- Intercession of saints
Intercession of the saints is a Christian doctrine common to the vast majority of the world's
Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Latin RiteCatholic, Eastern Catholic, and a number of Reformed Christian communities. Intercessory prayer is a petition made to Godon behalf of others. If a believer prays for his children or friends, his enemies or leaders, then the believer is interceding on behalf of another. The doctrine of saintly intercession goes back to the earliest church. The justification for calling upon a saintin prayer is that the saints are both close to God, because of their holiness, and accessible to humans.
Some Christians say that
Jesus' parable of Dives and Lazarusin Luke 16:19-31 indicates the ability of the dead to pray for the living. Paul's repeated references to Jesus Christ as "advocate" for the believers also indicates that Jesus, living at the right hand of God, may intercede for the believer ( Epistle to the Romans8:34; Hebrews 7:25). By extension, other holy persons who are living in Christ on earth or in heaven (having left their earthly existence) may be able to intercede-through Christ- on behalf of the petitioner. (John 11:25; Rom 8:38-39) This is a controversial doctrine, because in some faiths, only Jesus is holy enough to intercede for people. From the Catholic and Orthodox Churches perspective, as well as Anglican/Episcopalian and old line Lutheran perspective: if those living here on earth can intercede on behalf of each other, then those which have already been glorified in heaven, and are even closer "in Christ", are made holy as "one" unified through him (the mediator between God and men- on earth and heaven) by his sacrifice, can certainly intercede for those on earth as well. (Heb 2:11, 10:10; 1 Tim 2:1-5)
Catholic Church doctrine supports intercessory prayer to saints. Intercessory prayer to saints also plays an important role in the
Eastern Orthodoxand Oriental Orthodoxchurches. Also some Anglo-Catholicsbelieve in saintly intercession. They may point to such Scriptural passages as Tobit 12:12,15, Revelation 5:8, or Revelation 8:3-4, which depict heavenly beings offering the prayers of mortals before God. In addition, James 5:16 (where all those in heaven can be presumed to be living righteously), which states the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Both those for and against the intercession of saints quote Job 5:1.
Many Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, in seeming accordance with verses like
1 Timothy2:5, which says that Jesus is the mediator between God and man. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of alive humans praying to dead humans - Jesus Christ being the lone exception because Jesus is believed to be alive and resurrected. The practice was attacked both by the Waldensians of the 12th century, and the various Gnostic Bogomilgroups (including the Albigensians). The Calvinists and Zwinglians were particularly zealous in their rejection of saintly intercession. The Thirty-Nine Articlesof the Church of Englandcondemned the invocation of saints as "a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God" (Article XXII). However, Oxford Movementled to a revival of the practice, which is now found among High Church Anglicansand especially Anglo-Catholics.
There is some evidence of a Jewish belief in intercession, both in the form of the paternal blessings passed down from
Abrahamto his children, and 2 Maccabees, where Judas Maccabaeussees the dead Onias and Jeremiahgiving blessing to the Jewish army. There are also opposing views in that to God alone only prayers may be offered.
In modern times one of the greatest divisions in Jewish theology ("
hashkafa") is over the issue of whether one can beseech the help of a "tzadik" - an extremely righteous individual. The main conflict is over a practice of beseeching a "tzadik" who has already died to make intercession before the Almighty. This practice is common mainly among ChasidicJews, but also found in varying degrees among other usually Chareidicommunities. It strongest opposition is found largely among sectors of Modern OrthodoxJudaism, Dor Daimand "Talmide ha Rambam," and among aspects of the Litvish Chareidicommunity. Those who oppose this practice usually do so over the problem of idolatry, as Jewish Law strictly prohibits making use of a mediator ("melitz") or agent ("sarsur") between oneself and the Almighty.
The perspectives of those Jewish groups opposed to the use of intercessors is usually softer in regard to beseeching the Almighty alone merely in the "merit" ("skhut") of a "tzadik".
Those Jews who support the use of intercessors claim that their beseeching of the "tzadik" is not prayer or worship. The conflict between the groups is essentially over what constitutes prayer, worship, a mediator ("melitz"), and an agent ("sarsur").
Intercession is a practice in which saints and prophets are called upon for help, but are not worshipped. The Arabic term for intercession is called
tawassul, which means "begging". Belief in intercession is a defining characteristic of traditional Islam, particularly present in the Shia sect. [http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=4767&CATE=24] [http://www.islamic.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Fiqh/tawassul.htm] [http://www.livingislam.org/o/ftaw_e.html] , however more recently some scholars have questioned this practice. Salafisare among its most vocal opponents, and consider tawassul a form of shirk (Islam).
* [http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an24536504 Salatul Istisqa, Islamic prayer for rain ceremony]
* [http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/picturescatalogue?action=PCSearch&mode=search&term1=nla.pic-an24536504&attribute1=ParentPermanentName&PI=nla.pic-an24536504&Creator=Cosgrave%2C+Paul.&TI=Salatul+Istisqa%2C+Islamic+prayer+for+rain+ceremony%2C+Hunter+Valley%2C+New+South+Wales%2C+19+January+2003+%5Bpicture%5D+%2F&CN=PIC+PIC%2F7921%2F1-5+LOC+nla.pic-an24536504+Online+access* The performance of the Salatul Istisqa, the Islamic prayer for rain, in the parched bed of the Goulburn River in Denman, in the Hunter Valley, Sydney, Australia, 2003.]
* [http://hadithproofsfortawassul.blogspot.com/2005/11/hadith-proofs-for-tawassul.html Hadith Proofs for Tawassul through the Prophet]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.