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Praying to people outside the Trinity

There are several denominations and traditions that believe in the doctrine of intercession of the saints.

Exodus 20:3 (NIV)
You shall have no other gods before me.

What is the doctrine regarding praying to Saints and how does this relate to praying to God? If there is only one God and prayer is petitioning him, how does praying to people other than God not run afoul of the commandment to have no other Gods?


2 Answers 2


I'm a Methodist now, so praying to Saints in a group setting is not done. I grew up Catholic, so I don't find asking saints to intercede on my or someone else's behalf unusual, for the reasons given on catholic.org. Here is one relevant bit:

Do Catholics pray to saints?
We pray with saints, not to them. Have you ever asked anyone to pray for you when you were having a hard time? Why did you choose to ask that person?

You may have chosen someone you could trust, or someone who understood your problem, or someone who was close to God. Those are all reasons we ask saints to pray for us in times of trouble.

Since saints led holy lives and are close to God in heaven, we feel that their prayers are particularly effective. Often we ask particular saints to pray for us if we feel they have a particular interest in our problem. For example, many people ask Saint Monica to pray for them if they have trouble with unanswered prayers, because Monica prayed for twenty years for her son to be converted. Finally her prayers were answered in a way she never dreamed of -- her son, Augustine, became a canonized saint and a Doctor of the Church.

As for Biblical references for this belief, take your pick from this article: Saints and Intercessory Prayer

Edited again: Here's Exodus 20:1-3 (NRSV) to provide some context to verse 3.

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

God is telling Moses that the people should worship God and not anything else, like a golden calf. As the catholic.org reference says, people pray with saints, not to saints. So those people aren't setting another god before God.

  • If you could provide some of your own thoughts on this, that would be great. Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:29
  • @El'endia Starman: Every other comment has asked for Bible or other references. :-) Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:41
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    Yes...and that's because they go to the opposite end of the spectrum: providing very little or no references. If you go back to the older questions, you'll see more answers that are purely references. We actually had an answer from one of our own mods deleted for lack of elaboration, fixed, and then undeleted. Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:55
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    Welcome to Christianity.SE by the way. I realize the landscape is a little confusing. We're trying to find a balance between no references and unsupported opinion answers and becoming just a scraping machine for remote content. The article you reference is very relevant, but can you expect to also cover the verse the OP asked about and then use your own words to tie them together?
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 16:59
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    @GilbertLeBlanc: There is a deleted answer but it doesn't touch the Exodus verse, it has an unrelated verse and only touched on the prayer issue. Don't be afraid to duplicate some content from other answers. Each answer should really stand on it's own as a complete canonical answer to a question. Adding points on to other people's answers is discouraged in general. Don't plagiarize people either, use discretion :)
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 17:08

Catholic understanding of 1st commandment as it relates to that passage:

The first commandment forbids honoring gods other than the one Lord who has revealed himself to his people. It proscribes superstition and irreligion. Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.

CCC 2110

From what I can tell that passage from Exodus is not connected to intercessory prayer. As noted elsewhere, there's nothing idolatrous or polytheistic about belief in the Communion of Saints. There is a Church in Heaven since the gates of hell will not prevail against it, therefore, there are folks in Heaven who can intercede on our behalf.

Furthermore, the LORD says He is the God of the living, not of the dead therefore all who die in Christ also live with Him and will not cease to do His will in Heaven.

St. Therese the Little Flower said she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth. There's nothing idolatrous about accepting the help of a friend in a high place.

The argument that Tradition corrupts Scripture is simply Protestant nonsense, Scripture is Tradition written down. Just as you can't fault billions of well meaning Christians for being illiterate, you can't fault Christian farmers for thinking St. Isadore might know more about drought than Our Lord. It's untrue, but the argument against it only comes from cultural relativism. (that it is good for them, but not for us since we're so much smarter) If it were really idolatrous, the Church would have done away with it long long ago just as it has done away with all heresies, even ones that are very very popular

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    I think this is reading from the Bible what is simply not there. I understand that Catholics aren't praying to other God(s), but Jesus saying that the gates of Hell won't overcome the Kingdom of God does not mean that the saints are listening, can listen, will listen, will respond or can respond to anything asked of them by Christians. There's no provision for this in the Bible and the Bible does tell us that Christ intercedes for us - Romans 8:34. So if Christ is already interceding for us, why use anyone else?
    – Screamer
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 22:51
  • @Screamer: "Can anyone other than Christ intercede for us?" Perhaps you have stumbled upon a good question.
    – user23
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 1:30
  • Well, the Holy Spirit also intercedes for us (Romans 8:26) but as far as the Bible goes, nobody else is said to be able to. It is most likely an error which crept into the Catholic church which gets preserved because they consider church tradition as important as scripture. Having someone else mediate, who is inferior to Christ, even if it were possible, makes no sense. And it is rightly considered insulting to Jesus - can St Peter understand your concerns better than Jesus? St Paul? St Mary?
    – Screamer
    Commented Oct 15, 2011 at 16:11
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    @screamer, are you sure? How do you interpret some of the last words of Our Lord? Son, behold your mother... and from that day he took her into his house. In the temporal sense, it's just John looking after Jesus' mother, but in the eternal sense it's all of us bringing Mary into our homes. Not someone to ignore in the corner like a aged comotose great aunt, but as a real spiritual mother.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 14:42
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    @PeterTurner: There's nothing in the Bible that says we should interpret Christ's petition to John as applicable to us (and I admit there's nothing that says we shouldn't). Anything regarding this is pure speculation.
    – user23
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 15:56

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