A very common question or topic that just seems to come up a lot is as regards praying to saints, and worshiping Mary, the mother of Jesus. This question comes most especially from those in my congregation who have a Catholic background or family who are Catholic.
Before I go on, I want to go on record to state that I am not the type to bash a church or a denomination. I am a very kingdom minded person who wants to cooperate with all Christian churches and denominations for the glory of Jesus, and I have been known to do just that. I can set doctrinal differences aside if they are not essential to salvation for the sake of unity and cooperation when to do so means that we can have a greater impact in our community, or for an individual, in the name of Jesus Christ. There have been many times where I have worked, and I expect will continue to work. in a trans-denominational context.
That said, I must rebuke a false doctrine when I see one. I will do my best to not bash a church or denomination who is most well known for a particular false doctrine, but I can not leave a false doctrine off the table for rebuke.
I think the most important point to make here first is that Jesus Christ Himself told us not to do it.
Luke 11:27-28 – 27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Here Jesus rebukes a woman who said Mary was blessed by saying that she is no more blessed than any other obedient Christian.
There is no scriptural basis for (1) praying to Mary, (2) addressing her as “holy,” or (3) calling her “our life” and “our hope.” To call Mary “holy”—the Catholic Church teaches that Mary never sinned or had any taint of original sin—is not biblical. The Bible calls all believers “saints,” which can be interpreted as “holy ones,” but Scripture says that the righteousness believers have is the imparted righteousness from Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). In this life, no one is yet sanctified from sin in practice (1 John 1:9—2:1). Jesus is called our Savior repeatedly in Scripture because He saved us from our sin. In Luke 1:47, Mary calls God her “Savior.” Savior from what? A sinless person does not need a Savior. Sinners need a Savior. Mary acknowledged that God was her Savior. Therefore, Mary acknowledged that she was a sinner.
Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). The Roman Catholic Church claims that Mary was saved from sin differently from everyone else—that she was saved from sin through the immaculate conception (her being conceived free of sin). But is this teaching scriptural? The Roman Catholic Church openly admits that this doctrine is not found in Scripture. No one, including Mary, is holy but God. This ties in with Romans 3:10–23, Romans 5:12, and countless other passages that stress the fact that in God’s eyes no one measures up. Never is Mary excluded from such all-encompassing statements.
Praying the rosary has an even more basic problem, namely, that much of the prayer is directed to Mary, not to God. We are never told in the Bible whether anyone else in heaven can even hear us. God alone is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to address their prayers to God the Father. Every example of prayer in the Bible is addressed to God alone. There is never a single example of someone praying to any “saint” or angel or anyone else (besides prayers to false gods). Further, any time that a pious person prostrates himself (in a religious setting) to honor someone else besides God (chiefly to the apostles or angels), he is told to get up, and to stop it (Acts 10:25–26; 14:13–16; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; 22:8–9). The Roman Catholic Church states that it worships God alone but “venerates” Mary and the saints. What is the difference? A person praying the rosary spends more time calling out to Mary than to God. For every one praise of God in the rosary, there are ten praises of Mary!
Praying the rosary also assigns a task to Mary that the Bible never assigns her. Jesus is our Redeemer (Galatians 3:13; 4:4–5; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18–19; Revelation 5:9), our heavenly Advocate (1 John 2:1), and our one and only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). The “Hail, Holy Queen” portion of the rosary prayer calls Mary our “most gracious advocate.” This is a direct contradiction of the clear biblical teaching that only Jesus is our go-between.
Catholics call upon Mary as the “holy Queen.” The only time in Scripture that the title “Queen of Heaven” is found, the term is used in a negative way (Jeremiah 7:17–19; 44:16–27). The Bible never pictures Mary as a queen; rather, she calls herself “the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38). She is never given a crown or authority over heaven and earth. Likewise, is it appropriate, while praying the rosary, to call Mary our “life” and “hope”? Again, these are terms that are used of God alone in Scripture (John 1:1–14; Colossians 3:4; 1 Timothy 1:1; Ephesians 2:12; Titus 2:13).
Only God can hear our prayers. Only God can answer our prayers. We have one intermediary (Jesus), and it is in His name we pray, not Mary’s.
Let me tell you a story I heard that might help. I heard of a Protestant Pastor, and a Catholic Priest who happen to be traveling together on a plane or a train, so they engage in conversation. The Priest asks the Pastor “why don’t you guys pray to Mary or the saints?”, to which the Pastor replies “Why do you?”. The Priest says “I see it like this. If you wanted a meeting with the president of the United States to ask him to do something for you, you can not just call him up and ask him to grant your request. However, if you had a friend who knows the President, like say a congressman or a White House staff member, well then you may be able to ask your friend to ask the President for you. Maybe your friend can take your request to the President, or even introduce you somehow. Do you see what I mean?”
The Pastor says “Yes, I see the logic behind your analogy, and thank you. Because that has really helped me to understand why you pray to Mary or the saints”. So the Priest asks again “Well then, why don’t you pray to saints or to Mary?”. The Pastor replies “Well, I imagine I would have a hard time getting a meeting with the President. But what if I was the President’s Son? Well then I would have my father, the Presidents own personal phone number. Maybe a number that no Congressman or White House staff member would have. And I could just call my father up any time, and ask him whatever I want. And my father would be more likely to grant my request as his beloved son as opposed to the request of a stranger, a staff, or even a friend.”
Do you see what I mean?