Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints? Some Christians do not believe that we are to pray to anyone accept God alone. They will point out that it violates the sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ. St. Paul spoke to this issue when he said, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). They rightly conclude that Mary and the saints are not Devine and so they can not serve as mediators to God the Father. That is only the job of Jesus. To which a Catholic would fully agree.
What is a “mediator?” Well, it is a person who serves as a go between or an intercessor between two parties. Catholics agree that St. Paul most definitely teaches that Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and the human race. So, why pray to saints? First, when Catholics use the term “pray,” they are using it in the context of meaning “to ask (someone) earnestly for something.” In praying to Mary and the saints, they are not using the definition of “addressing prayers to a deity (God).”
Asking the saints to intercede to Jesus on our behalf is the same thing as you and I asking a fellow Christian to pray for us. In the four verses leading up to (1 Tim 2: 5), St. Paul instructs Christians to pray on a regular basis to Jesus on the behalf of each other; “…I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone…This is good and pleasing to God our savior…” (1 Tim 2:1-4). Note that St. Paul is talking about two different types of mediation or intercession. There is a primary mediation which is between Jesus and the Father, and then there is a secondary mediation which it is prayer for one another that is totally dependent upon Jesus’ primary mediation. From this, we see that intercessory prayers offered by Christians on behalf of others is something “good and pleasing to God,” not something infringing on Christ’s role as mediator.
Some Christians might get the impression that Catholics want to bump Jesus out of his role as primary mediator and put Mary and the saints in his spot. Not at all! Jesus Christ is the only mediator between man and God because he is the only person who is both God and man. He is the “only” bridge between the two. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that: “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Some Christians might not think that the saints can hear our prayers, so it would be useless to ask for their intercessory prayers. But, it is clear in Scripture that they can hear us and they do offer up prayers on our behalf. In Revelation 5:8, 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.” If they are offering up prayers, then God gives them the ability to hear our prayers.
Roman Catholic convert Tim Staples speaks of saints intercessory prayer:
“…Christians do not cease being members of Christ’s body at death. I was taught as a Protestant that there is some sort of separation between Christians that occurs at death. ‘We cannot pray to them or for them because they are with Jesus,’ I was assured. Why does ‘being with Jesus’ mean they are separated from us? There is no Scripture that says this.
A Christian is even more radically joined to God, and therefore more radically joined to the other members of the body of Christ, when he goes home to heaven. He is freed from the constaints of sin; his faith has given way to perfect knowledge, and he is perfectly enabled to love and pray for other members of the Body of Christ.
Most importantly, since in heaven he has been perfected in righteousness by the blood of Christ, his prayers are very powerful, much more so than they ever could have been while he was here on earth. When this fact is seen in light of James 5:16 ‘The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects’ the Catholic doctrine of asking the saints for their intercession is undeniably the biblical teaching” (Patrick Madrid [editor], Surprised by Truth, pp. 229-231).
Until next time, God bless.