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Prayers to the Saints: how can one be certain they're listening?


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#1 Judson

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 06:49 PM

I have a question regarding prayers to the saints. I am aware of the argument for why the Orthodox perform these prayers, and can tentatively accept the rationale, but my question is how we can know that they are listening?

Although they are in heaven, they are not omniscient, nor omnipresent. their minds are glorified, but not infinite, and they are not eternal, like God is. In a given day, there may be hundreds of millions of prayers being offered to them. How then are they made to hear? and, what confidence can the Christian have in knowing that their prayers are being heard?

thanks.

#2 Owen

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 07:08 PM

It is a general principle: things related to the same thing are, of necessity, related to eath other: therefore, if you are in Christ, and the Saint whose intercession you are requestiing is in Christ, then in Christ, you have an infinite access of channels, and the communication will go through.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 07:18 PM

I have a question regarding prayers to the saints. I am aware of the argument for why the Orthodox perform these prayers, and can tentatively accept the rationale, but my question is how we can know that they are listening?

Although they are in heaven, they are not omniscient, nor omnipresent. their minds are glorified, but not infinite, and they are not eternal, like God is. In a given day, there may be hundreds of millions of prayers being offered to them. How then are they made to hear? and, what confidence can the Christian have in knowing that their prayers are being heard?

thanks.


We don't really know the specifics, but through the ages, the testimony of Orthodox witness has shown us that the saints hear and answer prayer. A miracle is proof enough for some, if not for everyone. Certainly those who feel their prayers to a saint have been answered have proof enough, and this is from from too many people to ignore. Some say that it is job of the angels (messengers) to bring our prayers to the appropriate saint. We do know that we are told to seek the prayers of the righteous ones (see James 5) and who can be more righteous than those whom God has glorified, with whom we are united in love since Christ has conquered death?

#4 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 07:51 PM

"We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses..." it says in Hebrews. I'm sure by now you're aware that the word for "witnesses" is the same word for "martyrs", meaning it is the saints in paradise (who were at that time basically all martyrs) that witness what is going on down here (Heb 12).

Also, in the Apocalypse (Revelation), it is recorded that the heavenly prayers of the saints are offered regarding the situation on earth (Apoc 6:9-10).

So, (1.) they do pray, and (2.) they are aware of the situation on earth (and presumably our requests for intercessions!).

I believe that the Orthodox teaching is that the Holy Spirit somehow communicates our requests for intercessions to those saints to whom they are addressed.

I hope that helps.

#5 Kosta

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 12:59 AM

It can happen because God allows it. nSee how the scripture describbes this: ..."He (the angel) was given much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense with the prasyers of the saints ascended before God from the angels hand." Rev 8.3

The angel was GIVEN the incense, he is allowed this privelege because God gave it and is pleased by it. In Rev 5.8 this is granted to the heavenly saints as well. The symbolic 24 elders offer the intercessory prayers of christians of the earthly church.

#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 01:02 AM

what confidence can the Christian have in knowing that their prayers are being heard?


Because the saints love us, and the lover is not deaf to the beloved.

#7 Ben Johnson

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 02:21 AM

Because once a year they are checked by a qualified otologist Posted Image

#8 S. Rey

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 03:12 AM

I have a question regarding prayers to the saints. I am aware of the argument for why the Orthodox perform these prayers, and can tentatively accept the rationale, but my question is how we can know that they are listening?

Although they are in heaven, they are not omniscient, nor omnipresent. their minds are glorified, but not infinite, and they are not eternal, like God is. In a given day, there may be hundreds of millions of prayers being offered to them. How then are they made to hear? and, what confidence can the Christian have in knowing that their prayers are being heard?

thanks.


The grace of God is, by definition, eternal and universal, existing both outside of time and space as coming from God, and in time and space, as it operates in the whole of creation. The saints are persons who, through prayer, fasting, repentance, and sometimes martyrdom, have become worthy to become one with God through grace, and therefore, they also become immortal and incorruptible in this way, and can also become one with all those who seek to acquire the grace. Such thing is even possible, even if more imperfectly, here on earth: when a person sincerely prays and "hears" the cries of all those who thirst for God. I hope this helps.

Sylvain

#9 Judson

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 06:39 PM

The saints are persons who, through prayer, fasting, repentance, and sometimes martyrdom, have become worthy to become one with God through grace, and therefore, they also become immortal and incorruptible in this way, and can also become one with all those who seek to acquire the grace. Such thing is even possible, even if more imperfectly, here on earth: when a person sincerely prays and "hears" the cries of all those who thirst for God. I hope this helps.
Sylvain

Yes, there is a sense in which we become like God, but his incommunicable attributes, such as omniscience and omnipresence as just that incommunicable, no? There is a danger here of thinking that we or the saints possess the abilities of Deity.

therefore, if you are in Christ, and the Saint whose intercession you are requestiing is in Christ, then in Christ, you have an infinite access of channels, and the communication will go through.


Here is another example of what I consider a dangerous assertion: granting that man is capable of infinite anything, even when we are in our glorified state, is to compromise the attributes that God has, in himself. Only God is transcedent and can operate in the eternal and the infinite.

I have another question with regard to the saints' answering of prayer. Is it that they grant the miracle that is requested, themselves, or simply that they are requesting for a miracle from God, on our behalf? When you say that Saints answer prayer, it sounds like you are saying that saints are responding with efficacious power, which is misleading to a mind like mine. the terminology does not seem to adequately safeguard against the potential for misunderstanding and error. Such, I find, is the same with the use of Theotokos. while Orthodox in protecting the deity of Christ when rightly used, it can be confusing and misleading when it is translated Mother of God. there is a sense in which this term is inaccurate and heretical: ie. Mary is not the Mother of the Godhead (Trinity). But the wording can potentially make this assertion.

thanks.

#10 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 07:00 PM

Dear Judson and others,

Thank you once again for your honest and seeking responses. You wrote:

Yes, there is a sense in which we become like God, but his incommunicable attributes, such as omniscience and omnipresence as just that incommunicable, no? There is a danger here of thinking that we or the saints possess the abilities of Deity.


Orthodox theology has long expressed this through a discussion of God in His 'essence' and His 'energies': most simply, that of God which is solely His and which cannot be communicated in by the human creature, and that of God which by His grace He grants to man through union. God's energies are the means by which man's life is drawn up into God's, receiving His divine attributes and participating wholly in His divine life, whilst never becoming God 'by nature' (in essence) and remaining always creature. Man is drawn up into the life of God, but never becomes God.

Without this critical distinction, one is left with a false 'either-or' distinction: either one cannot be drawn up into God's life at all, or one, in so being drawn up, 'becomes God' in a manner that denies God's uniqueness, etc. But with this helpful distinction, we are given to understand the manner in which God draws the human creature into true participation in His own life, whilst always remaining God unique and unrepeatable.

The saints (God willing, each Christian in her or her struggle) can participate in God's life, can receive and be drawn up into His glory - including the full life of the divine that God communicates to His creatures through His divine energies. In this way they are participants in His glory, and share in His divine life.

If you would like to learn more about this, the distinction begins to be articulated in Orthodox theology in the fourth century by the Cappadocian Fathers; but its most famous articulations came from St Gregory Palamas.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#11 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 10:47 PM

I have another question with regard to the saints' answering of prayer. Is it that they grant the miracle that is requested, themselves, or simply that they are requesting for a miracle from God, on our behalf? When you say that Saints answer prayer, it sounds like you are saying that saints are responding with efficacious power, which is misleading to a mind like mine.


It is the understanding of this bear of admittedly little brain that Christ answers the prayers of the saints on our behalf.

the terminology does not seem to adequately safeguard against the potential for misunderstanding and error. Such, I find, is the same with the use of Theotokos. while Orthodox in protecting the deity of Christ when rightly used, it can be confusing and misleading when it is translated Mother of God. there is a sense in which this term is inaccurate and heretical: ie. Mary is not the Mother of the Godhead (Trinity). But the wording can potentially make this assertion.


That is why it is so important that the Church continually safeguard the treasury of the Apostolic Witness from such errors. This we do through the right teaching of the bishops and the continuous tradition of our hymnody and prayers that keeps us straight. Pity those who have separated themselves from the protection of Holy Tradition and become susceptible to misinterpretation.

Herman the Pooh




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