Why Catholics believe in the power of intercessory prayers

By Tom Quiner

Matthew: 8:13, as dramatized in "Jesus of Nazareth"

Matthew: 8:13, as dramatized in “Jesus of Nazareth”

“Would you pray for me?”

Have you ever asked someone to do that for you? Most of us have at some point in our lives. Why would we do that? Why not just pray directly to God ourselves?

I broach this topic because of a thoughtful response I received from a faithful Quiner’s Diner reader. She’s a Southern Baptist. I’m a Roman Catholic. Catholicism believes in the veracity and power of intercessory prayers.

My Southern Baptist reader wrote:

“I certainly have no problem with anyone going at Christianity as they see fit. I just can’t get past the fundamentals. I haven’t read anything in The Bible about praying to anyone but The Father.”

She represents a lot of Protestants who wonder the same the thing. This provides a good opportunity to respond from a Catholic perspective. A lot of Protestant misgivings about Catholicism are simply based on a lack of information.

Catholics not only believe that the living can pray for us, but so can those who dwell with the Lord in heaven because the bible tells us so, in Revelation 5:8:

“8 When He had taken the [a]book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the [b]saints.”

This passage reveals that the saints are aware of our prayers and offer our petitions to God Himself. That’s why Catholic high Mass uses incense. It is a symbol of our prayers.

The bible tells us to intercede for others through our prayers elsewhere in the New Testament. St. Paul, who was taught by Christ Himself through revelation, urges us to intercede in 1 Tim. 2:1–4:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Clearly, sacred scripture acknowledges the legitimacy of prayerful intercessions, both of the living and the saints who reside in heaven. But my Southern Baptist reader, I think, really suggests an important point: why bother? Why not pray directly to God the Father and avoid the middleman?

But intercessory prayers must be important. After all, St. John and St. Paul, writing in the scripture passages cited above, reveal that it is good and pleasing to God to do so.

Look at it this way: praying for someone else is an act of love. What is love but willing the good of the other. Since God is Love, willing the good of the other is a Godly act. It is so very pleasing to God Himself.

Do you remember what happened in Matthew: 8:13? A Roman centurion had a beloved servant who was very ill. He had faith that Jesus could heal the servant, so he interceded and took his prayer for the other to Jesus. What happened? His prayer was answered:

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

When you ask someone to pray for you, you are asking them to love you.

When someone asks you to pray for the them, they are asking you to love them.

Intercessory prayer is a profound act of love that draws us all closer to the family of God, which has the Trinity as its core.

It is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone. We are joined, not at the hip, but at the heart, by the Blessed Trinity’s boundless Love for each of us.

My, how prayer matters.



  1. Tom Maly on October 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Beautifully, powerfully, clearly and simply written…………Kudos, my friend!

    • quinersdiner on October 20, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Thank-you, Deacon!

      • d. knapp on October 20, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        Hello friend, It is I,your SB follower. Having read the above, I’m sorry to say I still don’t understand the whole thing w/ prayer to those resting in Christ. I know it is written that the saints and angels gather and bring prayers to the Father, but I don’t find any place where it is said the prayers were to be TO the saints or the angels. I sort of view it like the employee of a vineyard or orchard. The fruits they bring to the owner are the owner’s, not theirs. As a nurse I often pray for my patients,but also my friends,family and associates. I pray for the world and its inhabitants. I do it as Christ himself instructed. “Our father, who art in Heaven…” I do believe we are to intercede for one another…directly to The Father. I am always interested in where i can improve my understanding, and welcome any scriptural passage that will instruct me. I have always been cautioned to avoid the “traditions of men”. I try to not read anything into the perfect word. I know the SB’s have their own ideas about the book not actually in it. The whole condemnation of ANY fermented beverages is one. The book said, “Be thou not drunken.” My fellow SB’s think that means NO drinking AT ALL. I understand He warns us of losing control of our faculties. I don’t think that a glass of wine affects ones faculties/personality. I don’t think it leaves one vulnerable to the efforts of Satan to direct one’s behaviors. I really do try to understand exactly what is written, its meaning and why it’s written.I will defend to my dying day one’s right practice one’s faith as one sees fit. Have a great day. : )

        • quinersdiner on October 21, 2016 at 10:46 am

          I’ll try to develop the idea a little further in my next blogpost. Thanks for writing.

  2. Oliver on October 20, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    The point with the Revelation verse looses all of its weight with a person who believes that ‘saint’ is defined differently. I’m afraid that’s myself. Just a 10 PM thought before I climb into my long-awaited bed. I’m up for further discussion when my brain is on.

    • quinersdiner on October 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      What is your definition of a saint?

      • Oliver on October 22, 2016 at 10:12 am

        Protestants believe that anyone who has believed in Christ as their personal savior and therefore been accepted into the heavenly kingdom is a saint once they die.

        As far as intercessory prayer, if what you mean by that is interceding for someone to the Lord, (the definition I’m most familiar with), of course I believe in that. My caveat is with the idea that we can pray to someone other than God.

        • quinersdiner on October 22, 2016 at 11:18 am

          Yes, your definition of a saint in your first paragraph is one definition that Catholics embrace. There are likely billions of saints no one knows about. A few special people are identified as saints by the living after they die. Most recently, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On the other hand, the thief on the cross next to Jesus is a saint since he is in heaven after accepting Christ right before he died, even though the world doesn’t call him a saint. Regarding your second paragraph, I addressed your legitimate concerns in my blogpost yesterday. I clarified the word “to.” Thanks for writing. Feel free to weigh in on my follow up blogpost.

  3. Lorra B. on October 21, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Great post! I am a Bible-Based Christian and absolutely believe in intercessory prayer, and for good reason. The bible is full of examples! There are times when we are at a complete loss of what to pray for ourselves. It is at this time that others who are living, and the Holy Spirit, can intercede for us.

    Romans 8:26-27 “26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27: And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

    When your Southern Baptist reader commented on not understanding anyone praying to anyone but the father I think she may have meant actually praying to the Saints instead of to the Father. I, too, don’t understand praying to the Saints when I can pray directly to the Father. Guess that’s why there are 31 flavors huh? 😉

    • quinersdiner on October 21, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      First of all, great scripture you shared, Lorra. Really appreciate it! Regarding your last paragraph, I tried to flesh out the idea a little more in my most recent blogpost. Let me know if it makes sense to you. Thanks! http://quinersdiner.com/2016/10/21/what-does-it-mean-to-pray-to-the-saints/

      • Lorra B. on October 21, 2016 at 5:02 pm

        Thanks kind sir! I did indeed read that post. I do understand what you are trying to convey and do appreciate your position and the patience with which you wrote it.

        Please do not be offended for that would break my heart but I still have a problem with it. I understand that the Saints can be intercessors but I still don’t find one verse that tells us to literally pray to THEM specifically for help. Christ died and bore our sins so we could talk to the father directly, on that I know we agree! LOL! But God is a jealous God and wants a relationship with us directly. If I want my husband to understand a particular need of mine (as a very crude example) why would I ask my sister to deliver the message? He would probably ask me why I didn’t just come to him in the first place! Yes, this is earth and we are talking the Devine but you get my point I’m sure. So, I just can’t wrap my pea-brain around simply not communicating directly with God and asking HIM to send His Army Angels to protect us. Make sense?? I just love good conversation!! Thanks for indulging me! ?

        • quinersdiner on October 21, 2016 at 5:49 pm

          Nothing you could say could offend me. 🙂 Regarding my post, I’m no theologian and probably not the best at trying to express the teachings of the Church on the subject. There are teachings in the Bible that aren’t directly expressed, for example, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The term is never used in scripture, and yet Catholics and Protestants alike embrace it as foundational to the faith. By the same token, Jesus never expressly rebuked homosexuality, which has given cover to liberals to maintain that He was okay with it, which of course is nonsense. So when it comes to discerning sacred scripture, you need an infallible teaching authority inspired by the Holy Spirit that is able to “connect the dots.” That teaching authority is the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

          • Lorra B. on October 21, 2016 at 6:04 pm

            Great reply! 🙂 There is so much about the Word and our Walk with Him that simply will not be known until we are united with our Savior. That’s where faith comes in, not to mention differing ideas as to just what is intended in scripture. I, for one, wait with anticipation! ?

            What I appreciate is being able to address differing ideas with respect and grace…thank you for that! It certainly isn’t always the case, as I am sure you well know. Have a great rest of your day kind sir! ?

          • quinersdiner on October 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm

            Thanks for the kind words.

  4. […] Diner reader, who is a Southern Baptist, asked for clarification from a previous post, “Why Catholics believe in the power of intercessory prayers.” Her […]

  5. Luz Estela Pérez N. on December 13, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Hello there, thank you for this thorough explanation of what intercessory prayer really means. I’ve been looking around for more guidance and information, and yours have been really enlightening to me.
    A reader from Valencia, Venezuela