The Saints – Does God Hear Prayers Based On Who is Praying?

Another very common objection we can find to the Catholic understanding of prayer to the saints is this:

God does not answer prayers based on who is praying.  God answers prayers based on whether they are asked according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)…..  No one in heaven has any greater access to God’s throne than we do through prayer (Hebrews 4:16).

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Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Does the Catholic understanding we can ask the saints in heaven to pray for us contradict the view we ourselves can confidently approach God in prayer?  I’m not sure how one could think that would be the case.  Does the fact we can ask another Christian on earth to pray for us in any way contradict an understanding we ourselves can confidently approach God in prayer?  Of course not.

1 John 5:14-15 says “And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”  The ability to pray within God’s will can indeed be a challenge, especially on this side of heaven.  St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 why this would be the case — “For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

For those of us who “see in a mirror dimly,” praying within God’s will for us requires great trust on our part.  It requires a willingness to acknowledge as St. Paul did that our knowledge is imperfect and we can know and understand only in part God’s mind and heart.  But is that true of the saints in heaven, who have already experienced “but when perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away?”  While we currently see in a mirror dimly, they in reality now see face to face, and understand fully, just as St. Paul tells us will be the case when we are in heaven.  They are always aligned perfectly to God’s will.  They also do not have to deal with the many distractions we can face when we turn to God in prayer.  So while indeed we have just as much access to God as they do, we can experience barriers and challenges with prayer they simply no longer have.  Doesn’t that make them the most perfect of prayer partners?

Interesting enough, while promoting that no Christian has greater access to God in prayer than another, the site also promotes the concept of a “prayer warrior,” which is not an uncommon idea in the Protestant world:

Although the phrase “prayer warrior” is not found in Scripture, a prayer warrior is generally thought of as a Christian who prays continually and effectively for others in the manner of praying taught in Scripture…..

Effective prayer is indeed work.  We have to learn to walk with God, so we meditate daily on Him and His ways in order to become more and more humble, which is essential for effective prayer (2 Chronicles 7:13-15).  We also study Scripture thoughtfully every day to learn what is pleasing to God and therefore what constitutes acceptable prayer.  We learn to eliminate hindrances to prayer (Mark 11:25; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:21-22) and not to grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30-32).  We learn that we are in a spiritual battle with Satan, so we must pray for our own spiritual well-being to maintain our strength and focus in praying for others (Ephesians 6:12-18).

Prayer warriors have a heart for God, a heart for prayer, a heart for people, and a heart for Christ’s church.  Therefore, we pray continually and trust that God answers each prayer according to His perfect will and in His perfect timing.

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Who more perfectly fits that description than a saint in heaven, who has learned to walk perfectly with God?  A person who has been perfected in humility?  A person who knows perfectly what is pleasing to God and therefore what constitutes acceptable prayer?  A person who no longer has any hindrances to prayer, and would never grieve the Spirit of God?  A person who could never lose their own strength or focus in praying for others?  A person who has a perfected “heart for God,” a perfected “heart for prayer,” a perfected “heart for people,” and a perfected “heart for Christ’s church?”  The saints in heaven are indeed the ultimate “prayer warriors,” and they are ready and willing to provide their help every day of our lives.  What a shame it is to fail to recognize that truth and not avail ourselves of their assistance.  I’m not sure about you, but I know with confidence that I need all the help I get…

I was asked not too long ago in regards to the Catholic understanding about the saints, what’s the point of it all?  The implication was the intercession of the saints was an unnecessary addition to the Gospel that was a distraction to the message of Christ.  As I wrap up these posts on the saints, perhaps I can summarize – what’s the point?

Understanding the importance of intercessory prayer for one another is the point.  Loving each other within the one body of Christ in a real and tangible way is the point.  Recognizing within the one body of Christ, we need each other is the point.  Believing there is no division in the one body of Christ is the point.  Understanding death can never separate us from the love of Christ or each other is the point.  Believing Jesus Christ has really and truly conquered death is the point.  Recognizing death does not end our love and care for those on earth but rather perfects it is the point.  Knowing Christ has given us the saints as gifts to us to help us on our journey to him is the point. 

And most especially for me, knowing I need all the prayers I can get is the point….

Glory be to God in His saints!

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