Hebrews 12:1,2. Somehow I think the great crowd of witnesses will have (even more so than when they were alive) fixed their eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of their faith. Somehow I think their praises for Christ will be of a far greater exhortation and encouragement than any supplications they give on our behalf. Most of the troubles we go through are caused by our eyes wandering away from Christ; shall we dare to think that the eyes of the saints will stray from their Lover once they have beheld Him? Just as Simeon was overjoyed at the sight of baby Jesus, so will their souls be enraptured by the glory of the risen Christ. They will be entirely too humble to concern themselves with praying for us.

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2 Responses to “Why I don’t pray to saints”

  1. enoch Says:

    i’m pretty sure dr. kreeft didn’t mean it like this, but i’m sure job did other things besides prayer that would also have made him righteous 🙂

    i agree with you. i think also, i would question the necessity of having saints pray for you. do we have that much shame that we cannot even speak to God ourselves? (actually, i guess we do, but God doesn’t distance Himself like that) but hebrews 4 says that we have a High Priest who knows everything we go through and that there is no need to go through any earthly priest and therefore, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence.

  2. HG Says:

    word. i’m pretty sure i’m taking Dr. Kreeft out of context 😛 wah wah.

    and that was actually my second point, which i should’ve fleshed out better. the ‘approach the throne of grace’ bit is from hebrews 4 i think.


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