Saintly Intercession: How and Why to Pray to Saints

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The practice of asking saints to intercede or pray for us is deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition. Many outside the faith may find it perplexing, while others within the Church might not fully understand its biblical and theological foundations. In this article, we will delve into what saintly intercession is, its basis in Scripture and Tradition, and how to go about it.

What is Saintly Intercession?

Intercession, in simple terms, means praying for someone else’s behalf. When we talk about saintly intercession, we’re referring to the practice of asking saints in Heaven to pray for us to God. Importantly, we’re not worshipping the saints, but seeking their intercession.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies, “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus” (CCC 956).

The Scriptural Foundation

Old Testament

In the Old Testament, we find instances of intercession, where prophets and patriarchs pray for the people. Moses is a prime example, interceding for the Israelites on multiple occasions (Exodus 32:11-14).

New Testament

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself engages in intercessory prayer, especially in the High Priestly Prayer (John 17:9-26). Paul, too, often speaks of praying for the members of the early Church (Romans 1:9, Ephesians 1:16).

The key verse that supports saintly intercession in the New Testament comes from Revelation 5:8, “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” The text shows that saints in heaven offer our prayers to God, represented by the “golden bowls full of incense.”

Tradition and the Early Church

From the early days of the Church, Christians sought the intercession of saints. We find evidence in the writings of the Church Fathers, like St. Augustine, who said, “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, Book 20, Chapter 21).

The Communion of Saints

The idea of intercession is intrinsically linked to the Communion of Saints—a spiritual union comprising the Church Militant (us on Earth), the Church Suffering (souls in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven). We are all part of one body (1 Corinthians 12:26-27), and when one part suffers or rejoices, all parts are affected. The Catechism tells us, “We can and should ask them [the saints] to intercede for us and for the whole world” (CCC 2683).

The Role of Mary

While all saints can intercede for us, Mary holds a unique position as the Mother of God. The Church has always venerated her and sought her intercession. “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power” (CCC 970).

How to Seek Saintly Intercession

Step 1: Choose a Saint

You can seek the intercession of any saint, but often people feel drawn to saints who had similar life circumstances or challenges.

Step 2: Use Established Prayers or Your Own Words

The Church has many traditional prayers asking for the intercession of saints, such as the Hail Mary or various novenas. However, you can also speak in your own words.

Step 3: Be Specific and Trust

When you ask for a saint’s intercession, be specific in your requests and trust that your prayers are heard.

Step 4: Thank the Saint and God

After your prayer, it’s appropriate to thank the saint for their intercession and God for His eternal love and care.


Saintly intercession is a treasure of the Catholic Church, deeply rooted in both Scripture and Tradition. By understanding its biblical basis and historical roots, we can more fully appreciate this gift. We are not alone; the Communion of Saints reminds us that heaven is invested in our earthly journey. Through the intercession of saints, we are drawn more closely into relationship with God.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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