A previous commenter (apparently a non-Catholic) had asked "why we pray to the Saints and to Mary".
By this time, this post was about a week old, and the discussion on the blog seemed to have shifted to other, more recent posts.
Still, I wanted to answer her question, since as far as I could tell, she had asked it out of genuine curiosity, and without a hint of rhetorical dismissiveness.
My response was this:
The easiest way to explain why we ask the saints to pray for us is to say that there is "strength in numbers" when it comes to pray.
When we have a burning need that we want to ask God for, we don't keep it to ourselves. Instead, we ask others to pray with us and for us.
That's exactly what we're doing when we ask the saints to pray for us.
(You'll notice that I said, "ask the saints to pray for us" instead of "pray to the saints". I think it sounds confusing to say "pray to the saints," since it implies that when we ask the intercession of the saints, we're praying to them and not to God. Obviously, that's not the case. Instead, we're praying to God, along with the saints.)
Also, the Catholic belief in the intercession of the saints is very much a Biblical belief - for example:
James 5:16 - "The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." (Who is more righteous than the saints in heaven?!)
Revelation 5:8 - "When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones."
Another commenter must have been digging through their archives, as Cyndi (one of the contributors to TET -- the same one who interviewed me a few months ago) e-mailed me to say that someone had responded to my comment, and invited me to respond if I would like to.
That comment was this:
Re John Jansen's comment: If you approach the verses objectively, James 5:16 and Revelation 5:8 are not evidence that the belief in intercession of the saints is biblical. You are simply reading your beliefs into them. Do you have any other verses that support the belief in intercession of the saints, in your opinion?
First, I'm really glad to see that the comment I posted last month didn't go to waste - so to speak. (I'm sure those among you who are habitual comment-posters can relate to the feeling of, "Is anybody ever going to read this?")
I just posted a comment in reply to this comment indicating that I've posted a longer reply here. (My response follows.)
Actually, if one approaches James 5:16 and Revelation 5:8 objectively -- coupled with some other verses I cite below -- it's quite clear that the saints in heaven pray for us.
A simple syllogism illustrates this:
The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful before God.
The saints (angels and human beings in heaven) are obviously righteous (cf. Rev. 21:27 - "No unclean thing shall enter heaven...").
Therefore, the prayers of the saints are very powerful.
You are simply reading your beliefs into them.
While I do believe in the intercession of the saints, it's inaccurate, in a manner of speaking, to characterize it (or any of the articles of faith I profess) as "my beliefs".
It's not so much my belief as it is the Church's belief.
The belief in the intercession of the saints has been handed down from the Apostles. Those who knew the Apostles, and those who knew those who knew the Apostles, and those who knew those who knew those who knew those who knew the Apostles -- well, you get the idea -- believed in the intercession of the saints. (There are many examples of the early Church Fathers professing belief in the intercession of the saints here.)
Furthermore, Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation (cf. 2 Peter 1:20). If I were to read my own beliefs into a particular passage in search of some sort of proof text, I would be wrong to do so, because I would have no right to do so.
It's the Church's job to "guard the deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20), and to settle disputes that arise within the Church (cf. Acts 15). Thus, the Church has the enormously important duty of properly handing on teachings that come not only from Scripture, but also Sacred Tradition - see, for example, 2 Thess. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:2, Luke 10:16, Rom. 10:17, 1 Pet. 1:25, 1 Cor. 11:2, 1 Cor. 15:3.
As for other biblical verses that support belief in the intercession of the saints, there are numerous verses where Paul asks other Christians to pray for him -- e. g., Rom. 15:30-32, Eph. 6:18-20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1.
When you get right down to it, that's all we're doing when we seek the intercession of the saints: We're asking other Christians to pray for us.
Furthermore, the Bible actually directs us to ask those in heaven to pray with us:
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will! (Psalm 103:20-21)
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host! (Psalm 148:1-2)