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Protestants reject the Catholic and Orthodox practice of asking deceased saints to pray for them, and I think there are two main reasons why they reject it: it is communicating with the dead, and it is dishonouring to Jesus. The first has been dealt with in many other questions, but I'd like to focus on the second one to see how valid an argument it is.

So the second major reasons why protestants don't ask the deceased to pray for them is that they believe they need no other mediator than Jesus. For protestants, asking anyone other than Jesus to intercede with God for them is dishonouring to Jesus!

But Protestant Christians have no hesitation at all in asking living Christians to pray for them. Why does the argument against dead Christians not apply to living Christians? If you ask your Christian brother or sister to pray for you, why is that not seeking another mediator than Jesus? The Bible clearly instructs us to pray for others, and it frequently show that early Christians asked other Christians to pray for them (ex. in Paul's letters), but does it ever instruct us to ask others to pray for us?

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The comparison is not really valid. A Protestant would never be comfortable praying to another Christian who is living, though he would send him an email and say pray to God for me. In the same way praying to a believer not with us would be a kind of superstition at best, or occult practice of communicating with the dead at worst. –  Mike May 14 at 9:40
    
There's no point of comparison. You're trying to compare a mortal and sinful person with Christ. I'm voting you down this time, because I consider that when you pray to a dead person, you're immediately giving that person more relevance than Jesus and the right to intercede in order to fulfil the prayer. That'd replace Jesus as the only intercessor. The bible say there's only ONE intercessor between God and men and is Jesus. But, it doesn't say there're other intercessors (dead people) between living people and Jesus. –  Charlie May 14 at 12:09
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I think this is a good question. If you believe that prayer to saints is basically the same as asking a living person to pray for you (as Catholics & Orthodox do), why do Protestants practise the latter but not the former? It's a good question. –  lonesomeday May 14 at 12:11
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There is a misunderstanding in your question. Protestants do not recognize any biblical example or instruction to pray to dead people. We don't even believe it is possible. However, the Bible does instruct us to pray for each other. Jesus is the Mediator, and that is why we don't confess sins to a priest. That has nothing to do with not praying to dead saints, who we believe cannot hear us. –  Narnian May 14 at 13:26
    

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Intercession is not the same as mediation!

As other answers have said perfectly adequately, there is plenty of biblical support for interceding for one another and the example of the Apostle Paul requesting this intercession from other (living!) saints; although there is no particular scriptural warrant to explicitly endorse asking for such intercession from saints who have 'fallen asleep'.

So how is mediation different? Mediation implies there is a separation between parties - one side is estranged or in conflict with the other and does not have the capacity in itself to resolve the situation: this is descriptive of the situation prior to regeneration - our sins separate us from God, we can do nothing to resolve this situation of ourselves; when we receive Christ however, we are reconciled to God - no longer separated. Only Christ (not Mary or any of the other saints) could and can do this.

Although Intercession can be mistaken for mediation because it is sometimes (and biblically) referred to as 'standing in the gap', it does not actually require there to be disagreement between parties; in fact effective intercession relies on agreement between the will of pray-er and God and to a lesser but still real extent, the willingness of the object to receive the answer to prayer. Paul was not far from the Lord when he requested the prayers of the saints on his behalf, he merely sought that they join together with him in prayer that all might be agreed for God's will to be done in Paul's life and to share in the joy of seeing those prayers answered. When we intercede for 'sinners' (most commonly, unsolicited), the aspects of it involving mediation (ie addressing 'the gap') necessarily rely on Christ's work as the mediator, we don't (can't!) do that particular part of the work of intercession.

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Great insight here! –  curiousdannii Sep 15 at 8:29
    
So the answer is that Protestants do not believe in the Church Triumphant and the Communion of Saints. –  Andrew Leach Sep 15 at 10:49
    
@AndrewLeach I don't see what would lead you to say that. –  curiousdannii Sep 15 at 11:00
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@AndrewLeach "So the answer is that Protestants do not believe in the Church Triumphant and the Communion of Saints." - not in the way Catholics do at least. –  bruised reed Sep 15 at 11:40
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@curiousdannii I think it's useless because either a) they're 'asleep' (and can't hear) or they see things clearly enough that: b) they no longer pray in the sense we know - they can clearly discern God's will in a situation and therefore cannot exercise 'faith' in prayer; any 'prayers' they offer are merely an after-the-fact agreement with God's will and don't add anything to the situation or c) they can still pray effectively, but are fully aware of what to pray and our requests will have no effect on them. I personally incline to a). –  bruised reed Sep 15 at 11:48

There are a variety of things going on here. (FWIW, I'm an Anglican who holds to the Catholic faith, so I'm not explaining my own beliefs here. I'll try as best I can to give a fair account of others' beliefs.)

Idolatry

Many Protestants believe that prayer should only be directed at God and that prayer to anything else is ipso facto idolatry. To pray to saints for their help would contravene I Timothy 2.5, for instance. There is no clear biblical warrant for prayer to the saints. By contrast, there is plainly biblical warrant for praying for other living people, so that plainly is not idolatry.

We could leave it there, and many would. But this wouldn't really answer the Catholic position, because Catholics believe that asking the saints for intercession is no different to asking a living friend for intercession. So we have to look at two other aspects.

The authority of the Church

"Who's a saint?"

This question underpins a major objection here. According to the Catholic faith, the Church is able to define positively those who have been judged favourably in the particular judgement and have been purified in Purgatory and who now are in the presence of God. Protestants do not believe the Church has this ability to define who is a saint.

Praying to saints, therefore, relies on a particular view of Church authority and the nature of religious knowledge.

Soul sleep

A final reason for denying prayer to the saints is the idea of soul sleep, historically a very important Protestant doctrine. (William Tyndale and Martin Luther in particular.) This is the belief that the souls of the departed are not conscious between death and the Last Day, and so they are incapable of intervening by prayer on our behalf.

It's not a doctrine much held today, but it was highly prevalent in the past and had a significant impact on much Protestant theology regarding the dead.

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This does not address the question. "If you ask your Christian brother or sister to pray for you, why is that not seeking another mediator than Jesus?" –  curiousdannii Sep 15 at 7:21
    
@curiousdannii I'm perplexed. You ask a question, I answer it, then you edit the question, then months later you come back, object that I haven't answered the edited question and downvote. Very odd behaviour. –  lonesomeday Sep 15 at 17:42
    
I edited it on the same day, and the edit was only to clarify the question, I didn't change it's intention at all. This was in the original question, and you didn't address it: "If you ask your Christian brother or sister to pray for you, why is that not seeking another mediator than Jesus?" Declaring saints and soul sleep are irrelevant for this question. –  curiousdannii Sep 16 at 0:20
    
@curiousdannii They may not answer the question precisely, but they are still very relevant. Your question is fundamentally asking why it is considered acceptable to ask living people to pray for you and the dead. My answer precisely addresses this. You have two questions in your original post: I have answered one of them; admittedly, I passed over the second, but it was irrelevant in light of the first. You are entitled to downvote: I'm entitled to find you rude. –  lonesomeday Sep 16 at 14:34
    
I don't mean any offence. This is a good answer, just not for this specific question. Maybe I should edit the title to match the body of the question. But please don't presume to know how I vote. Voting is secret, and claiming you know is rude itself. –  curiousdannii Sep 16 at 14:37

I think the short answer is that there is Biblical precedent for this sort of intercessory prayer.

Here are a few examples:

2 Corinthians 1:11 (ESV)

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Philippians 1:19 (ESV)

for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

1 Timothy 2:1 (ESV)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

James 5:14 (ESV)

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Philemon 1:22 (ESV)

At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

As a sort of longer answer (and personal observation/understanding), I think it's an important element for community and a good way for Christians to minister to each other. The precedent it there for us to pray for one another, and sharing our concerns with one another is a good way to build community, and it offers a practical way to fulfill the duty to pray for one another by giving us specific things to pray for.

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And James 5:16 - ... pray one for another ... –  Matt May 15 at 0:56
    
So why then if you ask your Christian brother or sister to pray for you, do protestants not consider that to be seeking another mediator than Jesus? –  curiousdannii Sep 15 at 7:22
    
Asking Christians brothers and sisters to pray for you is Biblical - as seen above. The Bible says that there is only one mediator between God and man and that is Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5) and that He is also our advocate (1 John 2:1). Asking other Christians to pray for you does not and cannot make them a mediator. as @Narnian says "Protestants do not recognize any biblical example or instruction to pray to dead people." –  Parto Sep 15 at 7:49
    
Also 1 Thessalonians 5:25 'Brothers and sisters, pray for us'. –  Parto Sep 15 at 7:50
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Romans 15:30-32. Paul specifically asked to be prayed for. He requested prayers from the believers for himself. –  Parto Sep 15 at 7:52

In addition to lonesomeday's excellent answer I would also like to cite the following Scriptures where both Paul and James indicated that others should offer intercessory prayer for either them or others.

All Scripture is quoted from the King James translation.

In the following instance we see Paul asking for their prayers, to aid him in his work for the Kingdom of God, and as most Protestants that I know feel it is good that we ask others to pray for us in as much as it helps us to fulfill further the Kingdom of God.

Rom 15:30 through 32 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.

In the book of James we find that Church Elders are exhorted to pray for and anoint the sick, also we see that we are told to confess our faults to one another and have them pray for our redemption.

James 5:14 through 16 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

In the book of acts we find Peter's intercession for the widows of Joppa, to bring back Dorcas from the dead, through intercessory prayer.

Acts 9:39 and 40 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

I must, however, disagree with your statement about having anyone else pray for us; we consider to be dishonoring Jesus. Only in the asking for the forgiveness of our sins do we believe that we alone must pray directly to Jesus for forgiveness. Those sins belong exclusively to us, and for that we must ask Jesus to personally intercede with the Father. According to the following Scripture only Jesus can do that since he alone is the propitiation for our sins.

1st John 2:1 and 2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

For my part why should I pray to a dead Saint, when I have both a live Jesus as intercessor and Father God to whom Jesus said to pray directly in the Lords prayer.

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The interesting conundrum, however, is why you can ask prayer of a living person but not of a person in Heaven. –  lonesomeday May 14 at 17:52
    
@lonesomeday but we do ask of someone in Heaven either Jesus who is alive in Heaven or the Father who is also alive in Heaven. The conundrum to me is why would you ask someone else when you can go directly to them. If you have a question for the city council why would you ask the Mayor when you have access to the Council itself? –  Bye May 14 at 18:32
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I understand all that, and I think the OP does too. The thing is that your point works just as well for living people. "Why would you ask the Mayor when you have access to the Council itself?" The question is about why there is a difference between asking intercession of the saints and of the living. –  lonesomeday May 14 at 18:40
    
@lonesomeday Perhaps I did not make myself clear, but My post was in addition to yours, which to me answered that point well, my reason for adding to it was to show that our petitions are stronger when combined with those of other Christians. There is quite some difference between those who have already attained heaven and those of us who are aspiring to go to heaven. it is just another form of our assisting others here on Earth. –  Bye May 14 at 19:07
    
Fair enough, then! –  lonesomeday May 14 at 19:07

The apostle Paul prays for the living and prays for other Christians. So it seems perfectly natural for Christians to ask for prayer from other living Christians.

Eph 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers

James 5:16 - ... pray one for another ...

Among many others which others have pointed out.

I think the whole theology around Catholics praying to and seeking prayer from "dead saints" is why this would even come up. The definition of Saint (hagios) is most holy thing, sacred, pure, blameless, ceremonially consecrated.

Catholics decide with prayer who gets to be a Saint. But in their deciding I can't see any scriptural support. If I'm not mistaken most(all?) of the catholic saints that are defined by their own definition of saint are dead.

Many protestants and Catholics believe a saint is someone who lives an exemplary life (taking on the idea of purity alone). Catholics I believe go further and define them as someone who has also done some confirmed miracles.

The problem is, none of this is scripture. To be a saint you become a believer. All Christians who believe on Jesus are Saints. It simply means you are set aside consecrated (dedicated) for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that we're to be in the world not of the world. Called to be different from the world and all the evil that it does.

Let me show you from scripture.

Romans 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: ..."

Better still, do you beleive the Corinthian church were part of the sainthood? that messed up church where men were having sex with their own mothers among other atrocious things. And Paul says, don't you know you're called to be saints??

1 Cor 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:

So for a protestant, what we would do is to pray for Christian believers who we also believe are the saints. We're not praying to dead people.

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Job 42;10

And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends, also, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Matthew 5;44

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Hebrews 13;18

Pray for us: for we trust we have good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly,

John 17;9

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them.

We are instructed to pray for one another, not to one another, We are not asked to pray for on another, we are told to do so.

If you ask your Christian brother or sister to pray for you, why is this not seeking another mediator? The prayer is not to the brother or sister but to the Father, in their behalf.

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There seems to be widespread confusion between "pray to" and "pray for" in this thread. –  theodoulos Sep 15 at 7:56

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