What does the Bible teach about prayer? (Leader’s notes)

1.    Why is it that we pray to God?

What do the following attributes of God have to do with why we pray to Him?

Omnipotent (God is all powerful)

Omnipresent (God is everywhere)

Omniscient (God is all-knowing)

Leader’s Notes:

Omnipotent (God is all powerful)

We pray to God because He is all-powerful and able to help us no matter how big our problems are.

Omnipresent (God is everywhere)

We pray to God because He is everywhere and He can hear us no matter where we are.

Omniscient (God is all-knowing)

We pray to God because He is all-knowing and can listen to even millions of people praying to Him at the same time.

Prayers should be made to God directly and not through the Saints. This is because the Saints, being mere creatures of God and not like God, cannot possibly listen to the many prayers addressed to them simultaneously in different countries, in different languages and many of them not expressed orally but only mentally. Only God, who is omnipresent (present everywhere) and omniscient (all knowing) can do that. It is incorrect to assume that a creature of God can possess the characteristics we use to describe God alone.

2.    Who can intercede for us?

(Rom 8:34 NIV)  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

(Rom 8:26 NIV)  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

Who are the two persons that the Bible specifically mentions can intercede for us?

Why were priests unable to intercede for us in heaven?

Why is Jesus able to intercede for us in heaven?

Leader’s Notes: The Bible specifically mentions only two Persons who can intercede for us to the Father. They are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is because only Jesus and the Holy Spirit, being God, are able to know the needs of human kind. We as humans on earth can intercede for our friends because we know their problems. In our human limitations, can we know the needs of all mankind? We cannot. Therefore, only God can intercede for mankind.

3.    What was one of the duties of priests in the Old Testament days?

To intercede means to come between two parties and to mediate. Who fulfills this role during the Old Testament days?

(Heb 5:1-3 NIV)  Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. {2} He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. {3} This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.

Leader’s Notes: It was the High Priests that fulfill the role of intercession during the Old Testament days. They act as a mediator between God and man and they offer sacrifices for sins not just for themselves but also on behalf of the people. The people in those days were unable to come to God directly to offer sacrifices for their sins.

4.    Are they still fulfilling this role after they have died?

(Heb 7:23-25 NIV)  Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; {24} but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. {25} Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Leader’s Notes: Dead priests and dead saints cannot intercede for us because their office ended when they died.

The Bible also does not teach that saints can intercede for us. Even though saints are nearer to God in heaven, the physical nearness does not mean that they are in a position to intercede for us. It is not the physical proximity but the office or role. Even the Old Testament priests, whose role includes interceding for the people by offering sacrifices on their behalf, cease to do so in heaven because their priesthood ends with death.

5.    Does the Bible teach that believers who died now have supernatural abilities such as supernatural knowledge?

Leader’s Notes: No, the passages on Jesus after His resurrection tells us that this resurrected body has some differences with the physical bodies we had when we were alive. Although it continues to be touchable, we could walk through walls and we could suddenly disappear. However, there are no Bible passages that show dead saints have any supernatural knowledge and can hear the prayers of those alive.

6.    Does the Bible teach that we should pray to Mary, who can intercede for us?

Leader’s Notes: There is no teaching in the Bible to say that Mary can intercede for us in heaven. It is true that in John 2, Mary asked Jesus to meet a need when the wedding couple ran out of wine and Jesus did it. But that does not mean that Mary is given the role of intercessor in heaven. There are many instances of people asking Jesus to heal a third person and He did it. For example, the Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant and that servant was healed (Matt 8:5-7). No one would use this verse as a teaching that the centurion continues to intercede for all of mankind while he is in heaven.

1014 The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: “From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord”; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us “at the hour of our death” in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.

7.    Does the Bible teach that we should have communion with dead saints?

Heb 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What does the Bible say about fellowshipping with other believers?

Does the Bible teach us to have fellowship with other believers who have died?

Leader’s Notes: The Bible teaches us to have communion with other saints while they are alive. It does not teach us to have communion with dead saints. The Catholic Church teaches that we should have communion not just with believers who are alive but also with dead saints.

957 Communion with the saints. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ…

8.    Should we invoke the prayers of the Saints? Can they intercede for us?

Luke 16:27 (NIV) “He (ie the man in hell) answered, ‘Then I beg you, father (Abraham), send Lazarus to my (earthly) father’s house…

Does this verse teach that we should be praying to saints?

Leader’s Notes: No, this verse is not an example of a person on earth praying to a saint. It is a conversation between a dead person in hell and Abraham in heaven. There is no verse in the Bible that tells us to pray to saints while we are on earth. The conduct of a dead man in hell should not be an example for us to follow. Besides, his prayers were of no effect.

The Catholic Church teaches that we should seek the intercession of saints.

956  The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”

9.    Is praying to the saints the same as asking other believers on earth to pray for us?

Leader’s Notes: Catholic prayers to saints are more than just praying together with friends.

Prayer to Mother Theresa: Give us a heart as beautiful, pure,

and spotless as yours. A heart like yours, so full of love and humility.

To St. Joseph for Protection: Gracious St. Joseph, protect me and my family from all evil as you did the Holy Family. Kindly keep us ever united in the love of Christ, ever fervent in imitation of the virtue of our Blessed Lady, your sinless spouse, and always faithful in devotion to you. Amen.

Suppose a Christian brother comes and kneels before you, imploring you with great devotion to pray for him. Would you allow him? How would you react if he calls you his advocate, his hope and refuge? What if he thanks you for the many graces you conferred on him and for delivering him from hell? Suppose he tells you that he confines his salvation to your care and pleads with you to stay with him until you see him safe in heaven? Would you call that “asking a fellow Christian for prayer”? And yet that is the kind of prayer that Catholics offer to Mary and the saints.

10. Does the Bible teach that we can intercede for one another?

(Gen 20:7 NIV)  Now return the man’s wife, for he (i.e. Abraham) is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”

(Rom 15:30 NIV)  I (i.e. Paul) urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Leader’s Notes: Yes, the Bible teaches that we can intercede for one another, while we are alive. It does not teach that dead people can intercede on our behalf, no matter how holy a life they have lived while on earth. Mary could intercede for us on God’s (Jesus’) behalf while she was alive on earth. For example, she interceded on behalf of the groom so that Jesus would turn water into wine (John 2).

11. Does the Bible teach that we should pray for the dead?

Is there a passage in the Bible that teaches that we should pray for the dead?

Leader’s Notes: The Bible doesn’t teach that we should pray for the dead. If it were an important doctrine, truly able to help those who passed on to alleviate their pain and suffering, would it not be a prominent teaching somewhere in an Epistle? Why is their no clear command anywhere in Scripture to do it if it is of any importance?

The Catholic Church teaches that we should pray for the dead.

958 Communion with the dead. “…it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.” Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says “…there is no clear and explicit warrant for prayers for the dead in the Scriptures recognized by Protestants as canonical, while they do not admit the Divine authority of extra-Scriptural traditions.”

2 Maccabees, 12:40-46 is the classical passage outside the Protestant Bible that is appealed to by Catholics to support the teaching of prayer for the dead.

When Judas and his men came to take away for burial the bodies of their brethren who had fallen in the battle against Gorgias, “they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten…And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve [al. two] drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep in godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

The book of Machabees lack the character of divine inspiration from God. For example, in 2 Maccabees 15:38,39 New Revised Standard Version, we read, “This, then is how matters turned out with Nicanor, and from that time the city had been in possession of the Hebrews. So I will here end my story. If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired, if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.