The ancient Church practice of petitioning those in Heaven to pray for us is one that doesn’t sit well with many Protestants. They charge that “if it isn’t explicitly taught in the Bible, we are forbidden to do it.” What they don’t understand is that many of the truths of God are taught implicitly. For example, the word, “Bible” isn’t in the Bible and neither is a list of books that are supposed to comprise the Bible. The Holy Trinity isn’t even explicitly named in the Bible. These terminologies came from the Church – not the Bible. Using the Protestant rule, they have no business believing in these doctrines because they’re not explicitly named.
Even the Bereans, who studied the Scriptures to insure that Paul's oral teaching (Tradition) was in line with what was written, ultimately believed a truth that was not explicitly there: The fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah. In fact, we first find the word Trinity in the writings of Tertullian (c.155-230). The doctrine was decreed by the Catholic Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD because of the Arian Heresy, which claimed that saying that Jesus was not of one substance with the Father and that he had not existed in Eternity with the Father.
To prove that we are not to ask those in Heaven for help, Protestants will quote 1 Tim. 2:5, where Paul writes, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." The Catholic Church agrees with this verse. Jesus IS our only mediator before God in that only his sacrifice could atone for our sins and bring peace between us and the Father. However, to say that there are not other intercessors goes against Scripture. #We are ALL called upon to intercede for one another with prayer and supplications – 2 Cor. 1:10-11, Eph. 6:18-20, 1Tim. 2:1-4, James 5:16. Protestants often say that to “pray” to somebody in heaven to ask them to for pray for us is idolatry because prayer is reserved for God alone. This is a complete failure to understand the word. To pray, in the most rudimentary definition of the word, is to petition – to ask something of someone.
We pray to each other daily. Whereas prayers of adoration, worship, confession are reserved for God alone, asking a saint in Heaven to pray for us is no different than asking a saint on earth to do the same. To deny this is to deny the reality that is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31). We are all parts of the Body of Christ and are more radically joined together than the finger is to the hand because we are joined in Christ – and not by mere flesh.
Heb. 12:1 tells us that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” and that we are to live accordingly. A witness is somebody who sees and hears things (Acts 1:8, 2:32) – otherwise they are not witnesses. Rev. 5:8 shows the Elders in heaven bringing our prayers before God and Rev. 8:3-4 speaks of the Angels in heaven doing the same thing.
Lev. 20:6 – “Should anyone turn to mediums and fortune-tellers and follow their wanton ways, I will turn against such a one and cut him off from his people.”
Deut. 18:10-12 “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD, your God, is driving these nations out of your way.” Lev. 20:6 and Deut. 18:10-12 strictly prohibit the practice of fortune-telling, necromancy and seeking oracles from the dead. However – this is not what Catholics do by asking for prayers and intercession.
The anti-Catholic misrepresents the Catholic position by saying that this is the case. The charge that Mary or others in Heaven would have to be omnipresent and omniscient to hear the petitions of many people at once is to fail to understand the reality of Heaven.
2 Pet. 3:8 tells us that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” Heaven is outside of time. There is not yesterday, today and tomorrow – it’s all eternal. To indicate that Mary or another saint must be omnipresent and omniscient to hear the petitions of many people at once is to fail to understand this fact.
Again, intercessory prayer is supported by the writings of the Early Church Fathers:
Pectorius - Aschandius, my father, dearly beloved of my heart, with my sweet mother and my brethren, remember your Pectorius in the peace of the Fish [Christ] (Epitaph [A.D. 250]).
Cyprian - Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence the first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father's mercy (Letters 56:5 [A.D. 252]).
Cyril of Jerusalem - Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition... (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).
Ephraem of Syria - Remember me, you heirs of God, you brethren of Christ; supplicate the Savior earnestly for me, that I may be freed through Christ from him that fights against me day by day (De Timore, Anim. in fin. [A.D. 370]).
Liturgy of St. Basil - By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name (Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]).
Gregory Nazianzen - Yes, I am well assured that [my father's] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind . . . (Orations 18:4 [A.D. 374]). May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand (Orations 17  [A.D. 376]),
Gregory of Nyssa - Do you, [Ephraem] that art standing at the divine altar . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom (Sermon on Ephraem the Syrian [A.D. 380]).
Ambrose of Milan - May Peter, who wept so efficaciously for himself, weep for us and turn towards us Christ's benign countenance (Hexameron 5:25:90 [A.D. 388]).
John Chrysostom - He that wears the purple . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tent-maker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead" (Homilies on 2 Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]). When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God] (Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).
Augustine - A Christian people celebrate together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).
As for the charge of worshipping Mary, the anti-Catholic is guilty of bearing false witness. Dulia is theological term signifying the honor paid to the saints, while latria means worship given to God alone. Hyperdulia is the veneration offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We adore and worship God alone, whereas, we give honor to the great saints of the past and give special honor to Mary, the vessel of Christ.
Whereas the word, “worship” can be used more loosely, if applied to all of us, we would all be guilty of some form of the word which has several meanings, including:
1. The honor given to a person of importance — (such as magistrates and some mayors)
2. Reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; an act of expressing such reverence
3. A form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4. Extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem
When a person kisses a picture of a loved one, they are guilty of “worship” in this sense. However, anybody using reason would understand that they do not worship them as gods. Also, contrary to what the anti-Catholic says, the Bible does not condemn serving each other, but rather supports it (John 13:14-15, Romans 12:10, 14:19,15:7, Galatians 6:2, I Peter 4:9, 5).