I mean, there could be thousands of Orthodox Christians at this moment praying to, say, Saint Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg, and there could probably be even more of Catholic Christians praying right now to, say, saint Patrick, let alone Mother Mary. Does that mean that all those saints have the All-knowing God's ability to hear all of those praying to them, distinguish their prayers one from another, and later adequately act on each one of them accordingly?

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    I hate to bring up the obvious, but after small impediments like being dead, and hearing you despite not being physically present, even if you are praying silently (internal voice), probably not in their native language... the issue of distinguishing multiple voices seems almost trivial. I can, however, see that time management to "act on" could be a concern - reminds me of a scene in "Bruce Almighty" Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:07
  • Do they really say that once a person is dead his soul can see all other people's thoughts in their minds?
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:11
  • Who is "they" in that? Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:13
  • Those who practice praying to the saints.
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:14
  • 2
    I'm not sure that is the typical phrasing, but that does indeed appear to be a common view of prayer; for that, see this question, which is subtly different to the one you ask here. Re "praying to the saints", that is discussed here. I believe a summary would be "petition to" rather than "pray to", but presumably it would still depend on being heard. Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 7:24

3 Answers 3


Time has no meaning in heaven, there is probably a more precise Thomistic answer for this question bit that should suffice. If time is meaningless then "at the same time" is meaningless. I'll get confused if I write any more about that.

Is it possible, O Lord, that, since thou art in eternity, thou art ignorant of what I am saying to thee? Or, dost thou see in time an event at the time it occurs? If not, then why am I recounting such a tale of things to thee? Certainly not in order to acquaint thee with them through me; but, instead, that through them I may stir up my own love and the love of my readers toward thee, so that all may say, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised." I have said this before and will say it again: "For love of thy love I do it." So also we pray -- and yet Truth tells us, "Your Father knoweth what things you need before you ask him."

Consequently, we lay bare our feelings before thee, that, through our confessing to thee our plight and thy mercies toward us, thou mayest go on to free us altogether, as thou hast already begun; and that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves and blessed in thee -- since thou hast called us to be poor in spirit, meek, mourners, hungering and athirst for righteousness, merciful and pure in heart. Thus I have told thee many things, as I could find ability and will to do so, since it was thy will in the first place that I should confess to thee, O Lord my God -- for "Thou art good and thy mercy endureth forever."

St. Augustine of Hippo - Confessions Book 11, Chapter 1.

We not only believe that the saints can hear and deliver our prayers to God. We believe all the angels and all the saints are present at every Mass.

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    "Time has no meaning in heaven" - Got a source for that?
    – hammar
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 12:49
  • 4
    It's easy to demonstrate that God exists outside of time, since according to a Christian world view, God created time. But that doesn't necessarily extend to Heaven, which God also created. We do know that heaven is "eternal," but that is also not the same as "without time." I've asked this question.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 19:36
  • @flimzy That is a good question, hopefully someone smart will answer it. I'd just repeat the same answer so I'll decline. From what I've read, and AFAIK this is all just non-biblical theological conjecture, if you're in Heaven, you're in the presence of God and if you're in the presence of God you exist with Him and the same way time would be meaningless to God (meaningless doesn't mean deficient) it would be meaningless to you.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 19:41
  • @Flimzy, I guess I will answer after all, mainly since the only other answer was contrary to my church's teaching. I don't suspect that that'll satisfy your curiosity though.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 7, 2012 at 20:42
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    (1) I don't quite understand why you bring up this quote that is in fact all about God, rather than the saints. I have no problem understanding that God exists outside of the frame of time and ,thus, time "has no meaning" with God, but I have troubles understanding that that would automatically mean that the time also "has no meaning" with the saints who are in heaven - especially while the things on Earth have not yet been brought to the state described in the end of book of Revelation. The passage in Rev. 6:9-10 ("And when he
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 14:36

The answer is no. Recall first of all that prayer is not necessarily audible words, and secondly, the means by which prayers 'rise like incense before the throne of God' is never entirely clear. If we take for instance the issue of God hearing prayer, there are multiple ways in which the prayer could be received. To take two, the first is that God knew before the foundation of the world what would be prayed, though he himself did not make it so. The second is that through the Spirit he fills all things, and thus knows the words that are going to be prayed before they are formed into words.

We who venerate and ask for intercession of the saints believe that they dwell in God, so while it is not impossible that they can hear and interpret multiple 'messages' at the same time this does not seem to be an issue raised nor a description used. The saints live in the power and energy of the Divinity; they simply do what is given for them to do. They hear us through God to begin with.

  • I don't understand: didn't they already dwell in God while they were alive?
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 14:02
  • But they were in the flesh and depending on the saint, had the limitations of the flesh. Some saints (such as St. John Maximovich) did not seem to have these limitations (or less so) and was known to hear people in need without hearing them and was known to have bilocated. How he experienced these things we don't know.
    – user304
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 21:12
  • "But they were in the flesh and depending on the saint, had the limitations of the flesh" - So, does this mean that once the flesh is gone any believer in Christ will be equally unlimited?
    – brilliant
    Commented Feb 11, 2012 at 10:48

Yes, this is granted by God himself:

'Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.' (Rev5.8)

'Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.' (Rev 8.3)

'Tobit, when you and Sarah prayed to the Lord, I was the one who brought your prayers into his glorious presence.... I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in the glorious presence of the Lord, ready to serve him.'(Tobit 12.12,15)

'So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.' (Lk 1.8-9)

The practise of the jews standing outside the temple and having a prayer service known as the 'hour of incense' is a type for the intercession of the saints and communion of the saints. Those praying in the outside court of the temple are us, the earthly saints of the church militant. Our prayers are offered with much incense by the high priest who is inside the temple serving God near the altar and the holy of holies. The high priest is Symbolic of those holy people that have triumphantly crossed over into heaven interceeding on our bahalf and spoken of in Rev 5.8. They serve as priests with Christ(rev 5.10)

  • I don't understand, How do all the verses that you brought up show that the saints can hear many people at once?!
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 15:21
  • This is what is meant by offering incense, multiple prayers. In Tobit it says that Raphael brought Sarah's prayer before the glory of the Holy One. Tobit 12.15 is paraphrased in Rev 8.2,4: the 7 angels that stand before God...And the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God out of the angel's hands... This is granted to the 24 elders as well.
    – kosta
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 21:17
  • "This is what is meant by offering incense, multiple prayers. In Tobit it says that Raphael brought Sarah's prayer before the glory of the Holy One. Tobit 12.15 is paraphrased in Rev 8.2,4: the 7 angels that stand before God" - How does that show that the dead saints can hear many people praying to them at once?! At best, those verses can only indicate that angels (Rafael in Tobit and the angel in Revelation) can hear many saints' prayers and direct them to God. But how do those verses show that the dead saints have the ability of hearing multiple prayers directed to them at once?
    – brilliant
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 1:10

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