by Matt Slick
There is nothing in the Bible that says that Mary can simultaneously hear the prayers of people all over the world, in different languages, spoken, and thought, an attribute that God possesses. But, the Catholic Church says she can.
"May the Blessed Virgin hear your every prayer."(Message of John Paul II, read by H. E. Msgr. Francesco Marchisano, Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens, Saturday, 31 May 2003).
Roman Catholics all over the world offer prayers to Mary on a regular basis and expect her to hear them and intercede for them with God and Jesus. This is unfortunate because it isn't biblical. They have gone beyond scripture. They need to repent and focus on Jesus, not Mary. But, this grand repentance will not happen as long as the Roman Catholic church puts its own authority and tradition above Scripture - an error that has led it into many false teachings.
The main verse The Roman Catholic Church uses to support their idea about Mary hearing prayers is found in Revelation 5:8. Let's take a look at that verse in several translations.
- NASB, "When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints," (Revelation 5:8).
- ESV, "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 golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints," (Revelation 5:8).
- NAB (vatican website1), "When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones," (Revelation 5:8).
Nothing in that verse says that anyone hears the prayers of the saints. It is a figurative context and is not explicit. So, what do commentaries say about this verse?
- "The saints’ prayers are to be identified with those of 6:9–11 and 8:4ff., which call for divine vindication of martyred believers and which are both directly linked to judgment of the ungodly."2
- "prayers of saints—as the angel offers their prayers (Rev 8:3) with incense (compare Ps 141:2). This gives not the least sanction to Rome’s dogma of our praying to saints. Though they be employed by God in some way unknown to us to present our prayers (nothing is said of their interceding for us), yet we are told to pray only to Him (Rev 19:10). Their own employment is praise (whence they all have harps): ours is prayer."3
- "The preciousness of all believers’ prayers (“the prayers of the saints”; 8:3) to the Lord is emphasized as they are described as filling gold bowls in the presence of God."4
- "This does not mean that Christians on earth can access believers now in heaven. It is a symbolic reminder that God remembers the prayers of His people..."5
Of course these are Protestant commentaries. Catholic ones would interpret it in favor of Mary being able to hear our prayers. But again, does the text actually say that they hear the prayers? No, it does not. The saints in heaven offering the prayers doesn't mean that they can hear the prayers of people on earth. The Roman Catholic Church has read a doctrine into the text.
Now, even if it were possible that this verse could be interpreted to mean that the saints in heaven can hear Christians' prayers, which I don't assert is legitimate, it still does not mean that Mary can hear the prayers of people all over the world, simultaneously, both thought and spoken, and in different languages. Since Revelation 5:8 does not tell us exactly what's going on, the Roman Catholic Church should not read into it very much at all lest they exceed what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and violate biblical truth. Nevertheless, let's take a look at what catholic.com says about that verse.
"As Scripture indicates, those in heaven are aware of the prayers of those on earth. This can be seen, for example, in Revelation 5:8, where John depicts the saints in heaven offering our prayers to God under the form of "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." But if the saints in heaven are offering our prayers to God, then they must be aware of our prayers. They are aware of our petitions and present them to God by interceding for us."6
If The people in heaven are aware of the prayers, it doesn't say how they are aware. I am aware that my friends pray to God but I don't know what those prayers are unless they tell me. I cannot read people's minds nor do I hear the prayers they give to God unless I'm physically present with them and they're speaking out loud. So, the Roman Catholic church is stretching the verse beyond its intent and not being logical in its examination. The Catholics are committing the interpretive error called eisegesis.
But heaven is different
Roman Catholics say that heaven is not like it is here on earth and that we don't know what Mary can and cannot do in heaven; therefore, they say, why can't she hear our prayers and answer them. But this is an argument from silence. We should not argue from what we don't know. We should argue from what we do know. To argue from what we do not know opens the door wide to saying anything. For example, the Bible does not say anything about life on other planets. Therefore, should we conclude that there is life on other planets? Of course not. This is why the Bible says that were not to exceed what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). It sets the scriptures as the guide that should not be exceeded. Our admonition from Scripture is to use the word of God as the footstool upon which we build our truths, not the ignorance of what heaven might be like and then use it to justify a teaching about Mary is not supported in Scripture.
What about other saints?
We often hear how Mary can hear our prayers and even answer them. I've had Catholics tell me that other saints can hear prayers as well. Can they also hear prayers in different languages, both thought and spoken, all simultaneously from all over the planet? If they can, why the focus on Mary? Furthermore, all of the so-called Roman Catholic Saints are creatures. They were created by God who is infinitely greater than the they. Why go to Saints and pray to them when Jesus said to seek him (John 14:14; Matthew 11:28) and that he alone was a way to the Father (John 14:6)? Isn't Jesus enough? Isn't God the Trinity enough? Of course God is sufficient... unless you take your eyes off of God and put it on your tradition. Then, new doctrines creep in and with it comes a host of errors.
- 1. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__P12O.HTM
- 2. Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999.
- 3. Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
- 4. Cabal, Ted, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen, Paul Copan, J.P. Moreland, and Doug Powell. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.
- 5. Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1992.
- 6. http://www.catholic.com/tracts/praying-to-the-saints