'But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, for ever and ever.' Daniel 7:18
The Communion of SaintsThe Problem: Asking those who have died to pray for us is seen as foolishness at best, necromancy at worst.
The Truth: Those who are part of the Body of Christ cannot be separated from His Body through death. We are all One Body. All who are alive in Christ, whether on earth or in heaven, have the joyful duty of praying to God, asking Him to bestow His favors upon those in need. We who are in need must humble ourselves to ask the prayers and petitions of our brothers and sisters, both those here present and those who have gone before us, our elder brothers and sisters who have attained the reward of salvation through Jesus Christ, and stand before His Throne in heaven. The Church Triumphant (those in Heaven) pray for the Church Militant (those on earth), while the Church Militant prays for the Church Suffering (those in Purgatory).
Some argue that we can pray only to Christ. But "pray" is simply an English word that means "to ask". An English lawyer might well say, "I pray the court that this evidence be admitted." Prayer is not simply something directed to God. "To pray" simply means "to ask." There is nothing wrong with asking, that is, praying to, another human being. Indeed, as even the King James Bible points out, Christ prayed to Peter:
Luke 5:3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
God wasn't the only one who prayed to Peter:
Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
But Paul prayed to pagans:
Acts 23:18 So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.
Acts 27:33-34 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 34Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
But Paul and the apostles also prayed to other Christians:
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
We are commanded to pray for one another.
James 5:16 Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Some argue that we are all saints, for Paul addressed Christians as "holy ones" and "saints."
Eph 1:1,8-10,2:19 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus:... which he lavished upon us. 9 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth..... So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,...
The Ephesians are called holy ones, and said to already be fellow citizens with the holy ones in the household of God.
Eph 4:1,17,26-31,5:10 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,... Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;... Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice,... and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
But oddly, the entire letter to the Ephesians is filled with admonitions and warnings about how to live an upright life, what action to avoid, what action to embrace. Paul tells them to "try to learn what is pleasing to God," which implies they don't know what is pleasing to God, and also implies they might fail to learn what is pleasing to God.
1 Cor 1:1-9 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge 6 even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Note that Paul begins the letter to the Corinthians by calling them "sanctified" - past tense - and by asserting that they have already been given all discourse and all knowledge through Jesus Christ, so that they are not lacking in any spiritual gift. Past (sanctified), present (not lacking) and future (God will keep you firm until the end) are apparently guaranteed. If this passage is read alone, they appear to already be saved, completely spiritual beings. Yet...
1 Cor 2:14-16, 3:1-3 The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 1 But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?
Now Paul says they are NOT spiritual, they are NOT exhibiting every spiritual gift, they could not even take the fullness of teaching that PAUL had to offer, much less what Christ has to offer.
1 Cor 15:2 the gospel...by which you are saved, if you hold it fastunless you believed in vain.
1 Cor 15:20-35 Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
The "saints" must hold to the faith they have, for if they do not, they will not be saved. In fact, some of them don't even KNOW God. Why the disparity? Because Paul began by envisioning them as God calls them to be - not as they presently are. In both letters, Paul is pointing out to them that they could one day be, but are not yet, saints. It is the same with us.
Necromancy is forbidden by Scripture - it is clearly an abomination before God:
Deut 18:10-12 There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, 11 or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you.
Saul practices necromancy:
1 Sam 28:7-19 Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a medium at Endor."
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments, and went, he and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Divine for me by a spirit, and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." 9 The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?" 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, "As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." 11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" He said, "Bring up Samuel for me." 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul." 13 The king said to her, "Have no fear; what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth." 14 He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
15 Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do." 16 And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines."
Saul and sons will die and "be with [Samuel]." Samuel, presumably, is not in hell as Christians understand it. Yet, Saul is clearly engaging in necromancy. He is asking for information from a medium, who is not even of Israel and definitely not of God.
1 Chron 10:13-14 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance, 14 and did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord slew him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.
Verse 14 - this is the key. If Saul had asked God for guidance, there would have been no difficulty. Instead, he attempts to circumvent God's plans by contacting the dead illicitly. He asks for help from the prophet of God, but does not ask for that help through God, he sends his request through a medium instead. He does not recognize that the prophets are alive in God, he tries by deceitful ways to slip past God's omnipotence. For this abomination, Saul will lose his life.
Jesus Christ is the sole mediator. The communion of saints is only possible because of Christ...
Heb 3:14 For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end,
1 Cor 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers...
Subordinate mediation is possible, that is, we can image Christ in our lives by mediating for others as He does for us. "Co-worker" or "fellow worker" doesn't mean we are equal to or work parallel to God - it means we work under and with God. "Co" means "with." God's work is the redemption of every human being. We are God's fellow workers. Therefore, each of us also have the work of redeeming every human being. This is humanly impossible, but is divinely possible through the communion of saints working in the Body of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Rom 10:14 But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?
Preaching is acting as a mediator.
2 Cor 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.
1 Tim 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Prayers are necessary from all towards all - all Christians should pray for each other and the world. Praying for someone is mediating for them before God. We are mediators for each other before God. This is only possible because we act in Christ. How does it work?
Rom 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1 Cor 12:12-13, 21-27 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one bodyJews or Greeks, slaves or freeand all were made to drink of one Spirit.... The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25 that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
A Christian is a part of the Body of Christ. Scripture does NOT say that Christians are separated from the body of Christ at death, rather, Scripture says death cannot separate us.
Rom 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,"For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mt 22:31-32 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32 '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."
Mk 12:26-27 And as for the dead being raised, 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'? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
Lk 20:34-38 And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him."
1 Thess 5:9-10 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.
It is sometimes asserted that those in heaven are alive but "asleep." Such readings misunderstand the context. The "sleep" refers to how the body of the deceased appears to us here on earth - it does not refer to the state of the soul, who is vibrantly and superabundantly loved by God in heaven. It would be inconceivably unjust to be alive in heaven, but unable to praise God or experience His burning love because the soul is in an unconscious stupor.
Jn 12:25-26 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
The saints serve Christ, and are with Christ, honored by the Father.
Wis 3:1-5 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. 5 Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself...
Mt 17:3-5 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." 5 He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
Lk 9:30-31 And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Moses was dead, (Elijah arguably isn't since he was taken up in a whirlwind - 2 Kings 2:11), but both still conversed with a living man. Death cannot separate us, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are called "living" even though they had "fallen asleep" several centuries earlier. The phrase "fallen asleep" refers to the way our body looks after our soul is separated from it. It does not mean the saints are asleep in heaven, unaware of what happens on earth. If necromancy consists only in speaking with the dead, then Christ is a necromancer, for He speaks with Moses.
Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..
Those living with God in heaven witness our acts here on earth. One must be awake to witness.
Heb 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.
Eph 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
The family of heaven has a share in God's glory.
James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
The spirits of the just are made perfect in order to enter heaven - they are a great cloud of witnesses. Who is more righteous than someone in heaven, kneeling before the throne of God? For...
Rev 21:27 But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
2 Mac 12:42-45 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.
2 Mac 15:12-16 What he saw was this: Onias, who had been high priest, a noble and good man, of modest bearing and gentle manner, one who spoke fittingly and had been trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched hands for the whole body of the Jews. 13 Then likewise a man appeared, distinguished by his gray hair and dignity, and of marvelous majesty and authority. 14 And Onias spoke, saying, "This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God." 15 Jeremiah stretched out his right hand and gave to Judas a golden sword, and as he gave it he addressed him thus: 16 "Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries."
Even if the canonicity of the Maccabees accounts are not accepted, their historicity must be. Orthodox Jews pray for the dead, both then as now. Christ was an Orthodox Jew.
Rev 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;
Angels and martyrs pray to God about what happens on earth.
Rev 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; 10 they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
Rev 8:3-5 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; 4 and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
Some argue against the ability of saints to hear thousands of simultaneous prayers of intercession..
1 Cor 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,"
1 Cor 15:42-43 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
We know Christ grants great powers to those who love him. Christ Himself says that those in heaven know of each individual repentance...
Lk 15:7-10 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
Gen 18:32-33 ... Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.
God often grants prayer based on the merits of the person praying. Abraham shows that the faith of a believer can stand in for the faith of non-believers.
Lk 16:19-31 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'"
The rich man asked Abraham and Lazarus to intercede for those on earth. Abraham and Lazarus are acting as intercessors here. The prayer is not granted, but neither is the rich man rebuked for asking. If the rich man can shout across a great chasm, we can also shout across the great chasm.
Necromancy refers to asking the dead for something outside of Christ's mediation, while the communion of saints merely means we ask those alive in Christ to pray for us to Christ. Our request is only possible, and can only be fulfilled, because all of us are united in Christ. We are the cells in the Body, cells which live and communicate with each other because this Body is the Body of Christ. Intercession is possible only through Jesus Christ. We have a duty to image Christ. We have a duty to allow others to act as Christ, so that they, too, may increase in grace before God. By ignoring Christ's Body and the people living on earth or in heaven who make up that Body, we ignore Christ and the power Christ gave them to be like Him. Such willful blindness towards God's gifts does not honor God.
Early Christians' comments on Praying to the Saints