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Praying Amiss

Praying Amiss

Postby Biblegate » Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:24 pm

Jesus said we are to pray to God the Father. But Roman Catholic tradition teaches that Catholics can also pray to Mary and the saints for help. So, who's right? Is praying to Mary scriptural, or is it a sin? That's what a caller asked Steve Gregg, host of The Narrow Path radio program.

https://youtu.be/QGB6iUP1-2I

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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby BrotherAlan » Fri Nov 30, 2018 1:11 am

Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church's greatest theologian, dealt with this question about the validity of praying to the Saints in his treatment on prayer in his most famous work, the Summa Theologiae. You can read that whole treatment on prayer here (the "article" on praying to the Saints is article 4): http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3083.htm

In fact, I'll just paste article 4 here (and, if you wish, you can click on the previous link to read his whole treatment on prayer); here is Thomas Aquinas' teaching on praying to others (note, as usual for his style of teaching, he first posts objections to his position, then he states his position, then he answers the objections he raised against his own position):

Article 4. Whether we ought to pray to God alone?
Objection 1. It would seem that we ought to pray to God alone. Prayer is an act of religion, as stated above (Article 3). But God alone is to be worshiped by religion. Therefore we should pray to God alone.

Objection 2. Further, it is useless to pray to one who is ignorant of the prayer. But it belongs to God alone to know one's prayer, both because frequently prayer is uttered by an interior act which God alone knows, rather than by words, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 14:15), "I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding": and again because, as Augustine says (De Cura pro mortuis xiii) the "dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing." Therefore we ought to pray to God alone.

Objection 3. Further, if we pray to any of the saints, this is only because they are united to God. Now some yet living in this world, or even some who are in Purgatory, are closely united to God by grace, and yet we do not pray to them. Therefore neither should we pray to the saints who are in Paradise.

On the contrary, It is written (Job 5:1), "Call . . . if there be any that will answer thee, and turn to some of the saints."

I answer that, Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: first, as to be fulfilled by him, secondly, as to be obtained through him. On the first way we offer prayer to God alone, since all our prayers ought to be directed to the acquisition of grace and glory, which God alone gives, according to Psalm 83:12, "The Lord will give grace and glory." But in the second way we pray to the saints, whether angels or men, not that God may through them know our petitions, but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and merits. Hence it is written (Apocalypse 8:4) that "the smoke of the incense," namely "the prayers of the saints ascended up before God." This is also clear from the very style employed by the Church in praying: since we beseech the Blessed Trinity "to have mercy on us," while we ask any of the saints "to pray for us."

Reply to Objection 1. To Him alone do we offer religious worship when praying, from Whom we seek to obtain what we pray for, because by so doing we confess that He is the Author of our goods: but not to those whom we call upon as our advocates in God's presence.

Reply to Objection 2. The dead, if we consider their natural condition, do not know what takes place in this world, especially the interior movements of the heart. Nevertheless, according to Gregory (Moral. xii, 21), whatever it is fitting the blessed should know about what happens to us, even as regards the interior movements of the heart, is made known to them in the Word: and it is most becoming to their exalted position that they should know the petitions we make to them by word or thought; and consequently the petitions which we raise to them are known to them through Divine manifestation.

Reply to Objection 3. Those who are in this world or in Purgatory, do not yet enjoy the vision of the Word, so as to be able to know what we think or say. Wherefore we do not seek their assistance by praying to them, but ask it of the living by speaking to them.


In addition to this explanation given by Thomas Aquinas, I would add that, according to James, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16) Thus, if the Saints in heaven can hear our prayers (and, of course, according to the Catholic position, they can, by the power of God revealing prayers made to them, the prayers being made known to them in the Word, as Aquinas just taught above), then their prayers would be most powerful since they, being Saints in heaven, are the most righteous of all souls.

In Christ,
BrotherAlan
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby Paidion » Fri Nov 30, 2018 3:19 pm

Well... praying to Mary is certainly not scriptural, but as Steve pointed out, Catholics consider that they are simply asking Mary to pray to God for them, just as you or I might ask a friend to pray for us. However from my point of view and that of many others, there's no purpose in praying to a dead person. Mary will be raised in the resurrection like everyone else. Better wait until she's alive again before you address her.

As Steve said, Jesus asked His disciples to pray to the Father. Yet I've heard many Trinitarians pray to the Holy Spirit (or sing to the Holy Spirit, for example, "Come Holy Spirit, I need thee; come sweet Spirit, I pray." For Trinitarians, since the Holy Spirit "is God" it's okay to pray to Him. But how many times in the Bible do we find people addressing prayer to the Holy Spirit? Answer: zero.

And also virtually every Christian I know, addresses prayer to Jesus. Again, since Jesus is God, we should pray to Him. But how many times in the Bible do we find people addressing prayer to Jesus? I know of only one instance. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out to Jesus.

(Acts 7:59) And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby steve » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:23 pm

And also virtually every Christian I know, addresses prayer to Jesus. Again, since Jesus is God, we should pray to Him. But how many times in the Bible do we find people addressing prayer to Jesus? I know of only one instance. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out to Jesus.

(Acts 7:59) And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."


And one other, in Revelation 22:20— "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus."

These two examples are by no means normative models of regular prayer. In both cases, the person addressing Jesus was, at that moment, seeing Him in a vision. Speaking to Him was a natural response to seeing Him, no doubt, just as the disciples spoke to Him when they saw Him on earth. All other recorded prayers, post-Pentecost, were addressed to the Father, as per Christ's instructions.
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby Paidion » Sat Dec 01, 2018 10:11 pm

Thanks Steve,

I didn't think of that one in Revelation 22.
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby BrotherAlan » Tue Dec 04, 2018 11:55 pm

An important truth of the Scriptures to keep in mind is that believers in Christ are deeply unified by grace and faith in Him, so much so that not even death separates believers from each other. Thus we read such things as:
(Christ) died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
(1 Thess. 5:10)
If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
(Rom. 14:8)
For this reason Christ died and returned to life, so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
(Rom. 14:9)

And, likewise, we hear Our Savior Himself declare that the righteous men of the Old Testament are "not dead", but "living" (and, thus, how much more so is this true of the Saints of the New Covenant):
Have you not read about the burning bush in the book of Moses, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
(Mk. 12:27)

And, to give one more illustration of the unity of the believers in Christ, to Christ, we read in the account of Paul's conversion in Acts that Christ tells Saul/Paul that Saul is persecuting CHRIST by persecuting the Church. (See Acts 9:4)

And, finally, the Apostle Paul teaches that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Rom. 8:38-39) But, what unites us, as believers, to Christ more than charity? Thus, if we are united together in charity in this earthly life, we remain united in charity even after death.

So it is that those who are in Christ in this life are united to each other by grace and charity; and, as not even death can destroy grace and charity, believers remain united together after death. The Scriptures are showing us that there remains a very real communion among the Saints-- whether we are speaking of the Saints on earth, or the Saints in heaven. And, thus, with this Communion, there can exist a real fellowship, and conversation, in spirit, by the power of God, in Christ, among these Saints, whether these Saints are awake (alive) or asleep (dead, living in the next life). Thus, the possibility of talking to the Saints who have died in Christ (and His grace and love) and have moved on to the next life (and this talking to the Saints who have died but live on in Christ, and asking them to pray for us, is what is meant by the phrase "praying to the Saints").

In Christ,
BrotherAlan
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby steve » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:30 am

Brother Allan,

So, are you of the opinion that Saul contacting the deceased Samuel would not have been a sin (and that he would not have been killed for doing it) had they both been Christians?
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby BrotherAlan » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:52 pm

Hi, Steve--
Good question.

If I may re-phrase the question-- not to avoid answering it, but, rather, to get at the essential difference between what Saul did in conjuring up Samuel, and what Christians do when they talk/pray to the Saints (and so to see why Saul's act was sinful, and why talking/praying to Saints is not)-- I would simply ask the question, "Why was Saul's act sinful?" And, secondly, "Is their a difference between what Saul did and what Christians do when they talk/pray to the Saints (and does this difference affect the moral quality of the act?")

So, to answer the first question, "Why was Saul's act sinful?" It was sinful because it was an act that was (attempted to be) done outside of the presence or sight of God, and by, seemingly, relying on evil spirits to obtain contact with Samuel (for, Saul went to the witch of Endor to do this, and it is highly likely that evil spirits were, thus, involved in all of this). Thus, it was a very, very, very dark act and, thus, extremely and gravely sinful.

Second question: "Is their a difference between what Saul did and what Christians do when they talk/pray to the Saints (and does this difference affect the moral quality of the act?") Yes, there is a difference, and a rather large one, between what Saul did and what Christians do when talking/praying to the Saints. For, Saul attempted to talk to Samuel outside of the sight of God; however, when Christians speak/pray to the Saints, they do is in the very sight of the Heavenly Father who, by the grace that He, through Christ, has granted to both the Saint on earth, and to the Saint in heaven (though, for the Saint in heaven, grace has blossomed into heavenly glory), unites the two souls in His love. Secondly, while Saul relied on evil spirits to get into contact with Samuel, the Christian relies on the Holy Spirit, who, by grace, unites the Christian alive on earth to the Christian in heaven (and, though the Christian in heaven may be, temporarily, physically dead, he is more spiritually alive than even the Christian on earth). It is by the power of God, as taught above by Thomas Aquinas, that the communication between the Saints on earth and the Saints in heaven can take place. Thus, the communication between the Saints on earth and the Saints in heaven is done entirely within the presence, power, and love of the Holy Trinity-- and, thus, it is not only not sinful, but it is actually a beautiful act of charity that takes place between those who are awake, and those who now sleep, in Christ.

And, so, in the end, though there may be a similarity between what Saul did with Samuel, and what the Christian does in praying/talking to the Saints in heaven, that similarity being that there is a communication between those who live on earth and those who have physically died and moved on to the next life, there are significant differences which greatly affect the moral value of each of these acts (one being gravely sinful, the other being a virtuous act of charity and piety). So, on this matter, as in all things, we ought to "judge not by (mere) appearance, but judge with just judgment."

In Christ,
BrotherAlan

P.S.
For the record, here is the Catholic Church's teachings (condemnations) of divination and magic (from the Catechism of the Catholic Church):
Divination and magic
2115 God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.

2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.48 Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.

"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."
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Re: Praying Amiss

Postby BrotherAlan » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:11 am

One other thing I was going to say is this: we read in the accounts of Christ's Transfiguration on the mountain, that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain. Obviously, Elijah, being taken up in the chariot, did not experience physical death, but Moses did. Yet, Our Lord, in His human nature, carries on a conversation with Moses; if one of the Apostles who was present (Peter, James, and John) wanted to have carried on a conversation with Moses, they also could have done so there, with Christ present. This event gives us a little bit of an image of what praying/talking to the Saints, who have died physically, is like: it is like speaking to the Saint, who has been blessed by God, in the presence of Christ, and by the power of God (unlike what Saul did, who spoke to the righteous Samuel, but did so in a sinful manner, i.e., doing so not in the presence of God, and by utilizing the witch of Endor and whatever evil spirits she used to conjure up the spirit of Samuel).
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and always, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."
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