Is praying to the saints biblical?

One of the erroneous teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is the doctrine of praying to the saints. Catholicism teaches that it is okay to offer prayers not only to God but also to creatures such as Mary, Joseph, and others who have entered heaven. Is it biblical to pray to anyone other than God? We firmly hold that it is not biblical and that to pray to anyone other than God is idolatrous. Nevertheless, Roman Catholics will try to find whatever they can in Scripture to demonstrate that praying to the saints is permitted. One of the major sections of Scripture used to support this is found in Rev. 5:8-14

"And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."  11 And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." 13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever." 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshiped," (Rev. 5:8-14).

Let's look at this section of scripture from the Roman Catholic perspective and then analyze their position.

Verse 8 says speaks of the "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Verses 9-10 speak of a new song sung in heaven.  Verse 11 speaks of those around the throne of God, and verse 12 says that they were saying "Worthy is the Lamb . . . " Verse 13 mentions every created thing in heaven and earth saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

We have no problem with those in heaven hearing what is said on earth.  Many Christians deny that this is possible, but it seems to be clearly taught here.  Does this justify the Roman Catholic teaching of praying to those who are in heaven?  Not at all.  Let's take a look at the verses.

First, regarding verse 8, can the prayers be authored by those who are already in heaven?  It doesn't say. There are different interpretations on exactly who the saints are because their identity can't be precisely demonstrated; after all, Revelation is a highly symbolic book.  Therefore, if it cannot be demonstrated conclusively who they are, then it cannot be demonstrated conclusively whose prayers they are either.  Nevertheless, verse 9 says "they sang a new song." Who is the "they"?  It would have to be either the the four living creatures and/or the 24 elders since "prayers of the saints" don't sing; "creatures" and "elders" do the singing.

In verse 11-12 the angels, the creatures, and the elders who were all around the throne (which means they are in heaven) were praising God directly.  In verse 13 it says every created thing in heaven and earth was praising God, then the elders fell down and worshiped, v. 14.

Second, just because those in heaven can hear the prayers of those on Earth does not mean that is okay to pray to saints.  If they can hear the prayers of people, it is because God grants that to them.  Think about it.  Can those in heaven hear the prayers uttered without speech?  Can they read minds?  It is only God who knows all things, and only God can grant anyone to hear or know what the prayers are of those who pray in silence.  Let's not give the saints superhuman powers similar to omniscience.  Nevertheless, all the text is saying is that they can hear the praise and worship of God.  It does not say that they are to receive prayers, nor does it imply praying to them is permitted.  All it says is that they can hear the prayers and praise.  There is nothing suggesting that those on Earth are requesting the prayers or intercession of those in heaven.  Nothing like this is in the text, nor is there even a hint of it.

Third, even if the case can be made that prayers are authored in heaven and that those prayers are mingled with the prayers of those from Earth, it still does not justify those on Earth praying to those in heaven.  At best, all that we can say is that the prayers of those in heaven and the prayers of those on Earth are mingled.  To say any more than that is to read into the Scripture what is not there.

Fourth, can the saints in heaven hear every prayer of every creature all the time?  The Roman Catholic Church prefers to say that it's possible; otherwise, it would not be possible to pray to Mary legitimately.  The standard Protestant objection is that praying to the saints implies a type of omniscience on the hearers' part.  The Roman Catholic Church replies that we do not know what the state is of those in heaven and that we should not, therefore, conclude that they cannot hear all of our prayers.  But this is an argument from silence.  In other words, we don't know what it is like, so we conclude it's possible. It is an argument based on what we do not know--not what we do know.  This is a very, very weak way of trying to present a position.  Ultimately, it is an admission by the Roman Catholic Church that the Scriptures do not teach in any direct way their dogma of praying to the saints.  The Roman Catholic Church must infer this from scripture and read it into the text in order to support its error.

To Whom should we pray?

There is no biblical teaching at all that states we are to pray to those who once were alive on earth and are now in heaven.  Revelation, the same book used by them to justify their position says the following:

"And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," (Rev. 19:10).

John wants to bow the knee and worship the angel.  But the angel tells him not to do that because he is a fellow creature.  If the angel says that he is a fellow creature like John and that John is not to bow to him, then neither should anyone else bow to an angel or any creature so as to offer worship.  Worship includes prayer.  Therefore, no one should pray to any created thing.

Biblically, prayer is always offered to God and is a form of worship.  All religions view prayer as an act of worship to their god(s) since they contain petitions, confession of sin, requests of intercession, etc.,--things which are received and answered by God and not by created things.  Also, prayer is not the same thing as talking to someone face-to-face.  Prayer is a humble petition to the Lord and not to a friend who's in the same room with you or on the other end of the phone--or in heaven.  Prayer is offered to God--never to any created thing.  To do so is to offer worship that should only be directed to God, which is idolatry.  Prayer should be offered only to God, and the Roman Catholic Church needs to repent of its false and idolatrous practice of praying to the saints.







About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.