Why We Ask For The Prayers of The Saints
Some people ask “why say prayers to saints? Shouldn’t all our prayers be to God?” Praying to the saints is praying to God, in a fundamental way. We're praying to those who can ask God to help us in our various needs in accordance with His will.
When you ask someone to pray for you are you worshiping that person? Of course not! It’s the same when we ask the saints to pray for us! In our prayers to saints we ask them to “put in a good word” for us with God in Heaven. They are not the focus of our worship, God is.
“I believe in the Communion of Saints”
Members of St John’s say or sing these words at least every Sunday during the Eucharist; they are part of the Nicene Creed. They remind us of that the Church is much bigger than our own congregation, or even the entire Church here on earth. They remind us that the larger part of the Church exists on the other side of the grave, the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant. The whole Church, living and departed, is united in the one eternal Eucharist. We are united to Christ by Baptism and by eating His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and so we are intimately united to each other.
The Church Expectant consists of those Christians who have recently died but who, because of their need for preparation, are unable yet to enjoy the full presence of God. We pray for those souls in the belief that our prayers, together with those of the Saints in heaven, will hasten and ease their passage.
The Church Triumphant is the Church in ‘heaven’. The souls of all those Christians who are enjoying, to the full, the Heavenly Banquet. The Book of Revelation, although it should not be taken as literally descriptive, paints a picture of the glory of heaven and the fulfilment of the Saints. It also reminds us that the Saints in heaven continue to offer prayer to God.
Praying for ourselves and others
Praying for the needs of other people, and for ourselves, is one of the four basic ways of praying. It is called Supplication.
We pray for ourselves, in the belief that whatever we ask in the name of Christ, God will give us. We must always remember, though, that God already knows our needs, and will provide them without waiting to he asked.
Praying for others, in particular, is one of the ways in which we demonstrate our care for them. We also ask other people to pray for us. Prayer for each other is the basic expression of Christian love.
God wants us to pray in this way, not because He will only give us what we need if we ask for it, but because prayer is good for us! It helps us to be aware of God’s love for us; it helps us to be aware of the needs of others, and teaches us to love them; and above all it keeps us aware of our total dependence upon Him.
Asking for the Prayers of the Saints
For many years the practice of asking the Saints to pray for us was frowned upon by the Church of England and seen as somehow wrong. In recent years the value of this has been rediscovered and the practice is becoming more widely used and understood.
In their lives, many of the Saints were able, by their prayers, to bring around spectacular works if healing and other miracles. Most of them though, demonstrated that they were friends of God in more mundane ways.
Their ability to do marvellous works was not their own, but came from God. It was God’s way of blessing us through them, and was his way of showing us that He was honouring them; not an honour they deserved, but nonetheless was His will. The same is true after a Saint has died.
Christians believe in life after death. Those who have lived good lives and died in the faith of Christ will, as the Bible tells us, share in his resurrection.
While we live together on earth as Christians, we are in communion, or unity, with one another. But that communion doesn’t end when one of us dies. We believe that Christians in heaven remain in communion with those of us on earth. So, just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us, we can approach a saint with our prayers, too. If the prayers of we, who are far from being ‘holy’ and far from the throne of God can work miracles, how much more will the prayers of the Saints!
St. Mary the Virgin
Of all the Saints, the queen is St. Mary, the Mother of God. The Gospel according to St. Luke is quite clear, Our Lady, as we delight to call her, is of all women the most blessed. She, above all people, is most favoured by God who chose her to be the mother of His only-begotten Son Jesus.
Just as Our Lady is the Saint most highly honoured by God, so it is right and fitting that she should be the most highly honoured by Christ’s Church.
Of all the means of honouring Our Lady, and indeed all the Saints, open to Christians, by far the most fitting is to ask her to pray for us. Asking her to pray for is not to take anything away from Christ’s glory, but to magnify it by doing His will and honouring His Mother. The first recorded example of people asking her prayers is in the Gospel according to St. John ch2. v.1 and following: the story of the marriage at Cana in Galilee.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners and at the hour of our death.