Saturday, February 19, 2011

Asking Mary's Prayers - Faces in the Cloud

One argument I've seen against prayer to saints is the difference between being able to see (theoretically) your prayer partner(s) here on earth, whereas you cannot see those in heaven. So if you can't see them, you can't call them up and talk to them like you would your best friend who you would ask to pray for you, why do it? Is it the same thing? How can you know these saints to have a relationship with them?

Well, the 'why' I think is covered. More prayer is *good*. If you knew someone here on earth whom you considered to be a holy person, someone who lived a Christian life, who strove with all their might to follow God, wouldn't you ask them to pray for you? Well, that's who the saints are. Only the saints have ended their fight here on earth. They've passed the goal and are with God in heaven.

Prayer to the saints is not like seances, or communicating with spirits in any other fashion. Those are explicitly forbidden in the Bible, and nothing good ever comes of them. Trust me on this one!

"A better way of looking at the presence of the holy departed is found in the story of Christ's Transfiguration. When Peter, James, and John were on the mountaintop with Jesus, they had a momentary glimpse into heavenly realities. Jesus was transfigured before them, and became more radiant than the sun. Elijah and Moses appeared beside him, talking to him. (And don't you wonder what they talked about!) Some kind of loving melody, or exchange, or conversation is going on eternally in heaven, among the holy departed and the angelic host and the undivided Trinity. For a brief moment, these three Apostles glimpsed it."

People find companions in the saints. It happens differently for different people. I know some who study the lives of the saints and find themselves drawn to one in particular. Others find that a saint has much in common with their own lives, or their own troubles. Some have dreams in which the saints come to them, give them messages and the like.

The point is that though the saints are not physically walking around, available on the phone or Skype or anything, they are not dead. It is a different relationship from the one you might have with another person like yourself, but it is entirely possible to have a relationship with them.


  1. Not entirely related, but your post brought up a question for me. Is it just the saints you can talk to this way? Do Orthodox/Catholic believers ever pray to dead friends or relatives in the same way?

  2. Wow,I never thought of having a relationship with someone like that...apart from Christ/God. You are giving me much food for thought lately.

    You said the other day that people who have dreams/visions make you cringe. Is this what you were speaking of somewhat? Saints appearing in dreams?

    I guess I just don't spend enough time in prayer as it is and figure if I am going to pray, why not just pray directly to God? But if it were a casual, "I would appreciate your prayers for X in my life" then yes it's more like I would ask you or Sanil or Wafa' to pray for me.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  3. sanil,

    Related enough for government work! :)

    I don't know if this is the official answer, but as I believe that you can. All Christians are called to become saints, which just means those who have gone to heaven. We have canonized Saints, those who have had miracles attributed to them, exceptionally holy men and women we can look to as meta-examples and guides in our own battles. But their canonization starts as a grass roots movement, by those who were close to them. Family, friends, community members. So in the beginning they are 'just' good Christians who have died.

    In truth, aside from those who are 'official' Saints, we have no way of knowing who is in heaven and who is not. But if the departed is not in heaven, asking them to pray for us (even as we continue to pray for them), does no harm. And if they are in heaven, then it may aid us.

    So I believe that it is acceptable, and I know people who ask for the prayers of all the holy departed, which includes those who are Saints and those who are saints. :)

  4. Susanne,

    That's what I'm here for!

    Or, well, not entirely. But I'm already here, so I might was well give people things to think about. :)

    Mmm...*waggles hand* Not so much, really. Or not exactly. It's more people who have stunning revelation kinds of visions, where some figure (a saint, or Christ, or Mary, etc.) comes to them and tells them they have to do this, or gives them a new message, yadda. Some of them may be true, but I don't trust them for the most part. Because, frankly, they're so easy to fake, or to just be mistaken about.

    *pokes you* Pray more! 80)

    Seriously though. There are prescribed, written prayers for the saints and for addressing God. But there's no rule that says you may only 'approach' in those ways. They're guides, meant to bring the mind and heart in line, remind you of the solemnity of what you're doing. I prefer to start with formal prayers, to get myself into the right frame of mind, and then I can 'drift' into a more casual exchange.

  5. That makes sense. I always forget "saints" doesn't just mean the people in the little icons. Thanks!

  6. I have a question though. Unlike a person who is still alive, who might be able to guide you into a better direction (such as saying, I will not pray that the guy you fancy will leave his wife for you, but I will pray that you will find the right guy for you), a saint in heaven would not be able to do this. I.e., aren't you sort of "making" them pray for you, without them being able to give you any feedback and an actual dialogue.

    I suppose you could say the same thing for our relationship with God though. Oy, I'm making myself confused now. Maybe it's just that if we pray for the good things it'll go through, and if we don't they won't. I don't know. Not making much sense am I :P

  7. Becky,

    One's prayers cannot 'make' anything happen. Praying for something wrong, or unworthy, your example of asking someone to pray that a marriage breaks up so they can have their 'shot', is not going to make the saints pray for that for you. Would you expect such a prayer to 'make' God make it happen? The saints, upon hearing such a request would start praying that God changes the requester's heart - that He shows them the error of their desire (lust after the spouse of another) and leads them into a frame of mind where they want only what is good in that circumstance. That the married couple remains together and that they find their own spouse as they were meant to.

    While a friend here on earth can tell that to you to your face, that you're in the wrong and that they will pray for you in a different manner what is that likely to do? If you're anything like me, it would hurt and piss me off that they don't see that my desires are the best way. :D Even though in the end they are correct, we tend to have a hard time seeing that.

  8. Hey Amber,

    I don't think I expressed myself very well. I don't believe that we can "make" God do anything that S/He doesn't want to do.

    I just think I'm having a hard time to re-align in my head the idea of people functioning in heaven as they do here (in respect to receiving prayer requests and such), and also that you can't build up a relationship in the same manner with someone you cannot have a conversation with.

    Captcha phrase: unless

  9. Becky,

    I see. It sounded to me like you were saying once we prayed for something then the saints had to pray for what we asked for. Which isn't true at all, of course.

    Maybe it would help if you thought about it more like the anonymous prayer request lists. I don't know if they have these in all churches, but in my parents old church and several that I've been to in my life. They come in different forms, but basically what you do is call someone or drop a note in a basket/box designated for the purpose, and your prayer intention gets added to the list. Then a group of people who have pledged themselves to praying for the intentions that come to them this way pray for you. Sometimes they don't even know your name. If it's a large enough congregation, they may not know you personally at all, and there's certainly no back and forth conversation between you and them about the request. But they pray for you anyway, adding to your own prayers in the matter.

    In addition, plenty of people have relationships with saints. They're not exactly the same kind of relationship as one would have with another human on earth, but it is possible to have a relationship with them. Not all of us are so blessed though, which is why in the general sense I think the anonymous prayer request group/list makes the best parallel.

  10. Yeah that does make sense. I guess it's just all very foreign to me I guess. Always good to push the limits of your mind a little :P


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