or through the saints? Can someone please explain?
To the saints, yes. By addressing the saints by name. We don’t pray (which means to ask) by not using the saint’s name if we want their prayers.
And through the saints, yes. The saints pray for us, so we pray to them and through them.
The saints are alive in heaven with Jesus. They are freed from any taint of sin or self-interest. So, when we ask them to pray for us we know they will be praying in perfect harmony with God’s will. And that’s something most of us cannot claim, even with the best of intentions, there’s bound to be some self-interest in our prayers.
The saints are also mighty prayer warriors. I don’t know if you faith tradition uses the term faith warrior when describing people you know are particularly close to God and so are great pray-ers. But we Catholics know the saints are mighty prayer warriors, so we don’t let all their mighty power with God go to waste. We ask them to pray for us, but always within God’s will (which they would not pray otherwise, anyway).
I hope that helps you.
We believe that the saints are in heaven and not subject to Earthly limitations of space and time. We also believe that they have freedom of action, and that God does not desire that this be totally ineffective - that is to say, that they cannot make a situation better than it would have otherwise have been.
We also believe that there is no prohibition on praying to them - asking for a favour in a respectful way. However there is on atempting to manipulate or force a deceased person to respond. It would be wrong to try to conjure up St Francis in a spiritualist seance, for example.
Not just Catholics (i.e., Christians in communion with Rome). Eastern Christians, both those in communion with Rome, those in communion with Constantinople, and those adhering to the “non-Chalcedonian” churches, also do this, as do the more high-church Anglicans today and occasionally a few other Protestants. It’s a traditional Christian practice grounded in the basic doctrine of the communion of the saints. Of course it can be abused–anything can. But the Reformers’ rejection of it, however understandable, was disastrous. It broke apart the Body of Christ just as much as the schism among believers on earth did.
You are a very handy guy to have around. You do know that don’t you?
One of the best Bible studies around on this is by John Martignoni.
Indeed, we do.
But remember that there’s nothing wrong with praying to Saints; to anyone, for that matter. Remember the definition of prayer. A prayer is a request above all else. It can be an act of Worship when done to God, but at the same time, we pray to our friends, families, and others all the time.
Recall that in Old English, I don’t believe that words like “request” and “ask” even existed yet, so people would “pray” to people to get the point across. For example, the term “I pray thee”. Were these people doing something wrong, even though the language they spoke essentially left them no other word to use?
Another thing of note is that just because we pray to Saints doesn’t mean that we worship them. There are three key terms when looking at this; dulia, hyperdulia, and latria. Dulia is a reverence, which we give the Saints. Hyperdulia is a greater reverence, given to Mary. Latria is worship and true adoration, given to God alone.
I may be wrong, but this just goes to show me that English is a dreadful language as far as spirituality is concerned.