There are many rationalizations of elevating and praying to church-appointed saints, Mary and other figureheads. But are these practices truly glorifying God or do they make idols? Let’s take the time to look at some of the reasons given for these practices and how they measure up to God’s word. As we go through each point, let us remember the basic truth that there is none like the Lord:
There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might…
It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
(Jeremiah 10:6,12 ESV)
1) Some say they are mediators to God/Christ for us.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
(1 Timothy 2:5-6 ESV)
God’s word says Christ is the only mediator between man and God. Imperfect man cannot come before a perfect God which is why Jesus came as a man, being the spotless lamb to become that perfect sacrifice and mediator. No one else can fill this role. To claim a created being having that ability would claim them to be equal to God.
2) Some say praying to them is asking them for intercessory prayer.
“Glorious Prince of the heavenly hosts and victor over rebellious spirits, be mindful of me who am so weak and sinful and yet so prone to pride and ambition. Lend me, I pray, thy powerful aid in every temptation and difficulty, and above all do not forsake me in my last struggle with the powers of evil.”
The prayer above, was taken from an archive of prayers addressed to the angel Michael who some call saint Michael (see my post regarding who the saints are ). This is just one of many examples of prayers to other people/beings with a similar focus. If we look at the grammatical structure of the prayer, we can see that the focus is asking for the angel’s strength to overcome temptations and difficulties.
There is a difference between asking a believer to pray for you to God and actually praying to someone in place of God. From a biblical standpoint, who is the only one who can give a believer the ability to overcome all things and to please God in our walk?
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
(Philippians 4:13 KJV)
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13 ESV)
Even when God uses people or heavenly hosts in his purpose to help a believer in some way, it is God who initiates and has the only authority and power to do so. When people focus prayer to any other being/person to help, strengthen or influence their life, there is no longer a focused reliance on God’s power in all things but on whoever is being prayed to. This once again puts an elevation of created beings above Christ.
3) Some say the practice of parading, kissing, revering and relying on statutes, images, carvings, amulets and other paraphernalia of appointed saints/Mary/figureheads would bestow/invoke blessings, protection, and other miraculous attributes with the help of the person being personified.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
(Psalm 115:4-8 ESV)
Thus says the Lord:
“Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”
(Jeremiah 10:2-5 ESV)
The Lord himself said that these personified figures cannot do any good. Passing around figures for prayer and protection, carrying the image of a “patron saint” for specific needs, kissing the feet of a statue for luck, etc., and thinking that these man-created objects can fulfill some sort of blessing/miracle, once again emphasizes the reliance on everything but Christ alone.
4) Some rationalize that they can relate better to saints/Mary/figureheads because of specific commonalities.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)
While it is true that as humans, we can understand and share in feelings and experiences that can help us grow, the central focus isn’t about how a person was able to handle it but rather how Christ worked through that person in order to fulfill his will. To focus on the person rather than God who enabled the person to act accordingly to situations and trials once again leads back to elevating someone/something other than God who gives such strength.
Jesus has shared in our infirmities when he came down to save our sins, so how much more comforting is it to know that the God of all is able to relate to your needs and actually has the power to strengthen you with reliance on Him?
If we elevate anything to the level or above God, we make it an idol in our lives. Whether it be another person, an object, an ideology/pursuit or any other creation ever created. This elevation allows shifted focus in a person’s life and blessings/miracles that should be accredited to God’s power, grace and mercy become accredited to whatever idol happened to be of central focus to a person during that time. The scariest part is not discerning when these things happen in our lives because we become blinded to our sins and parade it as if we are worshiping Christ wholeheartedly.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
(Romans 1:21-25 ESV)
We must be diligent in understanding God’s truth and the things that please him if we are to truly worship him. I pray that those who truly wish to worship Christ continually guard themselves from worshiping idols in their lives and wholeheartedly go to Jesus in humbleness and readiness to receive his guidance and instruction.
You will never go wrong with praying and relying solely on the all mighty and perfect God for every aspect of your life.