Prayer & Spiritual Life

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?”  Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly.

Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example on how to pray. He didn’t pray to Peter, Paul, Mary, or John-who took care of Jesus’s mother and wrote Revelation. No He prayed to His Father. This is Jesus Himself praying, should we not follow Him, like He asked Peter and His disciples to follow Him. This reference in 350AD is close to 270 years or more after the disciples died. The disciples who wrote the gospel. Do their words of what Christ told them mean nothing?

STEVE RAY RESPONDS BRIEFLY:

FIRST, thanks for writing Barry and God bless you. You start out with a seeming tone of condescension. Of course, I have read the Lord’s Prayer, in fact, I have it memorized :-)  By the way, we Catholics refer to John 17 as the Lords’ Prayer. What you call the Lords’ Prayer we usually refer to as the Our Father.

Card-85-Holy-Spirit-backSECOND, is it ONLY to the Father that we should pray? Is Jesus’ example restricting us from “praying” to anyone else? This seems to be your implication. However, should we also pray to Jesus? Is that allowed? And what about the Holy Spirit? Should we pray to him or is that disallowed? According to your statements above we should not pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit! If you say we are allowed (and should) pray to the Holy Spirit you may be interested to know that nowhere in Scripture are we told to do that nor do we have an example of someone who does. Yes, most Christians would agree we should pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well as to the Father.

THIRD, The words pray and worship are two different words with different meanings. Pray Is to ask for something, it means a petition or a request. Worship means to do just that, worship and adore. Worship is something reserved for the Trinity alone. Protestants tend to see pray and worship as synonyms which is one reason they often react so negatively to the reality of the intercession of the saints.

When we pray to Saint it is not worshiping them. It is asking them to intercede WITH us as we pray to God himself. God is the only one who can answer prayers.

15445tca0714_ChristGlorifiedFOURTH, when Jesus was on the earth the Saints were not yet in glory–heaven had not been opened yet. When Jesus ascended to heaven he brought the dead with him into the presence of God. From that point on they’re in the presence of God himself and can intercede personally for people still on earth (or do you think they can’t or don’t care?) 

Like I asked my mother who doubts the saints are aware of things on the earth and can intercede for us. “Do you think Dad has forgotten you, doesn’t care about you anymore or isn’t ask the Lord to bless you? Dad is sitting in his favorite chair having coffee with Our Lord Jesus waiting for you to arrive to love you better than ever before. In the meantime, he is praying for you and very intent on your well being. (Read my article, “Marriage in Heaven? Will We Know and Love our Spouses in Heaven?”

Transfiguration-1024x670FIFTH, we are commanded to pray for each other and to ask others to pray for us. We believe the church is one organic body not split up and divided. Those in heaven are part of the body of Christ like we are. We ask them to intercede for us just like I could ask you to intercede for me.

Even though right now I can’t see you or talk to you personally I can use technology to do it to ask you to intercede for me. I don’t know how spiritual technology works but I certainly trust the Scriptures and the Church. The Saints are very much alive in the presence of God and they are concerned about what’s going on down on earth (consider Moses at the Transfiguration in Luke 9:30-31). The Saints in the presence of God in heaven can easily request of God benefits on our behalf.

SIXTH, Believers have been asking for the prayers of the Saints since the beginning. All one has to do is look at the graffiti left in the catacombs to see where they said from the first centuries “Peter and Paul pray for us”. In the catacombs of St. Sebastian there’s one segment of wall covering the former tombs of Sts.  Peter and Paul. There are 614 requests for intersession scratched into the wall from the very first Christians. They were (praying=asking) for the intercession of these two great martyrs and saints.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 11.30.10 AMThis is just scratching the surface. There is so much more to say but if you’re interested you’ll find the sources. If you’re not then I feel sorry for you. I am so happy that back in my former years as a Protest-ant it was just “Me and Jesus” but now the heavens have opened and I realize I am part of something much bigger, the Mystical Body of Christ with the Communion of the Saints. Blessed be God forever.

I recommend Patrick Madrid’s book Any Friend of God’s is a Friend of Mine.

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Pope_Francis_(27056871831)_(cropped)There are a lot of discussions this week about the Pope’s comments on the wording of the “Our Father” prayer, especially the line “Lead us not into temptation.” He said it gives the wrong impression — that God Himself leads us into sinful temptations. Of course, taken at face value without understanding the nuances of the wording, it could be incorrectly understood that way.

To be clear, the Pope did NOT say he was going to change the Sixth Petition of the Our Father Prayer. The news media again went overboard exaggerating the whole situation. Another example of not trusting the mainstream media.

First, this could never be the case since we learn elsewhere in Scripture that God tempts no one. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.” Along with other similar verses it clear God could never tempt us with sin nor lead us into an alleyway to push us into sin.

The UBS Handbook on Matthew (which is a series I find especially helpful) states, “This final petition is especially difficult to interpret. The Greek word translated temptation may also mean “trial, persecution”… the sense here can be either “to tempt to do wrong” or “to test or try.

For me this line in the Our Father has never been a problem. The Greek word for temptation is also used for testing. For example, 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

temptation-of-christ-1872b1Second, Jesus had just been led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. St. Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1).

The Sermon on the Mount follows Jesus temptation in the wilderness. He had been led by the Spirit to be tempted by the Devil. I have always thought the two were related. We pray that what happened to Jesus does not happen to us. We pray that we will not be put to the test or subjected to trials like the temptation Jesus experienced.  He taught us to pray that we not be subjected to the same kind of testing.

Third, remember when God approached Abraham in Genesis 22 and told him to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering? The conversation between God and Abraham begins with, “After these things God tested Abraham.

Abraham-e-Isaac-sacrificanThe Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was the primary translation used by St. Paul and the early Church.  The Greek text of Abraham’s test uses this same Greek root word (test, trial, temptation) when referring to God testing Abraham by asking him to offer up his only son. It was a test of Abraham, not a temptation to sin. After testing the faith and obedience of Abraham, God proclaims, “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.

Fourth, the Catechism makes it clear that “lead us not into temptation” does not mean God tempts us. It states, [I]t is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” … We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle ‘between flesh and spirit’; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength” (Catechism 2846).

Finally, what is needed here is not to change the wording of the prayer—which would be difficult and problematic on many fronts. It is best to educate and teach the meaning and nuances of the petition so people understand the meaning of the passage.

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For Catholic World Reports article “Should the Sixth Petition be Translated, ‘Do Not Let us Fall?’” click here. 
For Jimmy Akins article on this topic here.
For Msgr. Pope’s article on not changing the petition, click here.

Catholic IOn-line here.

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Mary a Mediatrix? Isn’t there just One Mediator?

by Steve Ray on November 6, 2017

The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Yet Catholics refer to Mary as a Mediatrix (feminine form of the word mediator).

So, isn’t that prima facie evidence that Catholics make up doctrines, worship Mary and disregard the Bible?

I was again challenged with this the other day. Interesting how the same old, same old keeps coming up no matter how many times you answer it. Interesting how these same misconceptions keep coming up as though some contentious power keeps inserting them into gullible minds. Interesting how people love to twist the rubber nose to make it obscene, grotesque, and distorted.

So here was my short response — again!

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Cross in Woods smtIn 1 Timothy 2:5 Paul recognizes that there is a huge chasm between the holy God and sinful men. Paul states that there is only one mediator that can bridge that uncrossable gorge.  How do we sinners reach a holy God across such a chasm?

God has provided the solution. He has provided the-one-and-only Mediator (1 Tim 2:5), the bridge, the stairway between heaven and earth, (John 1:51 based on the ladder seen by Jacob). This one Mediator is the God-Man Jesus Christ and he is the only one that can bridge the gap–mediate–between heaven and earth to bring reconciliation between God and men.

Thus, there is one Mediator to reconcile God and man. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant as the writer of Hebrews informs us three times, for example: “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb 8:6, 9:15, 12:24). No one else could have ever become such a mediator of the New Covenant.

However, after Jesus has accomplished such an act of redemption and mediatorship, he calls us to share in his ministry.

I remember my father saying to me before I joined the Catholic Church, “When you become Catholic you will pray to Mary and remember that Paul says there is only one Mediator between God and man.” I lovingly but sternly replied to my father, “Dad, never ask me to pray for you again!”

My father was shocked but understood my meaning. As soon as he asks me to pray for him — he asks me to be a mediator between him and God. I told him that to be consistent with his Protestant theology he should not ask me or anyone else to intercede for him, to be a mediator — one who stands in the middle — but he should pray directly to Jesus himself.

m74But Scripture constantly commands us to pray for one another, to intercede for our fellow humans. We are all “mini” mediators sharing in the mediatorship of Christ. And it goes the other way too. When God tells us to share the Gospel with lost sinners he is asking us to stand between himself and the sinner to share the Gospel, although he could have chosen to communicate with them directly.

Mary is not the infinite mediator, nor does she impose on the prerogatives of her Son. She, like us, intercedes for sinners and the people of God. Mediatrix is simply the feminine form of mediator. All of us share in the ministry of Christ, mediating and praying for our fellow man. In this sense, all of us are mediators and the females among us are mediatrixes.

I am frequently asked, “Where does the Bible say we should pray to dead saints?” to which I usually ask, “Where does the Bible say that saints are dead?”

Those of us, including most Protestants, believe that when a person dies in friendship with Christ they are still alive in Christ.

To prove that those who died in a state of grace were not dead, Jesus said to the Sadducees (who didn’t believe in the resurrection which is why they were “sad you see” — as my dad used to joke with us kids), “‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt 22:32). Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive.

Those who say “Why do you Catholics pray to dead saints” need to understand that those who die in Christ are not dead. Catholics affirm that they are alive and in the presence of Christ and that they can intercede for us as much as my father or I can intercede for each other.

Mary and the saints do not answer our prayers, any more than I answer the prayers of my dad. Rather, Mary, the saints and you and I all are intercessors. We do not answer the prayers, we simply intercede with the Father through his Son Jesus.

When I take pilgrimage groups to Israel I always take them to the top of Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. I always ask people how a “dead guy” like Moses could be talking to Jesus about things that are taking place on earth (Lk 9:31).

copelandWhen my father asks me to pray for him he asks me to stand in the middle — to be a mediator, an intercessor — and when God commands me to preach the gospel to the lost, he tells me to stand in the middle — to be an ambassador for Christ as Paul says,

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).

(Opps, to the right is a Pentecostal preacher Kenneth Copeland acting as a mediator, interceding with God, standing in the middle as they pray for this man!)

I hope that helps explain why we call Mary a mediatrix and why all of us are mini-mediators sharing in the ministry of Christ — the one-and-only mediator of the New Covenant, but certainly not in any way claiming to be the one mediator of the New Covenant, nor in any way arrogating to ourselves or to Mary the unique prerogatives and ministry of Jesus.

One last thought on this matter. Sometimes there is a misunderstanding of the differences between prayer and worship. In the Catholic tradition they are very different things. In Protestantism prayer and worship are sometimes used as synonyms. Pray simply means to ask, whereas worship is to adore.

If a Catholic says he “prays to Mary” it’s perceived as worship by many Protestants, but the Catholic it simply making a request that Mary intercede for us — the same as when my dad asked me to intercede for him. In Catholicism there is a big difference between pray and worship.

DVD_Mary_01We honor, love and venerate Mary. We ask her to pray for us. But we worship God ALONE!

For more on this and other Marian topics, all filmed on location in the Holy Land, check out my documentary MARY, MOTHER OF GOD here.

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Sherlock Holmes an Idolater – Praying to People?

October 31, 2017

Last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Sherlock Holmes on TV. He has always been one of my favorite characters and I can remember reading all the stories to our kids as they grew up. On TV I think Jeremy Brett does the best portrayal and it is always a delightful […]

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Tears Singing Good Ole Baptist Hymns

October 25, 2017

The old Baptist hymns still stir me and bring tears to my eyes. They take me back to my childhood when the family would dress up, us kids in our little suits with cheesy ties and short-legged pants (I’m the one in the plaid jacket). Dad would always give us candy during the service and […]

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Choirs of the Angels in Three Hierarchies

October 9, 2017

Clever little diagram to show the choirs of angels. We have a pack of dogs, a flock of birds, a forest of trees – the word used for groups of angels is “choir.” According to many theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, there are 9 choirs of angels in 3 hierarchies. Visit https://churchpop.com for more things like this.

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Kissing Statues

September 30, 2017

We are in Jerusalem today ready to pick up our group of 50 people at the airport in a few hours. When I woke up this morning to the Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking I read this email that came from the United Kingdom… It read, “Hi Steve! I know […]

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Should This Baby Be Aborted? You Decide

September 13, 2017

In the United States, there are many situations in which abortions are recommended, even encouraged by family, counselors, medical personnel and even religious advisors. Sometimes an abortion is recommended because of difficult circumstances and other times simply for convenience. Here are four cases for you to consider. Should these babies be aborted? You decide! Four […]

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Eight Ways to Pray During Adoration

July 12, 2017

For a lot of us prayer is difficult – mind goes blank, mind wanders, not sure quite what to do. When we sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament — OK, now what? This is an excellent little diagram to give us direction and options. Next thing you know, time flies and you look forward […]

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I’m a Skeptic, but I DID See the Dancing Sun

May 13, 2017

We DID see the dancing sun! It was several years ago at a Marian Shrine on a May 13 on the Island of Cebu in the Philippines I’m a skeptic and I don’t always trust even what my own eyes see… …so I asked my wife Janet and my daughters what they saw… I’ll try […]

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Fatima and the Modern World – St. JP II

May 13, 2017

Fatima and the Whole Modern World In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima to commemorate the first anniversary of the attempt on his life and the sixty-fifth anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition there. He delivered the following homily. St. John Paul II on Our Lady’s message at […]

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Janet talks about pilgrimages

May 12, 2017

You always hear Steve talking – but here is Janet in a 14 minute description of pilgrimages and what they mean to her and how she views travel, pilgrimages, the Bible and spirituality – from her perspective.

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The Sign of the Cross: It’s History, Meaning and Biblical Basis

May 5, 2017

SIGN OF THE CROSS By Steve Ray The Sign of the Cross is a ritual gesture by which we confess two important mysteries: the Trinity and the centrality of the Cross. It is the most common and visible means by which we confess our faith. The Sign of the Cross is made by touching the […]

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Consecration to Mary on 100th Anniversary of Fatima – Bishop James Conley

May 2, 2017

May 13, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children. We will be going to Fatima twice this year with pilgrimage groups and will arrive a few days after May 13th (due to crowds we avoided the actual day). Bishop James Conley shares his experience […]

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There are Two Seas in Palestine – Which One are You Like?

April 30, 2017

Since we are on a boat sailing the Sea of Galilee today, I thought I would share this parable that we will be reading to the pilgrims. Two Seas in Palestine, by Bruce Barton “There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees […]

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