If my relationship with the Christian saints who have gone on before me were listed on my Facebook profile page, it would read "It's complicated." Growing up, I would have balked at any Christian who prayed to a saint, including those who said the Hail Mary prayer. I prayed to the members of the Trinity, and only to them. The two saints I knew of were St. Patrick (I always wore green on his day to avoid getting pinched) and St. Nicholas (the jolly giver of gifts at Christmas). I couldn't have told you much about the actual lives of these men, but holidays were fun, so thank you very much for that. Then, when Mother Teresa died, there was a lot of talk about whether she would be canonized as a Saint. Wasn't every believer a saint? This "saint" word was also thrown around casually, "thanks for putting a cup of coffee on my desk this morning, you're a saint." There's a football team named the New Orleans Saints. See what I mean? It's complicated. In Bible study, I've come across a few verses that further complicate matters.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us.... Hebrews 12:1 (CSB)
And in The Message paraphrase:
Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? (Hebrews 12:1)
When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8 CSB)
I'm not a Bible expert. I'm just a girl who probably asks too many questions. These verses are confusing. Still, I feel like my Christian brothers and sisters who practice a more traditional faith get some of the very best spiritual disciplines, and I want them too. The prayer ropes of the Orthodox. The Mezuzah of the Messianic Jew. The Holy Water of the Catholics. The prayers of the saints. People chuckle sometimes when I talk about such things, but I enter into deeper times of worshiping Jesus when I use these spiritual elements. They right my focus.
A few weeks ago, I had a friend who had a health scare and she needed immediate prayer. She doesn't attend a church, but when I got her text, I told her I would ask some of my praying friends, women who don't even know her, to lift up her situation. I texted three ladies, told them they didn't need to respond to my text, but would they please pray? Every single one of them did, and later they asked me how my friend was doing. Saints.
But what if there are also saints surrounding the throne of God right now? What if when I mention them by name or just say saints in my prayers, I'm not praying to them, but reminding myself they are there, and that I'm part of something much, much bigger than my current circumstances? What if, while the Holy Spirit is groaning on my behalf (Romans 8:26), and Jesus is interceding for me (Romans 8:34), there's a whole host of saints praying as well, and their prayers smell good? A cacophony of support for me. I am a sinner. I know for certain I don't have all the answers. Lord, help my unbelief. If there are saints up there, out there, surrounding me, cheering me on, that gives me an incredible boost of hope and strength. We didn't even talk about angels in this post! As Christians, we're part of a tradition that is thousands of years old. These people who have gone before me inspire me, and show me that through Christ, I am a conqueror, not only because that's promised to me in Scripture, but because they were conquerors. If they're praying for us, I want in on that.