Last week after Georgette finished talking to a friend on the telephone, she said to me, “When I was talking about the benefits of praying the rosary, my friend (a former Catholic) asked, ‘If God is omnipresent, why would He approve of you praying to someone else, instead of directly to Him – and how do we know the saints can hear our prayers?’” Georgette then asked me, “How would you respond if someone asked you that question?”
First, it’s a loaded question. Second, there’s no simple answer. Any question that includes the phrase “Why would God…” or “Why does God…” or “Why did God…” is impossible to answer unless God has previously revealed the answer to us. And even if He did reveal an answer to the Catholic Church, non Catholics would dispute the authenticity of the answer. Here are some examples of some unanswerable “why” questions:
• Why did God choose to arrange for His Son, Jesus, to be conceived in the womb of a young teenage girl and to be born in a stable, when He could have simply arranged for His Son to appear on Earth as the Son of God?
• Since God is omnipresent, why would He allow His Son, Jesus, to be tortured and murdered by mere humans when He could have redeemed mankind with a simple act of His will?
• Why would God allow an innocent child to be kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered?
When we ask these types of questions, we are being presumptuous. We are overstepping our bounds and second-guessing God. What gives us the right to expect that we are entitled to an explanation as to why God would do anything?
Back to the original question: “If God is omnipresent, why would He approve of you praying to someone else, instead of directly to Him – and how do we know the saints can hear our prayers?”
The definition of a prayer is “an earnest request or wish.” It is common in court documents to include a “prayer for relief” to the trial court judge. For example, a common statement that is made at the end of a court document that initiates a lawsuit for breach of contract is as follows:
WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff, John Doe, prays that the court find that the Defendant, Jane Smith, breached the terms and conditions of the contract that was entered into between Plaintiff and Defendant; Plaintiff further prays that the court order the Defendant to reimburse Plaintiff for lost profits in the total amount of $50,000.00.
The prayer for relief in the lawsuit is simply a request for the trial court judge to rule in favor of the aggrieved party.
If I wanted to arrange for a meeting with the president of the United States, would I have a better chance of success by attempting to contact him directly, or by contacting a close friend of mine who was a roommate in college with the president’s wife? I would obviously have a better chance if I made a personal request (prayer) to my friend to contact the president’s wife and ask her if she would approach the president with my request (prayer).
Recently, while I was attending a marketing conference, I met a man who knows an attorney in New York who has developed some expertise in online marketing. I gave the man my business card and asked if he would introduce me to the attorney. He said “yes” and a few days later he sent an email to me and the other attorney encouraging us to contact each other. My request that the man arrange an introduction was nothing more than a “prayer” for assistance.
If I were living at the time of Christ and had the opportunity to get to know His mother, do you think she would refuse my request (prayer) for help in petitioning her Son for assistance? We know from scripture that Jesus honored the request of His mother at the wedding at Cana and changed water into wine, despite the fact that His time had not yet come. (John 2:4)
Since Christ was the perfect example of virtue in all things, He was in full compliance with the Ten Commandments by honoring His father and mother in a perfect way. He continues to do so, even in eternity. In addition to performing His first public miracle at the request of His mother, He made special arrangements for her at the moment of His death by placing her under the care of St. John. (John 19:26-27)
If I called my own mother today and asked her to pray for me, I know she would do what I asked. If I can ask her to pray for me while she is still alive, I can surely make the same request for her prayers when she is in heaven with God. Will she have any less influence with God when she is in Heaven than she had while she was still living on Earth?
In 2 Thessalonians 3:2, St. Paul asked for prayers of others by stating, “Pray for us that we may be delivered from importunate and evil men.” Why would St. Paul be asking for the prayers of others if God were only willing to accept direct prayers (from St. Paul)?
It was not the direct prayers of any of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah that saved them from destruction. It was only through the prayers of Abraham that they were saved. (Genesis 18:20-33) Abraham acted as a special agent for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was only through his intersession that they were saved.
How do we know that the mother of God and the saints “hear” our prayers? As Catholics, we know that the church, which has the authority to speak on behalf of Christ, has guaranteed that the saints hear our prayers. We also know from personal experience that our prayers to the saints have been heard and answered. But what about the non-Catholics who don’t have the benefit of 2000 years of tradition and teaching, and demand that we provide the scriptural basis for our beliefs?
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she had been chosen to be the mother of God, she accepted God’s will by stating, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” Luke 1:38. Did the angel Gabriel hear her response? Of course he heard her, even though he did not have human ears. St. John said that he saw “the prayers of the saints ascending up before God from the hand of an angel.” Revelation 8:4. In order for an angel to present the prayers of the saints to God, he would first have to hear those prayers.
Job 5:1 states: “Call now if there will be any that will answer thee, and turn to some of the saints.” Why would God instruct someone to call out to the saints if they couldn’t hear what was being said.
The Catholic Church has always taught that the angels and saints have been chosen by God to act on our behalf and as intercessors with God. We act together in unity and cooperation with all the members of the Catholic Church, which include the members of the Church in Heaven (“the Church triumphant”), the members of the Church in Purgatory (“the Church suffering”), and the members of the Church on Earth (“the Church militant”). We refer to this unity and cooperation as the “communion of saints.”
It’s unfortunate that our protestant friends have been deprived of membership in this ever-expanding family of special agents who are ready and willing to assist us in our needs.