Sunday, January 27, 2019
Popular Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong has written an article defending the practice of praying to, and praying for, the saints. The “saints” to which Catholic theology refers in these cases are certain persons who lived especially holy lives and who have died and (it is assumed) went on to Heaven. They are not referring to the biblical definiton, which says that every true believer is a saint (e.g., 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1), but rather, the Catholic definiton. How they know that these “saints” are really in Heaven to begin with is altogether another issue. But Armstrong’s defense of the saints giving and receiving prayer can be found here:
The first example that Armstrong uses in an attempt to make his case is the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. He first points to the fact that in the King James Version of the Bible, the rich man used the term “I pray thee” (v. 27) and implies that this is evidence that the rich man was “praying” to Abraham. Therefore, praying to a saint.
But we have to remember that this was “King James talk,” which was the common way to speak in the day the King James Bible was written. The term “I pray thee” can indeed be used while in prayer, but it does not necessarily mean that one is praying. It simply means, “I ask of you,” or “I beg of you.”
Also, biblically speaking, prayer is only to someone who is in another realm, different than your own, for example, from earth to Heaven, and more specifically, from people on earth to God in Heaven (which is the only biblical example). In Luke 16, Abraham and the rich man were in the same realm, near to each other. They were certainly in two different places, but in the same realm (Hades). So, two people in Hades communicating with each other is no different than two people in Heaven communicating with each other, or two people on earth communicating with each other – they are simply talking face to face, not praying.
Toward the end of this point, Armstrong says:
“Thus we can only conclude that human beings in the afterlife can be prayed to and that they have the power… to fulfill the requests… exactly what the Catholic communion of saints / invocation of saints holds…”
No, sorry Dave, but this is not the “only” conclusion that we can come to concerning prayer in this passage. Actually, there is nothing at all in this passage about prayer. Not only is yours not the only conclusion, it is not even a valid conclusion, according to the Bible. Throughout Scripture, the only God-approved prayer is directed to God alone, not to Mary, not to saints, and not to angels.
Armstrong’s second example is King Saul “petitioning” the prophet Samuel after Samuel died (1 Samuel 28:15-16). Actually, this is the story of how Saul, acting against God’s law, sought out the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:7) to conjure up Samuel to help him. It was (and is) a sin to be involved in necromancy or to use mediums to communicate with the dead (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Even the witch knew that! (1 Samuel 28:3, 9)
It is interesting that Catholics will complain when Protestants compare praying to saints with necromancy, using mediums, or seances (all communicating with the dead), yet here, Dave Armstrong uses that very thing (the services of a medium) as an example of praying to saints!
Armstrong then states, “The Bible casually assumes that great prophets like Moses and Samuel would be praying for those on earth after they died.” And then he uses Jeremiah 15:1 to try and support his claim:
Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!”
But any “casual assumptions” about the dead praying for us in this passage are made by Catholics, not Scripture. God is not saying that Moses and Samuel actually stood before Him and interceded for the people. He was making the point that even if they would have, He wouldn’t answer even their request. God also says something similar to the verse above in Ezekiel 14:14:
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.
He then repeats this concept in verses 16, 18, and 20. But in each case God is merely saying that EVEN IF great men of God like Moses, Samuel, Noah, Daniel, or Job would try to intervene (great intercessors as they were), God STILL would not answer their prayers, because of the great sin of Israel. That’s the point God is making here. He certainly was not endorsing the idea of prayer from these men after death. Nowhere in Scripture do we see anyone in God’s will praying to anyone but God, nor do we see any departed saints praying for us.
Next, Dave points out that the bystanders at Jesus’ crucifixion believed that He was asking (praying to) Elijah to come and save Him. Supposedly, “This type of petition was commonly believed at the time.” But these Jews had no biblical reason whatsoever to believe that one could pray to anyone other than God.
Dave Armstrong’s third example is the apostle Paul supposedly praying for the dead in 2 Timothy 1:16-18:
 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains,  but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me –  may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
Notice that this is merely an assumption on Dave’s part. There is no mention of anyone dead here. It is possible that Onesiphorus was simply away from home, so maybe that is why Paul prayed for his household (2 Timothy 1:16; 4:19).
But even if Onesiphorus was indeed dead when Paul wrote this, the final destiny of Onesiphorus was fixed, it was already decided (Luke 16:19-23; 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8; Hebrews 9:27). No amount of prayer from anyone, even an apostle, could help his state after death.
But obviously, Onesiphorus was a godly man, or Paul would not have spoken so highly of him. Therefore, if he was dead, there was no need to ask God for mercy for Onesiphorus, since he had already obtained that final mercy. But there was something else going on here. If Onesiphorus was actually dead, Paul’s “prayer” for him to find mercy in that day was not specifically a petition to “help” him, but rather, a pious wish, an expression of a heart-felt desire toward him. Like when we say “May you rest in peace” to someone who is dead. It is not really praying for him or to him, but it is simply a sentiment toward the dearly departed, a commending of them to God.
But Catholics may ask, “But what about Purgatory? Couldn’t Paul have been praying for Onesiphorus’ well-being in Purgatory?” No, Scripture does not speak of such a place. After death, there is only Heaven or Hell. See here:
And the fourth example Armstrong gives us is both Jesus and Peter supposedly “praying to saints and for the dead.” He points to Acts 9:36-41 where a girl named Tabitha had died. And elsewhere, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41-42), speaking “directly to a dead man (in effect, ‘praying’ to him).”
This is desperation. There is a difference between 1) praying to a dead person who is supposedly in Heaven to help someone on earth, and 2) authoritatively and miraculously speaking to a dead body to raise it from the dead. Neither Jesus nor Peter was asking these dead persons for help, i.e., they were not praying “to” them. And neither were they praying “for” them in the Catholic sense of praying to aid them in Purgatory. Again, this is a ridiculous attempt by Dave Armstrong to validate the Catholic practice of praying to the dead to help the one praying, and praying for the dead to help them to get out of Purgatory. This is a desperate, shameful, and irresponsible manipulating of Holy Scripture, confusing and deceiving multitudes of Catholics.
For more information on praying to saints, see these links: