Did Luther Miss the Boat on Praying?

Luther believed that we are saved by faith and faith alone. He felt so strongly about it that he tried to take the Book of James out of the Bible because it taught that “faith without works is dead”. He wasn’t a big fan of faith and obedience, without which all the faith in the world will avail us naught. He also believed that saints and intercessions were unnecessary, even hurtful to the process of “real” salvation.

The Book of Revelations, 5: 7-9, puts forth justification for a different view: “The Lamb came forward to take the scroll from the right hand of the One sitting on the throne, and when He took it, the four animals prostrated themselves before Him, and with them the twenty four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints.”

We see from this passage that prayers appear in actual form in Heaven. We further see that the only prayers mentioned are “the prayers of the saints”.

This leads us to a fork in the road. Luther took the fork that, boiled down, says “All with faith are saints and all our prayers appear in Heaven.” This could, and may have to, include anyone in most any denomination who felt “sincere”.

Catholics, on the other hand, go in a different direction. The Church actually has a process to determine who is and who is not a saint. They have been doing this for a couple of thousand years. The oldest Church teaches, as does Scripture, that at least some prayers, and those important enough to be held around The Throne by the Elders, take form in Heaven because they are the prayers of actual saints. The prayers from us non-saints do rise to Heaven, but appear to take the most lasting form in the favored positions if they are directed through the official saints.

Are we better off asking for saints to intercede for us than to try a do-it-yourself route?

To be sure, we were given the Lord’s Prayer, and assured of its efficacy by the most reliable of Sources. So, we certainly know that we have a duty and obligation to pray directly. But, if it’s something special we need, and we want our request for help to be near the Throne of God, held there in the precious golden bowls of the twenty four Elders, it’s a good idea to go through the specialists.

Some questions have been asked:

“Can we dare to ask the saints to intercede for us if we aren’t Catholic?” Yes.

“If we ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us, will they be mad if we aren’t Catholic?” If a persons spends ten or twenty years asking Catholic Saints for intercession and, in the process, does not become Catholic, then guilt for taking a “free ride” should kick in. If it doesn’t, there may be an underlying, arrogant, “God owes me.” attitude that may make conversion difficult, if not impossible.

“Why can’t I just ‘go direct’ and ask God for what I need?” The prayer He gave us is clear, including “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” He has set up a Chain of Command that operates in Heaven, consisting of those around The Throne described in Revelations, the Hierarchy of Angels, and the many, many saints arrayed around Him. If we try, we will discover that there’s also a Holy Chain of Command on earth. Once we start taking The Lord’s Prayer more seriously, we will endeavor to work within that Holy Chain of Command.