When the disciple John falls down on his knees to worship an angel, the angel immediately urges him to stop because he is just like John, a servant of God, who worships God alone.

8 It is I, John, who heard and saw these things, and when I heard and saw them I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me. 9 But he said to me, “Don’t! I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers the prophets and of those who keep the message of this book. Worship God.” (NABRE)

8 καὶ ἐγὼ Ἰωάννης ὁ βλέπων ταῦτα καὶ ἀκούων καὶ ὅτε ἤκουσα καὶ ἔβλεψα ἔπεσα προσκυνῆσαι ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ δεικνύοντός μοι ταῦτα 9 καὶ λέγει μοι, Ὅρα μή σύνδουλός σου γάρ εἰμι καὶ τῶν ἀδελφῶν σου τῶν προφητῶν καὶ τῶν τηρούντων τοὺς λόγους τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου τῷ θεῷ προσκύνησον (TR, 1550)

It seems like the doctrines of many Christian churches (Orthodox, Catholic, etc.) are replete with saint/angel worship. Is that accurate? Do some Christians worship angels and/or saints?

  • I don't think there is any worship of angels or saints, only praying to them seek their joint petition to God for their requests. (I don't agree with this practice, but I don't think it is worship.)
    – Narnian
    Apr 23, 2013 at 14:51
  • This is an exact duplicate of this question Apr 23, 2013 at 15:39
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    Yeah, but this question is written better than the other one :) Apr 23, 2013 at 17:08
  • I am Voting to leave open, but with a slight edit. Apr 23, 2013 at 19:40
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    I think we need a new word in the english language for this, or maybe im just being slow at the moment. But we (Catholics) have the Hail Mary prayer among other, where we put prayer in the title. I think this is more of a language issue. It is not a prayer to Mary, it is simply asking for Mary to pray with us as we pray. As many Christians ask their friends to pray with them when they are having a hard time, Catholic ask their friends and all the Saints and Angels to pray with them when they have a hard time.
    – Andrew
    Apr 23, 2013 at 20:20

4 Answers 4


Key to answering this question is that no mainstream Christian denomination thinks they are actually worshipping any person other than the Triune Godhead - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

From the outside, however, accusations are often made in this regard.

To the uninitiated, veneration of the Saints can look like worship. To the uninitiated, the use of icons can look like idolatry. To the uninitiated, requesting the assistance of angels, Mary, or whatever blessed Saint can look like praying to someone other than God. To the uninitiated, repeating the Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm can look like the invocation of a talisman against evil.

And, in practice, the distinction may not actually be there for the person doing it. Some Catholics actually believe they are praying to Mary. Some Orthodox think they are worshipping their icons. And some evangelicals may believe that the Lord's Prayer is somehow "holier" than every other.

The point, however, is not to judge a theology by its worst adherents, but by its best. Any doctrine can be perverted, any good thing used for evil.

In 2 Kings 18:4, we read of what happened to the bronze serpent that God had instructed Moses to build after God had sent a plague of vipers to attack the Children of Israel in the desert. Speaking hundreds of years after the fact, the Bible records that Hezekiah:

.. removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.

That people had turned an artifact of God into a device of worship does not speak to the evil of a thing - only to the evil of those who practice idolatry at all. Idolatry - the worship of something or someone other than the true God - is a sin. And when "veneration" slips into worship, it is wrong.

But simple respect is not always worship. The question is, at their best, what are these things supposed to do.

In all cases, these objects, people, or beings are supposed to be intermediators to point the worshipper to Christ - a laudable goal. People need concrete things. But people are also prone, as Romans 1 says to worship the creation rather than the creator.

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. ... 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done

Thus, in short, the ultimate answer to "Why do people worship these things" is because man is evil. Man twists and perverts. He loves darkness rather than light.

Sure is a good thing we know a God who can fix that, if we're willing to learn differently.

  • Thanks for your answer, however I'd like some clarifications if possible. Why are there chairs in churches which are destined for people to pray for certain saints? You can't say this is for worst adherents. How can a dead saint aid you in any way, he's dead .. he can't help you? What's the meaning of this then? Why not pray directly to God and ask for his aid? Also, it is written there is only one mediator between man and God, and that is Jessus Christ. Thanks.
    – Fofole
    Apr 24, 2013 at 7:45
  • @fofole one mediator means that grace one comes through one Person. It doesn't mean that other people can't act as channels for that Grace.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 24, 2013 at 11:29
  • @fofole As an old Baptist, I agree with with you wholeheartedly. And, since I'm not Catholic, I don't really know anything about the chairs. Apr 24, 2013 at 11:57
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    @fofole Can you say more about the chairs? I've been Catholic all my life and have never heard of anything like that. Maybe it's not a Catholic thing? In any case, when you say "How can a dead saint aid you in any way, he's dead .. he can't help you", I think immediately of Mark 12:26-27: "have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living"
    – Ben Dunlap
    Apr 25, 2013 at 1:21
  • I believe @Fofole is actually talking about kneelers and not chairs. He is also making a dubious assumption that the dead are not able to witness the actions of the living and that they are unable to intercede based on that. A counter might be the story of the rich man and Lazarus: the rich man (who was not a particularly good person) both observed his brethren and interceded on their behalf. If we assume that this parable has the same level of realism as the other parables, then we must accept that the righteous can and do pray on our behalf. Apr 26, 2013 at 3:08

You are presenting a false dichotomy. "Prays to" does not mean "worships", and, along those lines, "worship" does not always mean what we think of when we think of "worship."

If by "worship" you mean "provides honor due to God" then I will say that it is sinful to place a Saint at so high a level. Perhaps this is what happened when John saw the Angel. If by "prayer" you mean the same character of conversing one has with the almighty, I would repeat my sentiments above. Communion with the Saints is something of a very different sort.

I think that is where the rub lies. The relationship a Catholic has with the Saints, even Mary, is something fundamentally different from the relationship with the Godhead. Saints are our betters, but they are redeemed sinners, fellow created creatures. God is the great I AM, without beginning or end, perfect in every way. Anyone who would honor the former with the honor due the latter is frankly insane.


As Catholics, we do not pray/worship the saints. Instead, we look at them as role models because they have already achieved Heaven, which is what we must work for. Because they are already in Heaven, we ask the saints to intercede for us to God because they are so close to Him. Our asking them to intercede is what is often mistaken as worshiping them

  • And this answers the question "How can a dead saint aid you in any way, he's dead .. he can't help you?" Apr 13, 2014 at 19:02
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    Welcome to the site! I don't disagree, but this would be a much better answer if you could back it up with references and quotes. See What makes a good supported answer? Apr 14, 2014 at 4:14
  • How can they itercede since the Bible states "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus". In my mother language the translation also states "only mediator" . Also you are stating they are already in Heaven, which is not a generally accepted assertion between all denominations which as David suggests, could use some "back-up" with references.
    – Fofole
    Apr 14, 2014 at 7:29

Others have explained this well on this post, so I will not repeat what they have said. I will add some simple logic for two points: Worship and Prayer.

Worship plainly means to "ascribe worth to." Everyone "ascribes worth" to something of value. Does that mean people "worship" things or people, which is to commit idolatry, when they "ascribe worth? Of course not.

When someone gains life from what they are ascribing worth to, that is idolatry.

Prayer is simply communication. God created prayer for our benefit, not His own.

Since Christians have the whole family of believers in heaven, we can talk to them and ask them to pray for us to Jesus and our Heavenly Father. This is the same as when we ask the family of believers on earth to pray for us. The only difference is that the saints in Heaven know how to pray purely with perfect intention than when we pray on earth.

Catholics and Orthodox do not commit idolatry when communicating with our heavenly family. They just have a better understanding of what the family of believers is and what it means to be a part of God's family.

  • Your answer needs references, particularly that definition that you are using. Also, keep in mind that "worship" is a technical term with many nuances. Please cite the denomination that you are representing.
    – Double U
    Apr 15, 2014 at 20:32
  • Worship is "ascribe worth to" as defined by the University of Northwestern Saint Paul - a non-demoninational and very anti-Catholic school. You can also Google "worship" and Ascribe worth to" and discover the same answer. Do the same for prayer and communication. I was raised anti-Catholic and through God's grace and searching for accurate historical Christianity, I became Catholic.
    – user10258
    Apr 17, 2014 at 9:29

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