Why Orthodox Christians “Pray to” Saints

Icons of Saints in an Orthodox Church

Those unfamiliar with the Eastern Orthodox Church may falsely assume that we pray to Saints in the same way one prays to God. They also tend to assume that our veneration of the Saints is idolatry. These assumptions usually stem from a misunderstanding about the difference between prayer to God and intercessory prayer, along with a misunderstanding about the Church here on earth and the Church in heaven. In this article, we will correct these misconceptions. We will also explain why the Orthodox pray to Saints and what role it plays in our spiritual lives.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

What is a Saint?

The Eastern Orthodox Church gives the title of “saint” (lowercase s) to anyone who has lived and died in Christ throughout history. While certain Saints (capital s) are officially canonized and commemorated by the Church, every baptized faithful Orthodox Christian is considered a saint, as a member of the royal priesthood that Christ established with the creation of His Church. Those Saints who received canonization stand out as excellent models for those of us who strive to live the life of Christ. A few well-known examples of canonized Saints are the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, the writers of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and Saint Basil.

Icons of female saints in the Orthodox Church

Saints are “those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14) through whom God is “bearing witness, both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:4). They died as martyrs, making a fearless confession of faith (often with the threat of death) and demonstrating self-sacrificing service to God. Our God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living (Mark 12:27). This means we all remain fully alive in Christ even after we have fallen asleep. Thus, the Saints continue to live with Him in Paradise beside His Throne and pursue communion with Him.

Because Saints are friends of God, our brothers and sisters in the Faith, we ask them to pray to God for us and for forgiveness of our sins (John 15:14-15).

Prayer to God vs. Intercessory prayer to Saints

It’s important to remember that while prayer can be a part of worship – when we pray to God, for example – prayer and worship themselves are not the same. To most Christians, prayer tends to mean speaking to God and/or asking Him for something. This is why many in the West often insist that praying literally is worshiping, because this definition implies that we reserve personal prayer for God alone. However, that does not make it worship.

Often forgotten is the fact that the word pray can also be used as an adverb, a preface before a polite request or instruction (ex: pray pour me a glass of wine). This definition does not imply a specific recipient of the request. Therefore, a Christian could pray to – or ask a request of – anyone, for anything, so long as they do not worship (i.e. devote their entire being to) anyone other than God.

When an Orthodox Christian “prays to” a Saint, what we are really doing is asking that Saint to pray for us, to intercede before God for forgiveness of our sins and for our salvation. This is what the Church calls intercessory prayer. We are not devoting our lives to their service, for such worship and devotion belongs to God alone. Instead, we merely ask the Saint to pray for us, just as we would any other human being. The Scriptures themselves actively exhort us to do this for one another.

The power of intercessory prayer

Jesus Christ, in His resurrected glory, always prays to His Father on behalf of all mankind. As Scripture tells us, “He holds His priesthood permanently because He continues forever. Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

In and through Christ, we can intercede before God for one another. He empowers us (and commands us) to pray for each other and for all creation (1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18). When we intercede for someone, we can ask God for any and every kind of blessing. Inspiration. Instruction. Visitation. Healing. Release from temptation. Forgiveness of sins. Salvation. Whatever we usually ask for ourselves, we can – and should – ask for all men, even our enemies.

Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.

James 5:16

To understand the power of intercessory prayer, we must remember God knows all things eternally. He exists outside of time. For God, there is no before and after. He knows what we ask before we even ask it. Thus He hears all of our prayers, even for (or to) those who are dead, before we even make them. There is great power in prayer, and even greater power in making that prayer tangible.

Mediator vs. Intercessor

A common objection to the Orthodox practice of asking intercession of the Saints is the assertion that Christ is the only Mediator. Yes, this is true. Christ is the One who affected salvation for us. That is what “Mediator” means. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ established a pathway to communion with God that before did not exist. That is why He is the Mediator.

Saints are not Mediators; they are merely intercessors, praying for us just as we on earth all pray for one another. It is not, as many might put it, “going around God,” given that interceding for one another is something He specifically asks us to do.

Why do Orthodox Christians pray to Saints?

Many Protestants wonder why Orthodox Christians pray to saints when we could go straight to God. The answer is quite simple. Because we know they will intercede for us before the throne of God (2 Cor. 5:20; Phil. 1:19; James 5:16; Job 42:8; Gen. 20:7; Exodus 32:11-14). We ask the Saints to pray for us because they dedicated themselves to Him – and sometimes gave their very lives. They serve as beautiful examples of how we, too, should fulfill our baptism through service to Christ and His Church.

Because of their righteousness, their prayers have great power with God. We know that God’s hears our prayers; how much more so would He hear the prayers of His Holy Ones! It would be foolish of us to cast the Saints and their loving prayers aside.

But praying to Saints is heretical…isn’t it?

Many Protestants claim that prayer to the Saints, particularly to the Virgin Mary, is heresy. However, there is no outcry about prayer to the Saints being heretical at any time in the history of the early Church. Because such a practice was part of Holy Tradition, long-established and a normative part of the spiritual lives of the early Christians. In fact, as early as AD 107-116, after the martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch, we find mention in writing of Christians who witnessed the Saint praying for them in a vision. And the oldest surviving prayer to the Theotokos, “Beneath Thy Protection”, dates back to AD 250.

In addition to the historical evidence, the Bible itself provides ample proof for the practice of intercessory prayer of the Saints. On the basis of the intercession by Christ, who is present at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25), by extension other people who have died but are alive in Christ can intercede on behalf of the petitioner (John 11:21-25; Romans 8:38–39). Further, Revelation 8:4 mentions the prayers of the Saints ascending before God, and Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31 indicates that those who are “dead” can pray for the living. We also see this in 2 Maccabees 15:14–17 and in the Book of Enoch; while these books are considered apocryphal to many Protestants, this at the very least roots this practice in Jewish custom, which was carried over into the early Christian Church.

To deny that the Saints in heaven are able to interact with us is equivalent to denying the power of Christ’s Resurrection. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. If the Saints cannot hear us because they are “dead”, this denies that Christ gives them the power to live. Paradise/heaven is not walled off from us; it is interactive and dynamic, and there are ways for us still here on earth to engage with the heavenly. Denying this means rejecting the salvific work of Christ on the Cross and His victory over death.

But you bow to and kiss their icons. Isn’t that idolatry?

According to English language definitions, worship and veneration are often considered synonymous with each other. However, in Greek, the original language of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the two are quite distinct. Veneration (Gr. doulia) means showing great respect and love for the holy. It is to treat something or someone with reverence, deep respect, and honor. Most often, we show that honor by kissing the icon of the Saint or briefly bowing before it. While in the West, Protestants might conflate kissing an image or bowing with worship, this association never existed in the Eastern Church. Kissing an image merely conveys love toward the one in the image. Likewise, in many cultures, a bow is merely a respectful way to greet another person.

Veneration, a way of showing delight for what God has done, is different from worship (Gr. latreia), the total giving over of the self to be united with God. In fact, we venerate one another every day, honoring each other as brothers and sisters created in the image of God.

In An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus writes:

[…] to the saints honor must be paid as friends of Christ, as sons and heirs of God […] And further, if the Creator and Lord of all things is called also King of kings and Lord of lords and God of gods (Rev. 19:16; Ps 50:1), surely also the saints are gods and lords and kings […] Now I mean gods and kings and lords not in nature, but as rulers and masters of their passions, and as preserving a truthful likeness to the divine image according to which they were made (for the image of a king is also called king), and as being united to God of their own free-will and receiving Him as an indweller and becoming by grace through participation with Him what He is Himself by nature.


Praying to Saints is normal!

We know only God can forgive sins; but we still ask others to pray for us for any number of reasons. “Please pray for me; I have a job interview this week!” “Please pray for my mother’s quick recovery from surgery.” When an Orthodox Christian prays to a Saint, the same sort of interchange takes place. We merely ask him/her to pray for us, and we ask him/her to ask God to help us with whatever struggles we might encounter.

The Saints pray unceasingly in the presence of God for those of us still awake. And they serve as a shining example for all of us who one day hope to be saints in our own right. Why wouldn’t you want them praying for you?

Read More: How to Choose Your Patron Saint

Share this post

Learn About The Orthodox Faith
Right From Your Inbox!

30 Responses

  1. Hallo John,

    I am also an orthodox and a believer in Christ. I just can’t understand why almost all orthodox tend to pray to other people/men (NOT SAINTS – there was only one saint on this world and that was Jesus Christ).

    22 Revelation 8-9
    8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.

    9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

    The angel (God’s Angel – not a man from this world) says: “… DO IT NOT: For I am thy fellowservant… . Worship GOD”.

    The angel also calls the prophets ‘servants’ just as he is. No saints but servants.

    Please don’t confuse the words ‘praying to’ and ‘praying for’. Yes, I pray everytime for my mother, brother and family.. . But i dont pray to them, never. Even if they were some of the best men on this world. You look up to them, you learn from them but we dont have to worship them and pray to them. They’re still MAN (but with a more understanding of the world and of the word of God)

    1. Amin! I am also orthodox and I also don’t understand why this huge effort to enshrine idolatry. The priests know very well that the regular people that go to church don’t know of they doulia vs latrina explanations. And they let them pray to St Mary like she is God. And they know that many of them have come to think that Mary is indeed part of the trinity. But they do not care.

      Stop playing word games and douliaing and latriaing us. You are worshipping. Have you read any of the prayer?? Have you read what they say?

      May Our Lord help us all!

      1. Claudia,

        Christ is in our midst. Far apart from being word games, this is the distinction the Church Fathers made between the honor afforded to Saints and the worship due to God alone. In our post addressing “worship” of the Theotokos, we address your concern with prayers to the Theotokos. We highly recommend reading that to aid in your understanding.

        You are correct that the Church’s leaders have failed with respect to educating their flock when it comes to the practice of the Faith. Many priests and bishops today are working to rectify this, and we pray they are successful in doing so. There are plenty of “regular people” who do educate themselves regarding the theology of the Church, so we would appreciate refraining from making sweeping generalizations like that. God bless.

      2. This was great. I am a Baptist and I want to get to know more about Orthodoxy until I decide whether I want to convert or not. I just have one question. Does Orthodoxy involve works for salvation? Not to sound hateful or anything, but I’m just curious.

        1. Gabriel,

          Christ is in our midst! Orthodoxy teaches that which is declared in the Scriptures: that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). At the same time, we believe that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). So while works are not a “requirement” for salvation, they are the fruits of a living, saving faith. Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions. God bless you!

        2. The most important thing to understand is the basis for this question. The west created a doctrine of merit, based on works done in faith. The East has no doctrine of merit. In other words, nothing we do counts for salvation credit points. Nevertheless, faith is not a mere mental ascent. The word actually means faithfulness. We’re are saved by our faithfulness, which includes soul transforming works done in faith. For us Orthodox works of faith are not meritorious but rather transformative. Salvation is transformation into the image of Christ.

      3. Well said Claudia! I might give the benefit of the doubt to the proposed ideology of intercession but we all know now it’s too far from the real worship plus it certainly caused a huge confusion and deviation from asking the intercession of the ONLY mediator and intercessor, our Lord Jesus Christ. I think we all know why the church leaders are doing nothing about this, it’s simply cause they consider this practice and related myths and false stories about miracles of the Saints, a winning card in their desperate game to keep their people away from the other churches. Shame on them !!!

        1. Basil,

          Christ is risen. We do not appreciate our commenters bearing false witness against the Church. If the laity are confused about a particular spiritual practice, they need only reach out to their spiritual father and he will explain it to them. Not to mention, there are many resources for anyone to access (like this blog) to find out the information for themselves. The Church does not need “winning cards”. And Faith is not a game. Before you cast aspersions, perhaps re-examine your motives in coming here to post such a comment in the first place, as it does not seem to be out of love for God or His people that you have done so. God bless.

  2. (Continuation)

    You also state that people need(or pray to) these ‘saints’ because they would bring our prayer closer to God. Why would I need that? If I want something i ask God for it, directly! There are prayers that whorship these ‘saints’. This in not ok. Kneeling in front of icons and kissing relics is just not right. It clearly stated in the Bible!

    Have a nice day!

  3. Paul,

    Christ is risen! It seems you are misunderstanding the meaning of what a Saint is. We see numerous mention of the Saints in Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 1:7; Hebrews 10:10; Psalm 34:9; Romans 16:15; Romans 8:27; Philippians 14:21-22; Colossians 1:26; 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Acts 9:32; Ephesians 1:1; among many, many others). These verses in the Scriptures clearly show that every one of us has the ability to become a Saint, and in fact that that is our purpose – achieving communion with God.

    You seem to think we have confused “praying to” and “praying for”. Please understand that we used “praying to” in this article because many who are not Orthodox make that same misconception and actively search for that online. Which is why we correct that misconception within the article. If you carefully reread, you will see that.

    The Orthodox do only worship God. Praying to a Saint and asking them for their intercessions is not the same as worship, as we explain in the article. And neither are kissing icons or bowing before them considered worship. Unfortunately, English is often lacking when it comes to communicating theological truths. Especially the difference between absolute worship of God and veneration of His creation (also referred to as relative worship). In the original Greek, the word for the latter appears in various forms of the noun προσκύνησις, proskynesis, which means to kneel or bow down before, and to show reverence and honor. This is the word we use for the veneration we give to icons and the relics of the Saints. It is also the word we use when we sing, “Come let us worship and fall down before Christ,” and “For unto thee are due all glory, honor, and worship…,” and also, “Before Thy Cross, we bow down in worship, O Master.”

    This is not, however, the same word we use when referring to our worship and adoration of God. That word is λατρεία, latreia, which means to adore. For example, we find this word in the Doxastikon of the Aposticha for the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils: “Wherefore, following their divine doctrines and believing with assurance, we worship, in one Godhead, the Father, Son, and All-holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence.” We also see it in the Apolytikion of the Nativity of Christ, alongside verbal forms of proskynesis: “. . . for they that worshipped (latreia) the stars did learn therefrom to worship (proskynesis) thee, O Sun of justice…” So, instead of giving all their adoration to the stars, the wise men now came to worship and fall down before Christ Himself, the Son of God, the Sun of justice.

    As we offer “worship” to the any Saint, we do so knowing we offer proskynesis. We offer honor and reverence, in “relative worship”. It is God, the Trinity, one in Essence, whom we worship and offer our inward form of adoration as latreia. Thus we stay true to our words and teachings, knowing that what we pray is what we believe. In English, might worship and veneration seem identical; however, the language of the Church clearly differentiates them. And we must politely insist that those who critique Orthodoxy do the same. Prayer can be a form of worship, but not all prayer is worship. Prayer to the One True God is latreia, while prayer to any other Saint (intercessory or otherwise) is offered as proskynesis.

    So you see, Paul, we do not offer worship to anyone other than the One True God. The misconception that we do comes from a lack of understanding of Orthodox theology and a twisting of the Scriptures. God bless.

    1. First, thanks for your info, it’s helpful. I have one question based on what y’all wrote above,

      “If the Saints cannot hear us because they are “dead”, this denies that Christ gives them the power to live. Paradise/heaven is not walled off from us; it is interactive and dynamic, and there are ways for us still here on earth to engage with the heavenly. Denying this means rejecting the salvific work of Christ on the Cross and His victory over death.”

      I don’t pray to saints because they’re dead (they are indeed alive). I don’t pray to saints because they are not omnipresent nor omniscient. Assuming that saints can simultaneously hear and know the prayers of Christians all over the world ascribes to them attributes that only God has. So my question is this, do you really believe-as you state above- that I’m “rejecting the salvific work of Christ”? Where in either Scripture or tradition is such ananthema placed on those who don’t pray to saints for conscience sake?

      1. Bill,

        Christ is in our midst! Thank you for your question. First, let us correct a misconception you seem to have about omniscience. Being able to perceive and understand several conversations (in this case prayers) at the same time is not omniscience. It’s merely superhuman perception granted by the Holy Spirit. Having established that, while the Saints themselves may not be omnipresent or omniscient as God Himself is, they commune with us through the Holy Spirit, Who Is.

        It also seems you misunderstand the concept of anathema. Anathema is a complete separation or expulsion from the Church. We do not exact the most extreme sanction against one of the faithful for not understanding the proper role of the Saints, as their wrong-doing in this regard simply comes from a place of ignorance. They simply do not know, which is why we wrote this article 🙂 Yes, in rejecting the Saints you unwittingly reject the salvific work of Christ. This is not a malicious rejection, but one done out of ignorance. So the answer to your question is, there is no anathema. But there is strong spiritual caution against rejection of the Saints, especially by those who claim to be Orthodox themselves.

        We hope this helps answer your question. God bless!

  4. Hello, thanks for the article. I understand much of what you’re saying. I have a burning question that has yet to be addressed in any explanation I have seen. Here goes;

    1) can anyone besides God see into your heart and know your inner thoughts. Can Saints or any other spiritual being interacting with us on earth hear the prayers you say via inner dialogue?

    2) if saints here on earth cannot, is there something about their being in Heaven that allows them to hear your inner prayers (this isn’t including prayers spoken aloud).

    Are there others beside the Lord that can see your innermost thoughts and hear your prayers that are not uttered aloud? I see no examples of this in the Bible. In the Bible only the Triune God knows men’s hearts and can see their thoughts.

    God bless, thanks again.


    1. Nick,

      Christ is risen! Thank you for your question. Saints are those who have attained salvation, which (in the Eastern Orthodox view) means union and communion with God. Being in union with God means being in union with His Divine Energies. Thus, through His Grace they are able to perform miracles, both while living and after having departed. If a Saint, while alive, could perceive events happening thousands of miles away or walk on water after making the sign of the cross over it, why should we find it so hard to believe that they could hear prayers made without the use of our mouths? As the Scripture tells us, with God all things are possible. And the Resurrection of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ has changed everything about the nature of Death and its power over us.

      In thinking about how this is possible, it helps to ask what a prayer actually is. Is it primarily a grammatical construct of words/thoughts expressing a particular desire to someone able to answer? Or do words merely clothe the prayer? Prayer is, in its essence, movement of the heart and spirit towards the one who can help. We are taught that the elders and Saints often prayed beyond thought and beyond words – face to face and heart to heart with God. Consider the woman with the issue of blood: she made no articulate prayer, but instead merely reached out to touch the hem of Christ’s garment and was healed.

      If the Saints are in Christ, then they too touch and communicate His glory, His power, His grace. Think of a sopping wet sponge touched by any number of dry paper towels. What is required for the towels to become wet? Only to touch the sponge. The act of touching instantly communicates the water, whether there is one paper towel or ten thousand. The Saints don’t have to mentally cobble together/process one by one the thousands, or even millions, of requests made to them. It is enough that they stand in the presence of Christ our God full of His love and mercy for us, full of readiness to help, present and dripping with grace. With our prayers we touch them. Our dry empty heart and need makes contact with their abundance in Christ. Their love, their prayer, is not restrained by temporal concerns or limitations. It is simple, whole and wholly in Christ.

      Lastly, in general, keep in mind that Scripture itself was born out of a living Tradition; not everything need be written about in the Scriptures for it to be true of God and His Saints. There is also the oral component of Tradition, which St. Paul makes mention of on several occasions (most notably 2 Thess. 2:15). We hope this was helpful to you. God bless!

    2. There is no scripture in the Bible stating that we can pray to a dead person, whether it be Mary, Paul etc. It never states that a saint that has gone on can be your mediator in prayer.
      I Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”
      In Luke 16, the story of Lazarus and the rich man, when he asked for Lazarus to be sent to him to cool his tongue and the reply was,,,’ between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. Then when he asked for his brothers to be warned he said they have the scriptures and the prophets, they will not listen if they don’t believe the scriptures. The bible also states that we are saints if we accept Jesus Christ in our lives and live for Him. So bottom line is lets read the bible and let the Holy Spirit interperet it for us, not taking it out of context and seeing it through another person, or religions lenses. Blessings to all.

      1. Anna,

        Christ is in our midst! You are correct that there is only one Mediator between God and man, as the Scriptures tell us. However, that does not mean we do not also have intercessors. We intercede for each other on a daily basis, when we pray for the health of others or for their salvation, safety, etc. Luke 16 in no way contradicts the Church’s teaching that we can and should ask Saints to intercede for us in their prayers to the Lord. In Luke 16, the story relates the existence of a chasm between those in paradise and those in Hades, not those alive and those reposed. And there is indeed a proper lens through which the Bible must be interpreted: the lens of the Church that compiled those Scriptures in the first place. It is only there that the Holy Spirit operates in His fullness, and it is only there that we can prevent ourselves from falling into the errors of our own false interpretations under the guise of being guided by the Holy Spirit. God bless!

  5. I go every now and then to my fiancé’s orthodox services because it’s required for us to be able to get married, but I can’t get over the icons they still feel like idolatry to me. My baptism is coming up and I feel uncomfortable that I’m going to have to prostrate. I’ve heard over and over that you’re not actually worshipping them when you bow to them, but how is not worship when it’s part of the worship service? If it’s not worship, then wouldn’t there be more of a choice whether you want to show respect to icons or not? If you don’t, like me, then you’re reminded to bow, or asked to go kiss the icons, and when I say that I’m uncomfortable to do it then I get exasperated looks. Aren’t traditions of a church centered around worship? Why does so much emphasis happen on saints, to the point they seem to overshadow the worship of Christ?
    Also, the point that a lot of Orthodox Christians make that it’s an image that allows us to keep our focus on God, what about the verse from 2nd Corinthians 5:7 we walk by faith not sight?

    1. Ellie,

      Christ is Risen! Rest assured, you are not alone in feeling these things. Many people who convert to Orthodoxy, or those who have a significant other who is Orthodox and they attend services together, express these reservations. It may take a while for you to become fully comfortable with the concept, so do not allow the reactions of others to fluster you. Become comfortable with Christ and His Church at the pace He sets for you.

      Before we get into this, we would strongly recommend speaking with your parish priest about your reservations; if you do not feel fully comfortable with what it means to be an Orthodox Christian, then you should not proceed until you do.

      That said, we will try to address your questions here and give you some guidance. The veneration of icons is not necessarily part of the worship service. We just do this while inside the church building because this is where most icons typically are. Most Orthodox Christians have icons in their homes that they will venerate every day, even simply when walking by them. (Almost like you would lovingly touch or kiss the picture of someone you loved when you saw it on your wall or desk.) Regarding what you said about a choice, you always have the free will to do as you please. However, that does not always mean that doing as you please is the proper course of action. When it comes to icons, these are windows into heaven – images of individuals who have completely given their lives over to God, many of whom died for Him. Perhaps the question is, why would you not want to show them your love and respect?

      The hang-up here often comes from the motion of bowing, since in Western culture we equivocate this with worship. However, in the Eastern Church and in that part of the world, it is merely a gesture of respect. It is not subjugation, nor is it worship. So the struggle here lies in freeing our Western minds from ideas that did not exist in the early Church. And as we said before, this takes time.

      We are curious to hear what you mean about there being so much emphasis on saints. If it is not too much trouble, we would appreciate your response, so we could learn more about your experience with that.

      The reason we employ the use of icons and consider them integral to the spiritual life of the Christian is because they manifest the truth of the Incarnation. In the early Church, there were many who denied that Christ was fully God and fully man. In icons, we can depict Him; we can show the world who God is. Because though we may walk by faith, the rest of the world does not. We keep our eyes on the image of God in the Person of Jesus Christ, to prevent ourselves from envisioning God in a way He should not be envisioned. We hope this has helped you; please do comment back with any questions! God bless!

  6. Hello. I do not see how kissing an icon shows respect to the one represented by it. If I saw someone kissing a photo of me, I would not feel respected, I would just think the person is a weirdo.

    Why not just remember their works? That would be showing respect in my view.

    1. Caio,

      Christ is in our midst! It is understandable you may feel that way, because we are all a product of our time. However, in the days of the early Church, the brotherly kiss was the utmost gesture of respect. It communicates that we see the image of God in one another and venerate that image. We must be careful not to place “my view” as the measure of whether something is “right” or “wrong”, but rather that of the Church, which has practiced veneration for millennia. God bless!

  7. Hi..I’ve been looking into orthodoxy..and get hung up on this every time. How do you Biblically justify praying to saints? I know you get around this by saying, that isn’t true, that you ask them to pray for you. Whatever you want to call it, you are addressing..talking to..a dead person. They are dead. The Bible expressly prohibits this. It’s not only dishonest, sincevprayer is basically conversational discourse; it doesn’t really matter what you actually say. It’s not permitted. Can you shed light on this? Thank yoy.

    1. Charlotte,

      Christ is in our midst! You touched on a couple different things in your question, so we’ll take a look at each separately. First, you mention that the Saints are dead. Our God is “not a God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto Him” (Luke 20:38). Our Lord Himself also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). In our limited human understanding of what is taking place upon death, we categorize them as “dead”. However, our Lord has made it abundantly clear that this is no longer the case for those who believe in Him and live a life that follows His commandments – i.e. a Saintly life.

      The prohibition you allude to in Leviticus was put in place in a pagan world in which conversing with demonic spirits and consulting mediums was quite commonplace. It also was established in a world that had not yet known the power of Christ’s Resurrection and His defeat of Death. We, now, almost take for granted the fact that the world has known of our Lord’s Resurrection for several lifetimes now and often forget that the warnings concerning the dead in the Old Testament have been transformed, as ALL has been transformed by the power of Christ and His salvific work upon the Cross. Those who die in Christ are at the same time alive in Him. Asking for the prayers of the Saints shows our steadfast belief in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us Himself that they are not dead.

      We hope this helps clear things up a bit. Should you have any follow-up questions, you are more than welcome to reply! God bless!

  8. It’s unnecessary to pray to anyone but Christ!

    1 Timothy 2:5
    King James Version
    5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

    1. DH,

      Christ is in our midst! We address this in our article. We ask others to pray for us before God, so why would we not ask the Saints to pray for us, too? God bless!

  9. Praise Jesus, our Lord. God bless you and thank you for your time and dedication to service.

    I’m interested in Orthodox theology but also have reservations as I seek to only serve God truly without deviating from the narrow path, however I can.

    In Matthew chapter 23 we read:

    8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

    Call no man teacher or rabbi, because only Jesus is our rabbi, and we are all brothers.

    What I gather from the words of Jesus is that we are all equal to each other, and should be humble, not venerate ourselves or each other. Rather, we should all equally strive to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in our thoughts, words, and deeds. I don’t mind learning about other people and their challenges and lives, but it seems to go against scripture to elevate man beyond what Jesus has laid out.

    And Jesus clearly says, John 14:14 you may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

    Why would I ask anyone else? “O ye of little faith” when I can ask Jesus directly, and believe in the words He spoke?

    I believe Him when He says I can ask Him for anything in the name of Jesus and He will do it. He didn’t say to ask Mary, or ask Basil, or ask our friends and family, He said to ask Him.

    People pray for each other, I understand this. But with there being a fine line between praying for each other and asking each other instead of asking Jesus directly, I err on the side of caution.

    I can’t in my heart talk to Mary and Basil when I know and trust that I can talk to Jesus directly.

    Jesus is omniscient and can hear me fully, and He tells me I can ask for anything in His name. So why should I reduce my faith in Jesus and not believe Him when He says that?

    If I only partially believe Him when He says that, then I might ask someone else “Hello Basil, can you pray to Jesus for me, because I don’t have faith that Jesus will give me what I ask Him directly, even though He said that He would”

    That’s the vibe I get and it seems like a lack of faith in Jesus to do so.

    I know you get tired of repeating these redundant questions but I’ve not seen John 14:14 and Matthew 23 discussed in depth in light of this topic.

    If you have more resources to point me to, I’m always eager to learn.

    Thank you and God bless and have mercy on us all, amen

    1. Robert,

      Christ is in our midst. We understand these reservations, as many who come from a Protestant background share these very same concerns. Allow us to address them in the order you brought them up in your original comment. Regarding Matthew 23, we published a separate article specifically addressing the passage that states we should call no man Father. We highly recommend reading this for the Church’s traditional interpretation of this passage.

      Indeed, we are called to be humble. Veneration is not diametrically opposed to humility. We can pay respect and honor those who deserve that honor – and we can receive such honor ourselves – without inciting vanity and pride. You are correct that we should all strive to follow in Christ’s footsteps, and the Saints are individuals who have succeeded in doing so. They are incredible role models for us, because they are just like us. They are not God, like Jesus Christ is. But they are fully human, and yet they succeeded in living the life of Christ! How amazing is that? Why would we not want to honor them? They submitted their wills to the Lord and denied themselves and took up their crosses to follow Him. What a price they paid – surely that deserves our respect! It is important to remember that respecting or honoring someone does not grant them superiority over you. Often in the West, we conflate these two things when they should not be confused or intermingled. We do not elevate the Saints, especially not above Christ Himself. We merely acknowledge the lives they lived and ask for them to pray for us before the Lord.

      Regarding John 14:14 and your concerns about reducing your faith…The line seems fine because you have not come close enough to the line to examine it. We do not ask the Saints to grant us salvation. We do not ask them to forgive our sins, nor do we ever ask them to grant us mercy or peace of themselves. We ask them to pray that Christ Himself will do these things for us, because we are commanded to pray for one another in the Scriptures. That is not a fine line; in actuality, it is a rather cut and dry distinction that many people insist is not cut and dry.

      Asking the Saints to pray for your salvation, repentance, forgiveness of sins, etc. is not reducing your faith in Christ. It is our natural response as humans, to reach out to other humans and pray for one another before the Lord. God created us as social creatures who deeply care for the wellbeing of our fellow man. The vibe you are getting comes from a distinctly Western view of theology, not the authentic view of the Church. That is to be expected, because you are (we assume) coming from a Western confession as a type of Protestant. In light of this explanation, feel free to post follow-up questions. We always enjoy the back-and-forth with people who are eager to learn more! God bless you!

  10. Hi…One of the hangups I have on this is what would the saints say if they were with us today? Would they be comfortable with their image being displayed so prominently and people kissing or bowing to them? Or would they rather our full attention be directed to Christ and not them. Thanks for your response.

    1. Cory,

      Christ is risen! Many of the Saints understood that when we venerate an icon, we venerate the image of Christ in that person. We do the same thing (or should) with every human being we meet. We respect them, honor them, as fellow human beings made in the image of God. And because they are no longer here with us to receive that honor and respect directly, we give it to them instead through the veneration of their icons. Were they here among us, such veneration would not be necessary. But alas, they are now with Christ in a place we cannot follow until it is our time! But that does not mean that our veneration of those in the Body of Christ should cease simply because they have fallen asleep. God bless!

  11. Hello, can we pray to saints directly, or should we ask God to let the saints to pray for us? I am still confused when I pray, because I don’t know if saints can hear my prayers directly to them. I am currently on my journey through orthodoxy, I have much to learn. Thank you.

    1. Michael,

      Christ is risen! We appreciate your question. Generally, there are two ways you can engage in intercessory prayer with a Saint. The first “formula”, for lack of a better word, would go something like this: “O Holy Saint ____, intercede before Christ our God that He may save my soul.” You could also use the “formula” we hear in the Divine Liturgy quite often: “Through the prayers of Saint _____, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.”

      Since the Saints are in Christ now, they hear our prayers through Him. As He is dwelling in each of them, just as He dwells in each of us. It is natural to worry or doubt whether they can hear us. However, if we trust in the word of the Lord, that He is the God of the living (not of the dead), then these fears will slowly dissipate over time. God bless you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prayer And Candle Requests

***If you would like to offer prayers for living and departed, please submit two separate requests: one for the living and one for the departed.