Prayer to Saints

I am not being judgmental, but I was wondering if a Catholic friend could give me the history of offering prayers to Mary and/or Saints. In my reading of the New Testament I don’t see it, and was wondering how it came about.

Fr. Sebastian Walshe has a good radio program on this subject that I would highly recommend listening to if you have the time.

Here are a few of the basic Bible passages that support praying to the saints and angels: 1) “Bless the Lord, O you his angels” (Psalms 103:20) “Bless the Lord, all his hosts” (Psalms 103:21) “Praise him, all his angels” – “Praise him, all his host” (Psalms 148:1-2) “Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets.” (Revelation 18:20)These verses show that we can address the saints and angels in heaven when we pray. The difference between the prayer, “Bless the Lord, all his hosts” and “Pray for me, all his hosts” is only the difference between two kinds of prayer. Either way you are addressing the people in heaven, it’s just that if you pray the first way, you’re asking the saints to pray with you, and if you pray the second way, you’re asking the saints to pray for you.2) “[T]he twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…[with] incense, which [is] the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8) “And another angel came…and he was given much incense to [offer] with the prayers of all the saints.” (Revelation 8:3)These verses tell us two things about the saints in heaven. First, they have our prayers and they bring them before God. This shows that they’ve received them. The “incense” of prayer rises to the saints according to this passage. That shows the saints being prayed to at the very least by some people. Second, the saints in heaven are praying about our prayers. People don’t fall down before God for nothing. Rev. 8:3 makes this clearer by saying that incense-prayer from heaven was added to the incense-prayer from earth. This shows us that the saints in heaven add their prayers to ours. Therefore, they receive our prayers, present them to God, and join their prayers to ours.3) “[Jacob] strove with the angel and prevailed, [then] he wept and sought his favor.” (Hosea 12:4) “[T]he angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” (Genesis 48:16)These passages show angels being prayed to. Jacob prayed to an angel for his favor and then later asks him to bless his children. The Hosea passage is clarified by Genesis 32:24-29, where Jacob says to the angel, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Some people argue that the angel was actually God because in verse 30 Jacob says, “I have seen God face to face,” but Hosea 12:4 says it was an angel. Genesis 32:30 could mean that Jacob thought the angel was God, or understood that angels bear with them the real presence of God. It is also significant that God has no body. That means the reference to His face is symbolic. It refers to God’s presence.4) “[A]t your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir. Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house; and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will sue your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth.” (Psalms 45:9-13)This passage is in a messianic psalm and discusses the woman who will stand at the right hand of the Messiah. The woman is Mary and it says specifically that the people of faraway nations “will sue [her] favor with gifts.” This passage shows us that Mary can be prayed to, but it’s also significant because it is a prophecy that is only fulfilled in the Catholic Church. Protestant churches don’t even claim that there is a woman who all the nations seek for her favor, but the Bible says there would be, and she would stand at the right hand of the Messiah.5) “Grace to you and peace from him who is, and was, and is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne.” (Revelation 1:4)In this passage St. John invokes a blessing upon the churches in Asia. He did not only invoke grace from God, but from angels. An invocation is a form of prayer which calls down a blessing on someone. In this passage he calls it down from God and seven angels, which shows us a prayer to the angels.

As you can see from these passages, Catholics trace the history of praying to saints into the New Testament and before, even into the Old Testament. Examples of early Christians who support prayings to the saints can be found at this link:

Please let me know if this post is helpful or makes any sense or if it brings up more questions/problems. God bless!

We have an extant prayer to Mary dated from 250 AD. If it was written down in 250 surely it had been used long before that. Remember St John died around 90 AD so this prayer was maybe only a few generations removed from the Apostles. The Shepard of Hermas which was almost included in the canonical New Testament refers to prayers to angels. It has been dated as early as 85 AD. There are other references to praying to saints in the late second early third century. And don’t forget, all this was occurring before the New Testament had been compiled. :slight_smile:

And just for reference for those who dont know the date. It was around 300 AD when the Bible was complied in the form we know it in.

The Bible, as such, didnt exist up until such a time that the Catholic Church put it together.

These replies have all been helpful, thanks all!

This gives the Jewish roots and additional reading material…

As I explored this conundrum, the first thing I began to appreciate was just how biblical the practice really was. I realized that the veneration of relics, belief in their miraculous powers, and in the intercession of departed saints and angels was deeply Hebraic and Jewish. We find testimony to it in such places as 2 Kings 13:20-21, 2 Maccabees 15:12-16, and Tobit 12:12-15, considered especially in comparison to Revelation 5:8. (At this point, it was immaterial to me whether Maccabees and Tobit should be considered canonical texts. It was enough that they expressed a historic Jewish belief in these concepts.)

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