Protestant Attempts to Refute Praying to Deceased Saints

A week ago or so I came across this specific source that tries to attack certain reasons which Catholics use to justify praying to deceased saints and others.

Now,I haven’t really come across anything that specifically tries to refute these arguments by the Protestant since the arguments are too specific,so that is why I am going to lay out his arguments here to see if anyone can refute this and answer all of these claims:

''Tertullian held a complex view of the afterlife that doesn’t completely align with any of the mainstream views today.

If Tertullian was mistaken about Paradise being surrounded by a fiery region, that can be taken up with Tertullian. Disputing it doesn’t refute my citation of the passage as many people try to say. I do think that the passage that is cited can be interpreted in other ways, but asking whether Tertullian viewed Heaven as being surrounded by Hell doesn’t make the case.

Later in this letter, I’m going to give further context from Tertullian supporting my conclusion that he didn’t believe in praying to the deceased.

Lactantius discusses idolatry in the larger context and is addressing pagans. How do such facts refute my use of the passage?

When the early Christians criticize pagans for aborting their children or committing fornication, do we conclude that things like abortion and fornication are sinful only if you’re a non-Christian? Should we think that it’s acceptable for Christians to engage in such behavior?

The argument adds qualifications to Lactantius’ comments that Lactantius himself doesn’t include. The most natural reading of the passage is that praying to the dead is sinful, without the arbitrary qualifications.

I want to give some further context regarding the fathers’ view of praying to the dead. As with all historical questions, different pieces of evidence carry different weight.

But I think that the overall balance of the evidence is strongly against praying to the deceased.

Even if some of these passages from the fathers could possibly be interpreted in other ways, not all of them have a reasonable alternate interpretation, and the general thrust of the data is clear.

First, I want to briefly address Revelation 5:8. Early patristic commentators on Revelation 5:8 refer to the prayers as being offered to God, not to the elders. We see this in Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 4:17:6-4:18:1), Origen (Against Celsus, 8:17), and Methodius (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, 5:8).

If other beings are involved in the transmission of our prayers, but aren’t the recipients of those prayers, how does that situation support the Catholic and Orthodox practice of having dead people as an object of prayer? It doesn’t.

Athenagoras suggests that prayers shouldn’t be addressed to created beings:

“Because the multitude, who cannot distinguish between matter and God, or see how great is the interval which lies between them, pray to idols made of matter, are we therefore, who do distinguish and separate the uncreated and the created, that which is and that which is not, that which is apprehended by the understanding and that which is perceived by the senses, and who give the fitting name to each of them,-are we to come and worship images?..For if they differ in no respect from the lowest brutes (since it is evident that the Deity must differ from the things of earth and those that are derived from matter), they are not gods. How, then, I ask, can we approach them as suppliants, when their origin resembles that of cattle, and they themselves have the form of brutes, and are ugly to behold?” (A Plea for the Christians, 15, 20)

Irenaeus wrote:

“Nor does she [the church] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art; but, directing her prayers to the Lord, who made all things, in a pure, sincere, and straightforward spirit, and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has been accustomed to work miracles for the advantage of mankind, and not to lead them into error…The altar, then, is in heaven (for towards that place are our prayers and oblations directed)” (Against Heresies, 2:32:5, 4:18:6)

Clement of Alexandria defines prayer as communication with God.

He refers to Christians “passing over the whole world” in order to commune with God alone in prayer. He describes it as a form of worship to God. Apparently, he had no concept of praying to the dead:

"But if, by nature needing nothing, He delights to be honoured, it is not without reason that we honour God in prayer; and thus the best and holiest sacrifice with righteousness we bring, presenting it as an offering to the most righteous Word, by whom we receive knowledge, giving glory by Him for what we have learned…For the sacrifice of the Church is the word breathing as incense from holy souls, the sacrifice and the whole mind being at the same time unveiled to God.

Now the very ancient altar in Delos they celebrated as holy; which alone, being undefiled by slaughter and death, they say Pythagoras approached. And will they not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is the truly sacred altar, and that incense arising from it is holy prayer?..Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, converse with God. Though whispering, consequently, and not opening the lips, we speak in silence, yet we cry inwardly.

For God hears continually all the inward converse. So also we raise the head and lift the hands to heaven, and set the feet in motion at the closing utterance of the prayer, following the eagerness of the spirit directed towards the intellectual essence; and endeavouring to abstract the body from the earth, along with the discourse, raising the soul aloft, winged with longing for better things, we compel it to advance to the region of holiness, magnanimously despising the chain of the flesh.’’

For we know right well, that the Gnostic [believer] willingly passes over the whole world, as the Jews certainly did over Egypt, showing clearly, above all, that he will be as near as possible to God." (The Stromata, 7:6-7)

Tertullian takes The Lord’s Prayer to be representative of all prayer. The object of all prayer, then, is God:

“God alone could teach how he wished Himself prayed to. The religious rite of prayer therefore, ordained by Himself, and animated, even at the moment when it was issuing out of the Divine mouth, by His own Spirit, ascends, by its own prerogative, into heaven, commending to the Father what the Son has taught.” (On Prayer, 9)

Notice that Tertullian refers to “the religious rite of prayer”, meaning that he’s referring to all prayers, not just some. All prayers are “commended to the Father”, following the pattern of The Lord’s Prayer, according to Tertullian.

He explains that prayer is a sacrifice to God, which would exclude praying to anybody else:

“We are the true adorers and the true priests, who, praying in spirit, sacrifice, in spirit, prayer,-a victim proper and acceptable to God, which assuredly He has required, which He has looked forward to for Himself! This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and hymns, unto God’s altar, to obtain for us all things from God.” (On Prayer, 28)

Hippolytus comments:

“And in them [the Psalms] we have ‘prayer,’ viz., supplication offered to God for anything requisite” (On the Psalms, 8, )

Origen comments that Christians pray only to God:

"For every prayer, and supplication, and intercession, and thanksgiving, is to be sent up to the Supreme God through the High Priest, who is above all the angels, the living Word and God. And to the Word Himself shall we also pray and make intercessions, and offer thanksgivings and supplications to Him, if we have the capacity of distinguishing between the proper use and abuse of prayer.

For to invoke angels without having obtained a knowledge of their nature greater than is possessed by men, would be contrary to reason. But, conformably to our hypothesis, let this knowledge of them, which is something wonderful and mysterious, be obtained.

Then this knowledge, making known to us their nature, and the offices to which they are severally appointed, will not permit us to pray with confidence to any other than to the Supreme God, who is sufficient for all things, and that through our Saviour the Son of God, who is the Word, and Wisdom, and Truth, and everything else which the writings of God’s prophets and the apostles of Jesus entitle Him…And being persuaded that the sun himself, and moon, and stars pray to the Supreme God through His only-begotten Son, we judge it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up prayers to God, seeing even they themselves would prefer that we should send up our requests to the God to whom they pray, rather than send them downwards to themselves, or apportion our power of prayer beetween God and them…Celsus forgets that he is addressing Christians, who pray to God alone through Jesus" (Against Celsus, 5:4-5, 5:11, 8:37)’’

''Cyprian wrote a treatise on The Lord’s Prayer, a treatise that addresses prayer in general, even though it focuses on that one prayer in the gospels. He describes prayer as something done “in God’s sight”, something directed to God, not to people:

“Let us consider that we are standing in God’s sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. For as it is characteristic of a shameless man to be noisy with his cries, so, on the other hand, it is fitting to the modest man to pray with moderated petitions.” (On the Lord’s Prayer, 4)

Later in the treatise, he explains that The Lord’s Prayer addresses “all our prayer”, which implies that we’re to pray only to God, since The Lord’s Prayer is addressed only to God:

“What wonder is it, beloved brethren, if such is the prayer which God taught, seeing that He condensed in His teaching all our prayer in one saving sentence? This had already been before foretold by Isaiah the prophet, when, being filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke of the majesty and loving-kindness of God, ‘consummating and shortening His word,’ He says, ‘in righteousness, because a shortened word will the Lord make in the whole earth.’” (On the Lord’s Prayer, 28)

In other words, Cyprian considers The Lord’s Prayer to be an outline for all prayer, which necessarily excludes praying to anybody but God.

Later, Cyprian tells us that we pray to “nothing but the Lord”, to “God alone”:

"Moreover, when we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers.

Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything but the object only of its prayer.
For this reason also the priest, by way of preface before his prayer, prepares the minds of the brethren by saying, ‘Lift up your hearts,’ that so upon the people’s response, ‘We lift them up unto the Lord,’ he may be reminded that he himself ought to think of nothing but the Lord. Let the breast be closed against the adversary, and be open to God alone" (On the Lord’s Prayer, 31)

Throughout the treatise, Cyprian instructs the reader how to pray to God, and he repeatedly says that he’s addressing all of our prayers in this treatise, yet he says nothing of praying to Mary, praying to Joseph, praying to Jude, or praying to anybody else other than God.

Rather, he describes prayer as an act of worship and reverence to God, something addressed to God alone. An angel might bring our prayers to God, as we see in the book of Revelation, for example, but the prayer is to be addressed only to God.

That’s the Protestant view of prayer, it’s the Biblical view, and it’s the view of the earliest church fathers.’’

I would like an answer to these objections which,at least for me,are new…

Is this coming from a website or from someone you actually know?

If the former, forget it and move on. If a friend, we can discuss a response.

It came from a website in which a Protestant tries to refute someone who attemtps to support the claim you can pray to saints in the form of a longer letter.

I guess I will now ignore that then…

Whoever wrote the article, cherry picked quotes to favor his own position while ignoring the body of evidence of those quoted. For example.


“But not the high priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep” (Prayer 11 [A.D. 233]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence the first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy” (Letters 56 [60]:5 [A.D. 253]).

But, yes, in general there are numerous links which are not well studied, researched or presented. Randy is right you can chase your tail all day with these.

There are more anti-Catholic websites out there than you can shake a stick at.

I have no problem trying to help a real person understand Catholicism, but webmasters aren’t real people. :wink:

Here is my suggestion…just post this article or link…which traces the roots of the belief in the communion of saints to our Jewish roots…and leave it at that…

Saints aren’t dead. They are in heaven more alive than they ever were here in the body. They aren’t in the ground asleep, or in a coma waiting for the 2nd coming. Once created by God at our conception, the soul is immortal. It doesn’t die. Therefore we aren’t praying to someone dead.

Consider the Transfiguration of Christ on Mt Tabor.

Jesus took with Him, Peter, the one He will make leader of His Church on earth, and with Peter He takes James and John.

And who did they meet on top of the mountain? Moses and Elijah, who they spoke with. WhaT??? They spoke to those 2 giants of the OT? In fact Peter was going to make tents for all of them.

Now THAT would have been a Kodak moment! :wink:

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I think Origen sends kind of a mixed message on the issue of praying to the saints. For example, besides the quotations you posted from him, consider these ones: [The saints and angels] are not only well disposed to [us], but they co-operate with [us] in [our] endeavours to please God: they seek His favor on [our] behalf; with their prayers they join [our] own prayers and intercessions… We may indeed boldly say, that men who aspire after better things have, when they pray to God, tens of thousands of sacred powers upon their side. (Contra Celsus Book 8 Chapter 64) And this one: [The Jews] employ in their prayers to God, and in the exorcising of demons, the words, God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob… Does not the use [of these names] establish…in the clearest manner that [great] effects…are produced by the invocation of them, [and does it not support] the divinity of the men? (Contra Celsus Book 4 Chapter 33) It seems to me that these passages supply all the logical backdrop for praying to the saints and angels. In the first passage he directly states that the saints and angels are intercessors, that they know of our prayers, and that they respond to them by joining their prayers to our own. In the second passages he states that their names can and should be invoked in our prayers to God. It seems to me that his only objection was to addressing words to them directly, and I think we have examples of doing that in the Psalms: e.g. “Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Psalms 103:20-21) And: “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Psalms 148:1-2)

In light of all this, I think Origen can be called upon to support prayer to the saints, if read from a Catholic perspective. He might not have understood that they can be directly addressed in prayer, but he seems to have gone much farther toward the Catholic practice than toward the Protestant one in the ways I cited above.


The quotation you posted seems to be talking about idols, and says not to invoke them because “their origin resembles that of cattle, and they themselves have the form of brutes, and are ugly to behold” and because they are false gods. But none of those reasons apply to the Saints, therefore the quotation does not seem to exclude praying to the saints.

St. Irenaeus

The quotation you posted seems to talk about two things. In the first place, it seems to be talking about magic when it says, “[The church doesn’t] perform anything by means of angelic invocations, or by incantations, or by any other wicked curious art.” Catholics still don’t perform magic by such means, but I don’t think that says anything about whether it is appropriate to invoke the angels for other purposes.

The second thing in your Irenaeus quote says the Church “direct[s] her prayers to the Lord who made all things…and call[s] upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Catholics still do that, but the passage doesn’t say “only,” and I don’t think this sentence says anything about whether it is okay to address the saints when we pray.

St. Clement of Alexandria

You posted several quotes from him. The first one says “we honour God in prayer.” Catholics still do that, and I don’t think that sentence or the rest of the paragraph says anything about whether it is okay to address the saints when we pray.

The second quotation from St. Clement says, “Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, converse with God.” Catholics still believe that. For example, the Catechism says, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” (CCC 2559) But even while you are in a conversation ultimately with God, you can address other people, just as being in a conversation with you doesn’t exclude other people joining in the conversation as well (or inviting them to).


You posted two quotes from him. The first one says that the Our Father is the model for all prayer. But the Our Father supports prayer to the saints. Here are some reasons why:

First, look at how God is addressed: “Our Father who art in heaven.” It’s not just “Our Father,” it’s our Father in His whole household, so to speak, where all His friends (the Saints) and angels are – because that’s who’s in Heaven with Him.

Second, look at the universal action in the phrase “Hallowed by thy name.” Who hallows God’s name? Everyone who loves him – you, your pastor, your patron Saint and your guardian angel. The statement “hallowed by thy name” is shared between everyone in heaven and every Christian on earth, because we all are the ones who “hallow God’s name.” And if we can pray with the Saints to bless God’s holy name, then they can pray with us when we are in need of help!

Third, the Our Father gives us the Saints in heaven as the example of holiness to follow. “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” Who are we to think of, according to Jesus? Those in heaven! They are the example set before us and, in a sense, invoked, since this is (1) a prayer for us to be like (2) the saints (those in heaven). Saying “May we be like the Saints” invokes the Saints’ example for our imitation. It’s really very similar in form to a prayer to the Saints.

The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is thus perfectly attested to by the Our Father. In fact, I would say that prayer supports prayer to the Saints, because it is not only a prayer about God – it’s a prayer of all God’s Saints in heaven and on earth together responding to and making known the goodness of God and the needs of God’s people, worldwide.

The second quotation from Tertullian says that prayer is a kind of sacrifice. Catholics still believe that. But just because the thing is offered to God doesn’t mean we can’t say some words to other people while we are offering it. Therefore, this quote doesn’t exclude praying to the saints.

St. Hippolytus

The quotation from him says that prayer is supplication to God. But even while you are supplicating God, you can address other people, just as if I’m asking you for something that doesn’t exclude addressing some other people as well. Therefore, this quote doesn’t exclude praying to the saints


For him, see the post above this one, where I think I showed how to use him to support praying to the saints.

St. Cyprian

You posted several quotes from him. The first says that praying is done in God’s sight. But prayer is also done in the sight of the angels, as 1 Tim. 5:21 indicates. Therefore, this quote doesn’t exclude praying to the saints.

The second quote from St. Cyprian says that the Our Father is the model for all prayer, and I explained under Tertullian how the Our Father supports prayer to the saints.

The third quote from St. Cyprian says that the responsorium of the Mass where we say “We lift them up to the Lord” should prepare us to think only of the Lord. That is because the Mass is offered only to God – Catholics still believe this. But it does not prove that no prayer can address the saints.

For all these reasons, I don’t think the quotes you referred to teach what the author wanted them to. I hope that helps. God bless!

Maybe Russell Ford’s article will help you out with this.
Tawkin’ Ta Dead Folk

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