07 June 2022

Needing a saint to pray for you.

I know; the title might give you the idea I’m writing about praying to the saints in heaven. It’s an Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Lutheran, and Anglican practice—’cause they believe God resurrected the saints in heaven, so they’re alive. (So no, they’re not praying to dead people.) And same as prayer is talking with God, prayer to those saints is talking with those saints. So they figure, “Why not?” and bring their prayer needs to them—“Can you help me out with this?”

Jesus’s brother St. Jude, fr’instance. If you have a hopeless or desperate cause, popular belief is he’s the guy to go to; he specializes in prayers for hopeless causes.

This may be mighty Evangelical of me, but I still figure it makes way more sense to pray directly to Jesus. Nothing against his brother (or even his mom) but all Jude’s really gonna do is forward the prayer to his heavenly Father… and heck, I could talk to God. I already do.

Thing is, even good Evangelicals regularly go to saints with our prayer requests.

Yes we do. I’m talking about the saints here on earth. Living Christians. Like your pastor, or one of the elders in your church: “Can you pray for me about this?” We ask ’em to do the very same thing people ask of St. Jude. We have a really important request, feel it’s either a big ask or a hopeless cause, so we don’t trust our own prayers to work. So we figure we’d better go to someone who’s really good at prayer. Someone God is known to listen to.

Again, just like St. Jude. There is no difference between a Catholic praying to Jude, and a Baptist asking Pastor to keep her in his prayers. People who ask others to pray for them, on earth or in heaven, are attempting the very same thing: They want the prayers of a professional. An expert. Someone holier than them. You know, a saint.

God listens to saints, right? So their prayers oughta get better results than ours.

Inundated with prayer requests.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for prayer. Don’t get the idea I’m trying to discourage the practice. If you need something from God, and figure you know a Christian who’s tighter with God than you are, it makes perfect sense to go to that fellow Christian. Go ahead and ask ’em for their prayers.

But bear in mind who you’re going to… and bear in mind you’re likely not the only person asking for their prayers.

Pastors hear a lot of prayer requests. A lot. Ask your pastors sometime how many they get in a week. The number might boggle your mind. Especially when they do any chaplaincy work, and are regularly in situations where people need ’em to pray. If they lead bigger churches, naturally they get more requests.

Some of ’em wisely farm out these prayer requests to the church’s prayer team. Some of ’em don’t, and pray for all these things themselves—and can spend hours every day doing it. I’m not kidding: Hours.

And if St. Jude takes prayer requests, you know he gets a few million a day. Seriously, millions. A lot of people have desperate prayers!

So does the pope. So do the presidents and bishops of various Christian denominations. So do the pastors of megachurches. So do celebrity preachers, Christian pop stars, ministry leaders… even bloggers like me. Strangers presume we know what we’re doing when we pray, and ask us to pray for them.

Some of us do what we can. Others, honestly, not so much. Their blanket prayer every evening is simply, “God, take care of the requests of all the people who asked me to pray for them. Thanks.” Yes, that is all the praying they do. What, did you think they’d spend hours on their knees, sweating in agony over strangers’ requests for a new job, over a big decision, for that girl in their algebra class to notice them, for revenge against their political enemies? And yeah, there’s definitely some real concerns and suffering in there… but people have asked me to pray for truly ordinary stuff, so you know that’s included in the mix.

I’ve known ministers who really don’t like to be the saint people always tap when they have prayer requests. I’m pretty sure they’d greatly appreciate it if I wrote an article saying, “Hey, leave those ministers alone! Deal with it on your own! God hears you, same as them; you’re his kid, same as them; you don’t need to pester them!” But I’m gonna write no such thing, for two reasons:

  1. I’m not a dick. (Trying not to be, anyway.)
  2. Intercession is a good thing. We should pray for one another!

Yes God hears you same as them; yes you’re his kid same as them. But I don’t buy the idea that God heeds all petitioners equally. I don’t think the scriptures bear that out. Some people, God always heeds. Other people are silly or foolish, so he doesn’t.

Because part of their maturity process means they gotta stop the silliness and foolishness, get real with God… and come to him humbly. And part of humbling ourselves in the sight of the LORD is to humbly go to fellow Christians for help. It’s in bringing our prayer requests to one another, and letting them pray for us. It’s not that God’s more likely to listen to a saint; it’s that God hears the humble. So get humble!

And part of this humility is recognizing you don’t have to ask for prayers from celebrity Christians, church CEOs, or people whom other Christians consider important. Any mature Christian can pray for you, and there are plenty such Christians out there. It doesn’t have to be Pastor’s prayers—and you should be okay with it if it’s not Pastor’s prayers.