How do Anglican's approach prayers of intercessions to saints?

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Incorrect. The Athanasian Creed is printed on p. 864 of the '79 American book.

    The Articles of Religion are a fascinating subject. There were the little known 12 Articles of 1538, possibly mostly ignored by modern scholars because they were published in Latin. The Act of the Six Articles of 1539 was probably acceptable to most Roman Catholics of that time (the 1st is questionable but was probably acceptable in the pre-Tridentine period). Then we get 42 in 1553 and now the church has imbibed deeply of Continental Protestantism. Then the 39 in 1571, which many scholars have intimated were primarily a political solution. Too many have assumed that the development from 42 to 39 just represented a deletion of 3 problematic articles but this is not the case. That is lazy scholarship. There exist more differences than just dropping a few articles. A careful reading will unveil a struggle between the Lutheran and Reformed parties over who will dominate English Protestantism.

    Then we have the RECs 'Declaration of Principles' in the 1870s, which has been all but suppressed in the current era, except around E. Pennsylvania. The Continuum gave the Anglican world the 'Affirmation of St. Louis', which took a controversial position recognizing 7 councils and 7 sacraments. And GAFCON has given us the Jerusalem Declaration. Some of these later documents either effectively supplanted or became interpretive keys to some of the intentional vagueness of the 39 Articles of Religion.

    But what has generally been recognized, except among a certain faction of the Evangelical party, is that the Articles of Religion were not a confession of faith after the same manner as the Augsburg Confession, Belgic Confession, or Westminster Confession. Rather, they represented parameters of acceptable public teaching. We have three Confesssions of faith (2 in many pockets) in the form of the 3 creeds.
     
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  2. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I didn’t mean to sidetrack this thread, so I’ll just say a few things here and let someone else more capable elaborate further.

    We have to humble ourselves by the fact that it formed Christians for thousands of years, and is above any person’s individual hesitancy or quibbles. Ours is not an individualistic faith. I know that cuts against the grain of postmodern 21st America, but 21st century America is not a healthy culture.

    To me that’s a distinction without a difference. For centuries the clergy had to swear on the Prayer Book, on the Articles, etc. It was always understood as an accurate representation of ancient, pre-Roman, catholic church. And so it is. While, yes, it wasn’t meant to be exhaustive in the way that the confessions you listed were, nevertheless it was meant to be factually true.
     
  3. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Do the Articles not say the councils can err? Does that not mean that the articles can err? If the articles themselves state that they can err than you can affirm the articles knowing that they may be wrong and you can push how to correct the wrong in interpretation or intent.
     
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Of course anything man-made can be wrong, and that applies not only to the Articles but to the Council of Nicea, the Apostles Creed and anything else. However with Church documents, an individual doesn't have the capacity to falsify Church documents. For example when Luther put up a challenge to the Roman teachings, his challenge alone was insufficient to make his claims have merit. Only the Church can correct the Church, which is precisely what happened with the Church of England that had affirmed the Reformation and rolled back the Roman errors near-unanimously (something like 98-99% of the Convocation).

    The way it played out has given to the future a literally ideal alternative the two current (untenable) paradigms: each person deciding his doctrine for his own, and the Church calling its decrees infallible while overturning them every so often.
     
  5. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    I was reading a devotional text today, "The Fates of the Twelve Apostles," by the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf. Near the end of the work is this interesting passage:
    And now I pray that man, whosoever hath joy in the course of this lay, that he entreat that holy band for me in my affliction, for help and peace and succour. How great a need have I of gentle friends upon my way, when I seek out alone my long home, that unknown dwelling-place, and leave behind the body, this bit of earth, to be a spoil and solace unto worms.
    "That holy band" is an allusion to the twelve apostles. This piece thus demonstrates that prayer to and intercession of the saints was an accepted part of English piety in the 9th century. How Cynewulf understood this practice is unclear. What that has to do with the present day, you decide. It is an interesting historical note.
     
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  6. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    It does seem to be a long established practice even in the earliest centuries. The Articles only talk about Romanish practices so I see nothing wrong with asking Saints to pray for us, understand how it can quickly get out of hand, and understand the need to be careful with it.
     
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  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Isaiah 8:19-20 states: And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (ESV) The KJV translates the latter as, “they have no light.” The principle laid forth here is that people who seek to communicate with the dead for the benefit of the living are lacking inner light. Those who have the light should know to “inquire of their God,” for He is the light living within them.

    If a millionaire stood beside us and offered to provide for our financial need, which of us would be so foolish as to ignore him, pick up the phone to call some good friend, and ask the friend to get ahold of the millionaire on our behalf? Such is the foolishness of asking deceased saints for intercession when the Greater One lives with us and in us, and when Jesus our high priest “ever lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25). Those who instead pray to the deceased saints demonstrate weak faith in their God, for they seem to think that the dead will persuade God to do things He would not otherwise do for His children, whom He dearly loves and for whom He has pledged to provide.
     
  8. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    Do you say that about people who ask other people for their prayers?
     
  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    No, of course not. :)
    Mat 18:19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
    Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

    There is great benefit to agreeing together in prayer, and in corporate prayer. But Jesus specifically said, "if two of you agree on earth." Jesus explicitly supports people on earth joining together in prayer, but He did not speak in support of someone on earth joining in prayer with someone not on earth. Since Christ knew Isaiah 8 full well, I don't think He ever would have supported the latter.

    Asking someone, here on earth, to pray for or with us actually presents them with an opportunity to provide ministry (service) on our behalf, and this is a blessing not just to us but to the person we've asked. The person's willingness to serve out of love is looked upon with favor by God and will be rewarded in heaven. But the deceased person has run his race (2 Tim. 4:7) and has entered into God's rest (Heb. 4:10), so I believe he is no longer in a position of service to the living.

    BTW, I participate in the prayer team at our parish; each Sunday during communion a pair of us stand ready (with masks, in case anyone wonders) to offer prayer to any who wish to come to us with a request. The volunteers who comprise this team rotate and have a turn once or twice per month. Seeing people offering compassionate prayer like this was one of the things I noticed and valued when I first began attending here. To me it said, "we in this church believe that God answers prayer."
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of prayer, you folks might need to pray for my wife's eyesight.... it must be getting weaker.... why, the other day, she said I look old!

    :laugh:
     
  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    After some reflection, I think there is another thing that differentiates prayers between people on earth and prayers to deceased saints. (The following is just my opinion and observation.) When we ask someone here on earth to pray for us or with us, we generally see them as normal human beings like us, people who are "in the same boat" as us in that we all "see" dimly into the spiritual realm and must rest in faith that our prayers are heard. In contrast, when someone prays to a deceased saint, I think the saint is viewed as someone who "has a leg up" on us spiritually, someone who sees and communicates clearly with God in the spirit realm. (Folks in the RCC will go so far as to attribute special powers to canonized saints, since those named saints aren't canonized as saints until at least two miracles have been attributed to them by attestation.)

    What I'm trying to say is this: I think there's a great temptation or inclination to place faith in the deceased saint, to trust that saint as someone whose request to God somehow carries more weight than our own prayers to God. This, I think, is a transfer of faith from God to the saint; perhaps the praying person no longer fully believes that God hears our prayers from earth as well as He hears a prayer from heaven, or perhaps the person believes that God is more likely to be persuaded by the saint in heaven than by the prayers of people on earth. In other words, I think that there is a weakened faith in God, along with misplaced faith in the deceased saint as a person with a "special" ability.

    The Bible shows us that "walking by faith" in God, and only in God, is an important part of Christian life. Jesus assured us that we can trust God to meet our needs. He said that God will give good things to those who ask Him (Matt. 7:7-11). He said that God would provide for us better than He takes care of the flowers of His fields and the birds in His air (Matt. 6:26-30).

    I think that when people look for their needs to a dead saint, a being who has transcended death and to whom we ascribe a more-than-natural (other-worldly) ability to communicate with God (an ability higher than that of mortals), there is a strong tendency for the human to misplace some of his trust and place it on that saint rather than directly on our gracious Lord and Provider.

    In contrast, when we ask our fellow Christian to agree with us in prayer for some request, we know that they and we are equals before God, and they are human beings with no "special" powers (unless a spiritual gifting is provided to one by God, but that is still the power of God and not of the person); we don't put faith in our fellow believer because we know that our fellow believer has no greater 'hot line' to the Father than we ourselves do, through Christ our high priest and mediator.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2020
  12. Moses

    Moses Member

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    Ignoring God and asking a wizard to summon a dead man to predict the future for you is quite a bit different than asking for the prayers of those who are alive in Christ.
    Christ himself told us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not dead but living. And Paul explained to the Galatians that we are all one in Christ. Being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, it would be a misfortune to assume they are dead and cannot pray for us.
    As St. John saw under the fifth seal, the martyrs in heaven are crying out for justice on earth.
     
  13. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    I don't think this is entirely true. Qualifications have been downgraded at times. St Jerome ( of Vulgate fame) was the first person to be made a saint without performing a miracle.
     
  14. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    When I used the word "deceased," I meant it as physical, mortal death. Of course their spirits are living, and presumably conscious in either heaven or the underworld. Their conscious state does not necessarily mean that they are paying attention to us on earth; perhaps the saints in heaven are so enraptured by God's intimate Presence that they give us no thought. Certainly the saints are not omniscient, so even if they're paying attention to earthly doings there is no way to know if they hear any (let alone all) prayers we make. And even if they can perceive every single prayer (mental or vocal) made to them, none of that goes to the fundamental question of whether it's appropriate for us to be asking them for help, in light of scripture.

    Looking at Isaiah 8 in the ESV,
    Isa 8:19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?
    the Lord says it is wrong to inquire of the dead (the physically deceased) on behalf of the living. If it is wrong for mediums (or evil people of whatever sort) to try to get help from those who have passed, how would it somehow be proper for Christians to do so? Are not Christians attempting to act in the same manner as 'mediums' when they try to contact the deceased and enlist their aid? Does God's grace, bestowed upon us without our merit, somehow transform what is a sinful act for those sinners into a wholesome act for us sinners? Mediums should have avoided the sin of asking the deceased for their aid; shouldn't we also attempt to abstain from the sin of asking for aid from those who have left this mortal existence?
     
  15. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I don't think anyone is asking the saints to pray for them are inquiring from them but asking someone who is spiritually alive to also pray for them. There is a difference in inquiring and asking someone to pray for you
     
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  16. Moses

    Moses Member

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    Recieving help from the departed is not in and of itself a sin; otherwise reading scripture, adhering to the US constitution, inheriting money, or being sheltered from the rain at Westminster Abbey would all be sinful.

    No, they are not. Again, ignoring God to instead ask witches to summon the dead to answer questions for us (as Isaiah condemns) is very different from asking our fellow-Christians to pray to the Almighty God on our behalf.

    One of these things is a rejection of God, the other an affirmation.

    Yes. For example, there are a variety of circumstances in which it's wrong for a man and woman to have intercourse, but the same act is sanctified through God's grace in marriage. Likewise, giving alms through God's grace is different from giving alms to be admired by others.

    On the other hand, necromancy, witchcraft and ignoring God -as in Isaiah's condemnation- is always bad. After all, there is no godly way to ignore God and do witchcraft. Likewise, I can't imagine a set of circumstances when asking others to pray to God would be evil.
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I am inclined to disagree with the view that there is a substantive difference. "Inquiring of them" may be inquiring for information, but if one looks up the definition of "inquire" one of the definitions is "ask;" therefore, asking for a favor ("Saint X, pray for me," or "Saint Y, intercede with the Lord on my behalf") is also inquiring because one is essentially asking the deceased saint, "Will you pray for me?"

    When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, did Jesus say to pray thusly? "Moses, intercede for me. Elijah, help me in my infirmity. Solomon, talk to God for me." No. Jesus taught that the right way to pray is to "our Father."

    In my view, Biblically correct prayer is always prayer to God, and prayer to the spirit of a created being is incorrect. This can be differentiated from asking a fellow believer on earth to pray to God for you, because you're (not praying to the fellow believer but) asking them to pray with you (to agree with you in prayer to God). The only way to reach a spirit of a non-corporeal, deceased saint is by praying to the saint in the hope that the saint will do something for you; it is far better to pray to God and ask Him to do something for you.

    We are told that we may come boldly to the throne of grace and ask God for help (Heb. 4:16). God loves us and wants to meet our needs; moreover, He wants us to trust and rely on Him. If we truly trust Him, we have confidence that He hears us (directly) and will provide what is in the best interest of all concerned. God is right with us, for He (the Holy Spirit) even lives within us. For communication (prayer requests), it doesn't get any better than that. No need to call Saint X long-distance, when God is present right where we're at! :)

    If we pray to the deceased saint, this might mean that we are unsure of God's willingness to provide (or perhaps of His willingness to hear us); James' epistle (1:5-8) warns against such doubt, for it says that a double-minded man receives nothing. If we have confidence in God, what need do we have to seek (and hope for) the intercession of another spirit in the heavenly realm whom we surmise is listening to us? Do we have more faith in the deceased saint than in God? Hopefully not.
     
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    The issue is praying to the departed spirits, but you've re-characterized it as 'receiving help' rather than asking for help. Regarding praying to the spirits of created beings for help, please see my previous post to bwallac.
     
  19. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I should point out that I don't ask for intercessory prayers to the saints but I see the issue different than Rexlion.
     
  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Isa 8:19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

    It has been suggested that it only was wrong for mediums (spiritists) to seek help from the deceased spirits. We can be confident that God's word shows us the wrongfulness of mediums engaging in this practice. But consider the reason why the people of that day might have sought out (or been tempted to seek out) a spiritist. The reason was, to seek the spiritist's aid to get into contact with the dead. And why would they seek the spiritist's aid? Obviously, it was because the average person felt certain that contacting a deceased spirit was beyond the average person's ability. Otherwise, no one would have gone to a spiritist; they would have simply sought out the deceased person without an intermediary. It is possible that the verse associates the sin of "inquiring of the dead on behalf of the living" with mediums (and not with average people), not because it was only sinful for the mediums, but because mediums were the ones doing it at the time. Most other people thought that the deceased were beyond their personal reach of contact.

    However, since this is a single scripture and is at least somewhat ambiguous in that it might be interpretable in more than one way, I concede that there is (some basis but) not a strong basis in scripture for the proposition that praying to deceases saints is sinful. Under the circumstances, the Christian must be guided by the inner witness. The question one must ask oneself is, "can I in good faith do this?" For whatever is not of faith is not of God. I personally cannot in good faith pray to Mary or the saints in heaven, but perhaps YMMV.
     
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