To Whom Should We Pray?
By Bruce W. Robida
Since Christ’s death and resurrection more than 2000 years ago, people all over the world have attempted to gain access to God through means other than the only way, which is through Christ. Orthodox Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists and many other religious groups reject the idea that Jesus Christ is in fact the only means by which we can gain access to God. Even though some of those groups claim to be Christian, we see that even the most basic provision that God has given us to communicate to Him has been perverted and that provision is prayer. All religious groups know that they have access to their gods through prayer. Every religious culture has some format or traditional prayers, which they follow, hoping that their methods will guarantee that their gods will hear them. What they don’t realize is that their gods, who are not gods at all, will never hear them.
But what is most troubling is when those groups who claim to be Christian, attempt to gain access to God, but leave Christ out of the equation. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” JN 14:6.
Jesus is the only way we have to gain access to God, even in prayer. Now I’m going to pick on my Roman Catholic family and friends and others who insist on praying to people who have died, mainly saints and Mary, the mother of Christ.
Many people believe that their dead relatives, especially those they were very close to, such as parents, spouses, and children, can hear their prayers and can somehow relay their message to God. Whether these dead relatives can hear us or not is debatable, but this is not the issue. The issue is that God expects us to go through Christ if we want our prayers heard. We have been invited to personally make our requests known to Him without having to go through a priest, a saint, Mary, or any other person who has died.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. HEB 4:14-16
We have been invited in, but still some choose to send someone else to do the bidding for them. Many people will rationalize their position that praying to a saint is appropriate because that saint (or Mary) takes our petitions to Christ, who ultimately answers our prayers. This makes no sense to me. It reminds me of when I was a child and I would say to one of my friends, “Find out if that girl likes me”. Why would I send a friend to get the information? I sent him because I didn’t have the confidence to approach the girl myself. Is that the same reason we have for not wanting to approach Christ? Are we afraid? When I was a child, being afraid of girls was natural. I was afraid of rejection. But unlike regular people, we can be assured that Christ will not reject us. We are encouraged to approach His throne of grace with confidence. Before Christ died, we could not approach God ourselves. A certain high priest would be the only one allowed into the inner room of the temple and only one-day a year where he would offer sacrifices for sins, first for his own and then for everyone else (Heb. 9:7). But it is different today. When Christ died, the curtain separating the inner room of the temple from the outer room was torn down the middle (MT 27:51, MK 15:38, LK 23:45). This was a sign that there was no longer a need for a high priest to enter the inner room, which was a copy of the true tabernacle which is in heaven (Heb 8:5). Christ, our new High Priest entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which is in heaven. There He sits at the right hand of the Father, and now lives to intercede on our behalf.
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. HEB 7:25
But for some reason people bypass the High Priest, which is Christ, going instead to another priest or someone who once lived, hoping their prayers will be heard. It is sad to know that there are professing Christians who do not know the truth about this most insulting practice, but it is more unbelievable to think that the Church would also be involved in teaching these unorthodox methods. It is insulting to Christ, because this is what He lives for. It is unorthodox because as the apostle Paul said, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time.” 1 TI 2:5-6
That there is only one mediator between God and men is clear and that mediator is Christ. There is no mention in the Bible of there being a need for a mediator between Christ and men. A priest, pastor, preacher, or other kind of minister is not necessary, neither is a saint. God has allowed us full access to Him, through Christ.
Why would anyone pray to someone other than Christ, knowing that He is the only mediator between God and men? Why would anyone teach people to pray to the dead, when they know that Christ is alive and lives to intercede on our behalf, especially when we are encouraged to come confidently to Him ourselves? We should no longer be like children, afraid to approach the One that can help us. He will not reject us, but He will gladly receive us.
I recently found a web site dedicated to the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude. Raised as a Roman Catholic, I had often heard about people praying to St. Jude. The reason I visited that web site is that I wanted to know why people pray to him instead of some other saint. I found out that he is the saint that (supposedly) answers impossible prayers. I have often seen prayers of thanks to Saint Jude in newspapers, for (supposedly) answering these prayers. When I was younger, and had no knowledge of what was actually in the Bible, I believed that this was appropriate. After studying the Scriptures, I have found good reason to oppose this practice. Since there was a feedback form on this web site, I asked a couple of questions, one of which is the following:
Why should anyone pray to Saint Jude, or anyone else for that matter, when Christ is the only mediator between God and man?
The answer I got from George L. Concordia, O.P. was, “The saints are object of devotion and lead us to Christ.”
I have not yet responded to this answer, but I cannot see how devotion to the saints leads us to Christ. It seems to me that by praying to someone other than Christ, it would lead you away from Him. But the Bible says that it is the law, which God gave us that, leads us to Christ.
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. GAL 3:21-25
So the question remains, where do you put your faith? Is it in the saints? Is it in Mary? I don’t know if those who have died before us can actually hear us. I suppose that God may have chosen some people for specific duties after they have died, but I expect this to be the exception rather than the rule. This is a question that requires further study on my part, but one thing I do know; Christ is available, waiting to intercede on our behalf and He has invited us to come confidently to the throne of grace. Why not go directly to Him rather than take a chance and direct your prayers to someone who may not even hear them when we know that Christ certainly will?
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