Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 9 - Prayer to Saints (Video)

No. 9. >> I have what I believe to be an intriguing question. I have heard Catholics complain that Protestants are misinformed when they oppose prayer to Mary and saints. They say these Protestants themselves recognize that it is right and proper for members of the church to ask other members to seek blessing from God for them. Catholics are claiming to do this very thing in prayers to the saints who are fellow Christians in heaven. Do they have a point? >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: It's true that that argument seems to be a very attractive argument. Since people here on earth ask each other to pray for them in their daily lives as interceders for them with God, it may seem right and proper to pray or talk to the people already in heaven to intercede, that is pray, to God for them. But there's a problem with that. There is a great difference between talking to someone, to a fellow Christian, who is here on earth with you and talking or trying to talk or claiming that one is talking with a fellow Christian who is not on earth and not in -- taking part in this life but who has died and gone to heaven. Worldly people have tried to talk to the people of the past, to the dead, by praying to saints, by using a medium at a seance, by worshiping their ancestors, et cetera. The Christian, however, must follow the teachings of the Bible. We think here of Deuteronomy 18:10 and 11 where Moses says: There shall not be found among you anyone that makes his son or daughter to pastor the fire or a charmer or a consulter with familiar spirits or a wizard or a necromancer. Now that word necromancer means one who contacts or claims to contact the dead. That is not a Christian activity. That's not an activity that's permitted to the people of God. Rather it is to be rejected as an occult kind of activity. We read in Isaiah 63:16: You are our Father. Abraham doesn't know us. Israel doesn't pay attention to us. But you, Lord, are our Father. Your name is our redeemer from everlasting. Now, that passage clearly teaches that those that have died and gone to heaven cannot intercede and pray for us. They are not in a position to do so. That is to have information on which to do so. Abraham and Israel or Jacob were patriarchs in the Old Testament. They were the spiritual forbearers of believers under the old covenant. And they were with God. When Isaiah spoke the words of this text. That is to say they had died and were already in heaven with the Lord. But notice that it says Abraham doesn't know us and Israel doesn't pay attention to us. This means that they did not know what was happening on earth. And thus, were unable to do anything for Isaiah and his companions. What was true in Isaiah's day is still true today. Those who have died in the Lord and who are with the Lord do not know what is happening among us and are unable to do anything for us, including praying for us. The Roman Catholic Church, of course, along with the Eastern Orthodox Church does promote the idea of praying to saints. Of invoking saints to get their help in interceding for us. The Council of Trent of the Roman Catholic Church says it this way: It is good and beneficial to invoke them, that is the saints, and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and support in order to obtain favors from God through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord who alone is our Savior and redeemer. But once again we see how this is not a way in which we should honor the saints. There are ways in which we honor the saints, of course. We remember their holy lives. We praise God for the examples that they gave. And we remember that when we speak of the communion of saints in the creed, we are acknowledging that we have fellowship with our fellow Christians who have died and gone to heaven. But we reject the idea that we can pray to them. And as a matter of fact, we say prayers are to be offered only to God because it is a form of devotion, which claims that the one to whom the one is speaking can hear us /even if such a person is not with us, is far distant from us in heaven or someplace like that and so forth. In other words, it's treating dead people as if they were God. As if they were omniscient and able to here us at all times and alike. We reject these claims. The Lutheran Confessions make the point that Scripture does not teach us to invoke the saints or to ask for their help. Neither a command nor a promise nor an example can be shown from Scripture for the invocation of saints. And so what follows from that that consciences cannot at the least be sure about such invocation. There simply is no scriptural basis for having any surety about it. And besides that, we have seen that there are scriptural arguments against it. Besides this, we often see that this custom of invocation of saints has led to various kinds of errors, too. Or been combined with various kinds of errors and misuses. For one thing, the whole practice of praying to saints to gain their help and believing that they can give special help to us is really based upon the idea of merit. That the saints are those that have accumulated great merits. And therefore, are able to obtain benefits from God that ordinary people cannot. So for example, there's this prayer that's recommended to be offered to mother Frances Xavier Cabrini. It goes like this: Oh, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, thou who didst obtain the reward of the glory of heaven through thy virtuous life, hear the prayer which I confidently entrust to thee. The practice of praying to saints really stands or falls with the whole doctrine of salvation by merits. And if we reject the one, I think we ought to reject the other. Besides this, there are certain other strange customs that have -- we see developing. For example, parents have prayed to their beloved children after their death. So that Roman Catholics have -- many of them have said that if you have a baptized child in heaven that died as a little child, then by all means, pray to him or her. And another Roman Catholic writer spoke of how he asked his deceased wife to pray with him. These are excesses in piety as they might be called and as they sometimes are called. But nevertheless, they are still errors that flow from the basic error of prayer to saints. It comes down to this: That the Holy Scriptures teach us to pray to God alone, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Prayer is an act of worship. And Jesus said: Thou shall worship the Lord Thy God and him only shall Thou serve. And we think also of Psalm 46:1, which says that God is our help in every trouble. It is in him alone that we seek refuge. It is he who forgives our sins, who heals our diseases, who redeems our life and who crowns us with his mercy. We read all of that in Psalm 103 Verses 3 and 4. Christ is the mediator between God and mankind. As I Timothy 2:5 says there's one God and one who brings God and man together. The man Jesus Christ. No one else takes Jesus' place. Because he is the only one who gave himself as a ransom for all. Jesus paid the ransom by laying down his life for our sinners. So Jesus is the only way to the Father. And so then we all -- when we come to the Father to ask for gifts and blessings, we should do that in Jesus' name. We should pray always in Jesus' name. And not in the name of a saint.