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Intercession of the Saints
Our Church has a wonderful tradition of building strong relationships with the saints and angels, becoming friends, guides and sometimes miracle workers. Understanding the nature of our relationship with those who have died and left the planet is very valuable in assisting us to get closer to God while on earth. Without corrupting this relationship either by ignoring it or mistaking it for worship.
Argument against Intercession
The majority of churches recognise intercessions of the saints, those that don’t argue St Paul teaches only God can be the sole mediator between God and man: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” 1 Tim 2:5. They also argue that there are no examples of people praying to the dead in the bible. Also 1 John 2:1 shows us that we can only appeal to God: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”.
Intercession definition and reply
Intercession means an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person. That means simply being a middleman. So in prayer it is putting a request to God on behalf someone else. It is important than to understand that we are NOT worshiping or praying to the saints. Instead we are talking to them asking for them to pray on our behalf.
The church replies to the Protestants saying that the verses in 1 Timothy and 1 John are both referring to the atonement of man (verse 6 in Timothy says: “who gave Himself a ransom for all”) This means that when it comes to having sins forgiven (atonement) it can only come from God. Jesus Christ is our sacrifice and mediator for the forgiveness of our sins “Do not count their transgressions because I have carried their iniquity” Isaiah 53:6. This redemption that we need Jesus for is not what we ask from the saints or indeed anyone we ask their intercession for. We don’t make any request for saints to forgive us our sins. Instead we ask that they pray for us directly to God so that He can forgive our sins.
Biblical Argument for Intercession
1. “Pray for one another”
The teachings of the New Testament make it very clear that we should be interceding for each other: “pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16. It is safe to assume that those in Heaven are righteous. St. Paul teaches us to pray for each other “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you” 2 Thes 3:1. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” Eph 6:18.
If this is a command that the living pray for each other than the logical assumption is that they will continue to pray for each other once in Heaven. They were just like us but sinners praying for us, now they are closer to God, can understand and see the world for what it is plus have claimed there victory over death and sin. They must be in a perfect situation to carry on Gods command of praying for each other.
2. Proof that once in Heaven the prayers continue
Both angels and saints offer up prayers to the Lord. These must include petitions on our behalf.
“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.”Rev 5:8.
“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. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.” Rev 8:3,4 Note that the prayers are received via the angels hand.
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Lk 15:7. If they were not interested in the happenings of earth why would they rejoice when a sinner is saved. If they are concerned over us and we know they pray in Heaven as the above two verses show than surely they also pray for us.
3. Examples of power of Intercession
God accepted the prayers of the three friends of Job if it included Jobs intercession: “And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” Job 42:7-8. God in this instance actually requested the intercession, not just accepted it.
God accepted Moses petition for the nation of Israel: “Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” Ex 32:11-14. Note also that God is blessing people because the great favor He has for the patriarchs even though they are dead God is still honoring His promise to them.
With regard to the angels they pray without us asking them to. How much more will they pray if we ask for it: “Then the Angel of the LORD answered and said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” Zach 1:12.
When we talk to a saint we are acknowledging they are in Paradise. When we talk to those in Paradise we are aware firstly that they have achieved what we are striving so we focus on the spiritual side of life. We ask them for advice and guidance as they have succeeded in their struggle while we continue fighting. We meditate on their lives learning from their experiences. We feel a love towards them as we all share a common goal. As we admire their virtues and achievements for God we love them more and more, till we ask them to teach us as well. This has the added benefit of humbling us making us realize that our achievements are dwarfed by some of the truly amazing saints we have. This then leads us to feel that we are all of the same body and single church of God regardless of whether we are on earth or in Heaven. This true unity in Christ allows us to offer a unified powerful prayer to God that brings us all closer to Him. Finally we than ask them to pray to God for us trusting that they will say the right words convey the correct spirit and God will listen carefully. Such a relationship full of love and dialogue is extremely beneficial to our spiritual growth.
This gain can be seen in the lives of those who were close to the saints. Pope Kyrollos became so closely attached to St. Meena they behaved as best friends, imagine their conversations and the immense gain our late Pope must have experienced. The same applies to Mother Irene who knew St. Philopater better probably than anyone who lived on earth with him. To the extent that he performed many miracles according to her requested.