Christians speaking to the dead

trueseek1's picture

Had never thought of it this way, until I found a book on the shelf expounding on one of the well known passages of the Holy Scriptures: The Transfiguration passage. Jesus has a live visit from Moses and Elijah and in the presence of the other fallible men, a couple of apostles, he enters into conversation with these two "dead saints". The author also highlighted another instance when God rose the dead and they went into the cities to show themselves as alive in Christ. I had read these passages many times before, and heard countless evangelical sermons on them, but in all my previous readings of the last couple of hundred years of evangelical commentaries, I had never heard of the reality that these visitations represented. Does anyone know how did the faithful early Church fathers who honored God, in the nonheretical Church, view these passages?

Also, the author differentiated clearly between using a medium to reach the dead as Saul did to talk to Samuel, and both these passages, with the understanding that Christ revealed clearly that it is not sinful to have a conversation with a live saint, but evil if one tries to use mediums as the ungodly do.

Thanks for all insights on these passages.

Why I dont believe in praying TO the dead

Hi Michael - good to hear from you again.

I agree that Moses and Abraham are alive in the sense that their inner beings in Heaven. They are not alive in the sense that there is a resurrection of the body yet to occur. James (2:26) defined death as being the body and spirit separated. In that sense Moses and Abraham and Mary the mother of Christ, are dead.

For the sake of discussion, here is why I dont believe in praying to the dead, and the flaws I see in the logic I have seen so far. Of course, with my eyes lately God only knows what I saw vs what was there :)

At the outset allow me to be honest, I agree that asking for someone to pray for us is in no sense interfering with the mediatorship that Christ alone holds with God. Christ alone is mediator between God and man, and Christ alone is the redeemer of our souls. I think, from our prior conversations, that you will accept that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeener provided by God. As has been stated, many of us ask people to pray for us all the time. That is true, but we dont pray to others to pray to God for us.

First, listening to the views expressed, this is actually praying TO people other than God Himself. When we ask a living person to pray for us, we are not praying TO them. In Matt 18:19, we have biblical support to agree together "on earth". 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."

This didnt leave any room to pray TO someone in Heaven and ask him/her to pray on our behalf. In fact, this passage narrows the field of who we agree with: they have to be alive and on earth. I am defining death as spirit/soul separated from body which would qualify as NOT being on earth.

Second, "cloud of witnesses". In Heb 11, which Heb 12:1-2 refers back to, provides no substantiation for praying TO the dead. Heb 11:6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." That doesnt leave much room for placing my faith IN someone else to pray on my behalf or trusting their merits to do something for me. How can I pray to St Anyone and not, to some extent, be placing my faith in the efficacy of their prayers and merits they hold beyond the merit of Christ?

In fact, the righteous dead have no need of faith. They already KNOW God exists which is why the Bible doesnt focus anywhere on having an active relationship with someone anyone who is dead. The struggle of the righeous dead is over and there is no possibility of help from them. In whatever sense the righteous dead are "a cloud of witnesses", there is no biblical support I have seen so far that they are participants any longer on this earth at this time.

Third, the precise quote (used in this thread) in Rev 5:8 proves the point. "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. "

The prayers of the saints, which in God's time He will answer in the form of great Tribulation on earth, exist as vials full of odors. There is absolutely nothing in this passage that supports the 4 beasts or 24 elders having prayed for the saints.

Forth, 2 Tim 2:20-21 says 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.

In support of praying to the dead, one argument from this scripture is "These saints in heaven have been made into vessels of gold and silver and now you want God not to use them? It makes no sense to me.".

Great and very logical. I dont know what God is "doing with" the righteous dead because the Bible doesnt tell me. That isnt something God saw fit to tell us. However, it does not follow that He uses the righeous dead to help the living because we dont think their work is done. More important than assumption, what is the scriptural support for interpreting 2 Tim 2:20-21 in support of praying to the dead???

Fifth, this argument has been presented in support of praying TO the dead: " ... the saints already in heaven are known to be righteous so their prayers are all that more effectual ...James 5:16b The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much ... Their presence around us is even used by Paul to exhort us to run the race with patience so we too may obtain.

Very logical. A righteous person's prayer do affect much. Do you have one scripture that supports a dead person effectively praying for a living person, or that enjoins us to place faith in a dead person? How about one scripture that supports the need of the dead in Christ to pray at all? Just one. Paul needed some help at times, but where is the scriptural evidence that he prayed to Mary or to St Elijah or to someone other than God alone?

Now, we have our own traditions too and realize that is all they are. We like to hold hands or light candles when we pray. We sing about the sacrifice of Christ when we take communion and we feel closer to Him. We believe it lifts our faith. And we realize it is just a tradition, not the Word of God. Without further study, I cant think of anything in the Bible that prohibits praying TO the dead, but I can wholeheartedly say the practice is not illustrated or taught in the Bible.

Finally, isnt the idea of praying to the dead an extension of trusting the merits of people deemed to have an abundance of merit (I know there is a big name for it and I didnt look it up), to sway God on our behalf? That is, it is placing one's faith in Jesus AND Mary AND Imelda ( I think) AND St X AND St Y AND St Z. Jesus isnt dead -- He is alive and He is God. God is the only one that makes any sense to pray TO.

Love in Christ,

Study Group Leader, Book of Romans
Associate Moderator

Eph 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one"