The Saints Petition for Us
All Saints
1 November 2016
Lutherans believe in the intercession of the saints, that is, we believe that the saints in heaven are continually surrounding the throne of heaven interceding for their brothers and sisters who remain in this vale of tears (Rev 8:3). By the intercession of the saints, of course, we do not mean that we can reach them with our prayers, or that intercessions should be addressed to them. No, we Lutherans are quite clear that prayer is an act of worship and that prayer is to be addressed to Him who alone answers prayer. Mary and the saints themselves never prayed to anyone but God for divine and supernatural help. They would be appalled if they knew that we were addressing petitions to them! Jesus has promised to hear our prayers and to answer them (Lk 10:2; Mt 9:38; 1Pt 3:12). Why wouldn't we take him at His Word and take Him up on His invitation?
It is also comforting to know that the Lord Jesus has invited the faithful departed to offer prayers on our behalf, as He gathers them around His throne in heaven. Our paltry prayers are not only reaching His ears, but the prayers of His faithful saints, both living and departed, now also are being offered to Him. We live in a broken world and are not left to offer prayer alone. We are among a myriad saints calling upon Him. The great cloud of witnesses is on our side (Heb 12:1). Nor is it necessary to request that they do this service for us in God's presence, as it is necessary to do with those saints who have not yet been added to the heavenly kingdom. There is no grumbling in heaven: "Ah, Jesus, do we have to!?" The saints in heaven need no prompting to do what it is their eternal joy to do.
They surround the throne of God and the Lamb upon the throne and cry out, "Salvation belongs to God and to the Lamb" (Rev 7:9-10). They are offering petitions for us based on that promise of salvation from the God who gives salvation to sinners. They are praying as they did in the world, only now they see the One to whom they are praying. We have a great cloud of witnesses petitioning for us. I don't know about you, but I find that comforting.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
"Granted that blessed Mary prays for the church, but does she receive souls in death, does she overcome death, does she give life? What does Christ do if blessed Mary does all this? Even though she is worthy of the highest honors, she does not want to be put on the same level as Christ but to have her example considered and followed. The fact of the matter is that in popular estimation the blessed Virgin has completely replaced Christ. Men have invoked her, trusted in her mercy, and sought through her to appease Christ, as though he were not a propitiator but only a terrible judge and avenger.
"We maintain that we dare not trust in the transfer of the saints' merits to us, as though God were reconciled to us or accounted us righteous or saved us on this account. We obtain the forgiveness of sins solely by Christ's merits when we believe in him. About the other saints it has been said (1Co 3:8 ), 'each will receive his wages according to his labor'; that is, they cannot bestow their merits on one another, like the monks who peddle the merits of their orders. Hilary says of the foolish virgins: 'Since the foolish virgins could not go out with their lamps extinguished, they begged the wise ones to lend them oil. These replied that they could not give it for fear that there might not be enough for all. No one can be helped by the works or merits of others, for everyone must buy oil for his own lamp.'
"Our opponents teach that we should put our trust in the invocation of the saints, though they have neither a Word of God nor an example from Scripture for this. They apply the merits of the saints in the same way as the merits of Christ and thus transfer to the saints the honor that belongs to Christ. Therefore we cannot accept either their ideas about venerating the saints or their practice of praying to them. We know that we must put our trust in the intercession of Christ because only this has God's promise. We know that the merits of Christ are our only propitiation. Because of them we are accounted righteous when we believe in him, as the text says (Rm 9:33 ), 'Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' We must not believe that we are accounted righteous by the merits of the blessed Virgin or of the other saints."

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, 21.27-31
Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." 
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Lord Jesus, listen to the petitions offered up by Your saints and grant their prayers, so that we, who remain in the world, would be comforted by knowing that they pray for us and that You listen to our needs. Amen.
For Michael Golchert, who is undergoing therapy for cancer, that the heavenly Physician would grant him strength and healing
For those who are caring for elderly parents, that they would be strengthened in their service to the aging
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Jesus would strengthen him in his labors and build him up in the holy faith
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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