Are the Saints Alive or Dead?
Many non-Catholics struggle with the concept of praying to saints because they think prayer and worship are the same thing. Since the Bible says we should only worship God, then shouldn’t we only pray to God? But the word “worship” refers to giving someone “worth-ship,” or the honor that person is due. We call judges “your honor,” for example, as a way of paying them respect, but we don’t treat them like gods.
“Prayer” comes from the Latin word precarius and refers to making a request for something. In Old English a person might have said to a friend, “I pray you will join us for dinner tomorrow night.” They aren’t worshipping their friend as a god, but simply making a request of them. Catholics do the same thing when they pray to saints; they don’t honor them as gods but ask them for their prayers.
Why should we ask saints in heaven to pray for us when we can just pray to God instead? After all, 1 Timothy 2:5, says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.” Catholics agree that it is great to pray to directly to God, but if this argument were taken to its logical conclusion, then it would forbid asking anyone on earth to pray for us.
It doesn’t make sense to say Christians who are in heaven are some kind of “amputated” part of Christ’s body that cannot pray for any of the other parts. Jesus calls himself the vine and says we are the branches (John 15:5). If Jesus holds the “keys of Death” (Rev. 1:18), then how could death ever separate the branches from one another as long as they are all spiritually connected to the same vine?
Jesus himself said that God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” and reminded his Jewish audience that the Father said, “I am [not “I was”] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Mark 12:26-27). In the time of Christ (as well as the time of Moses), the Father was still the God of Jewish heroes like Abraham, who had died centuries earlier.
To write off saints like them as being “dead” ignores the fact that, by virtue of their heavenly union with Christ, they are more alive than they were on earth.
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