You explain that Catholics do not worship saints. You explain that we are asking the saints for their prayers. Praying to the saints doesn’t replace our prayer to God himself!
“Okay, but if I can pray to God directly, shouldn’t I spend all of my prayer time just praying to Him?”
Here’s the evangelical concern: We only have so much time each day we can pray, so we want to make it count. Praying to saints is just adding another middle man. Let’s cut the fat and just get to the good stuff. We’ll get more out of ten minutes of prayer to God, than eight minutes to God with two minutes of prayer to saints. Besides, our prayers get to God either way.
Sound familiar? Like more and more evangelical beliefs and practices these days, this way of thinking has more to do with secular American culture than anything Christian. Underlying this argument is an attitude that, in keeping with western capitalism, we should try to maximize the personal benefits of our limited spiritual time.
It’s really a matter of efficiency. The simpler the process is, the better. Let’s just get our prayers up to God and call it good. No need to involve others in the process.
Here’s the problem: God is not calling individuals as islands, he is calling a people of God. Yes, it takes more time, but we are relational creatures designed to live life, including the spiritual life, in community. And there is only one bride of Christ, one Church. Whether a person is in this life or the next, if they are one of God’s people, they are a part of His one Church. And God has called us to pray for one another.
So why does it matter if we have others praying for us? Because God wants to use our prayers for each other to affect change in the world – not to distract us from him, but in order to more rightly offer him worship as one body. Does he have to do things that way? No, but he chooses to because he is not only concerned about the end, he is also concerned with the process. Catholics are not looking just to worship God, we are looking to worship God with all the angels and saints in heaven.
When we pray with the saints in heaven, that is what we are doing. And we are fulfilling God’s command that the whole Church pray for and with one another. A person is not wasting valuable prayer time when he asks for his friends and neighbors to pray for him, so neither is he wasting time when he asks a fellow member of the body of Christ who’s already in heaven to pray for him. Rather, he is more fully worshiping God as He has intended us to - as a people.
Sadly, this attitude of wanting to maximize gain has actually led to evangelicals losing out on a much deeper level. What evangelicals think is just useless fat - praying to people who will just go on and pray to God when we could just pray to God ourselves with that time - is really the fullness of the spiritual life - the full communion of Christians throughout time and space helping each other and worshiping God together.
I call evangelicals, and remind Catholics, not to live the minimum spiritual life they think they need to get by. Let us embrace the fullness of the Church, past and present, knowing that we will gain the depth of the spiritual life as God intended it, in a rich community.