Why we shouldn’t pray to Mary and the Saints
The Westminster Confession of Faith, in chapter 21 section 2, asserts the following:
“Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.”
This section of our Confession of Faith expresses well the historic Protestant position against the practice of praying to St. Mary or other saints. But what are the reasons for this position? In addition to offering prayers to God, why can’t we Christians also offer prayer to Mary and the other saints?
In his excellent book on The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture (Edinburgh; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust; Reprinted 1998), Thomas Vincent (1634-1678), a pastor in London, offers the following explanation of why Christians should not pray to the saints:
“Q. 10. May we not make use of the name of angels, and the Virgin Mary, and other saints, in prayer, directing our prayers unto them to help us, at least to improve their interest in heaven for us, as the Papists do teach and practice?
“A. 1. It is idolatry to direct our prayers unto any creature, God being the alone object of this and all other religious worship; therefore we ought not to direct our prayers unto angels (who have refused worship), much less unto any saints. “Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels.” – Col. ii.18. “And I fell at his feet to worship him: and he said unto me, See thou do it not; I am thy fellow-servant,” &c. – Rev. xix.10. 2. There is but one Mediator and Intercessor in heaven for us, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is an affront to him to make use of any angels or saints as our intercessors. “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Tim. ii.5. “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – 1 John ii.1. 3. We have neither precept nor example in Scripture for, nor any promise unto any prayers which we shall make either unto or by either angels or saints. 4. The chiefest saints in heaven are ignorant of our condition on earth; neither can they, where they are, hear, much less give answer unto our prayers, and therefore are unfit to be the object of our prayers, or to make particular intercession for us. “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not.” – Isa. lxii.16. Therefore the doctrine and practice of the Papists herein is both unallowable and abominable.” (pp. 268-269)
One additional reason I would to Thomas Vincent’s list is that the law of God very clearly forbids occultic activities such as spiritism and attempting to communicate with the dead, and classifies such activity as an “abomination” in the eyes of the Lord (see Deuteronomy 18:11-12). What are prayers to Mary and the other saints but attempts to communicate with dead saints?
God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the only worthy object of all religious worship, including prayer. Scripture directs us to come before His throne of grace with boldness through the priestly work of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16), and to cast our cares upon Him, because He cares for us (First Peter 5:7). But nowhere does Holy Scripture direct us to invoke dead saints in our prayers, and neither does it contain any examples of believers being commended for directing their prayers or religious devotion to angels, dead saints, or any other creature.
God has drawn near to us believers in Christ. He invites and commands us to come before Him through Christ in prayer. Scripture assures us that God “…is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, ESV). If this is the case — if God is both willing to hear our prayers and able to answer them according to His wisdom and for our spiritual good — then why would we need or want to seek the assistance of dead saints in prayer? God in Christ is enough! Therefore let us bring our praises, petitions and intercessions to Him and to Him alone!