Everyone who has lived and died in Christ, throughout all of history, is present with him in the royal chamber in the city of the King right now, standing in worship around the throne, just like it says in the book of Revelation. What are they doing all day? They’re praying. So we can ask them to pray for us.
A lot of people, when they come into a space like this, and we see so many saints pictured on the walls, it kind of is troubling to them. They wonder, Why can’t we just go directly to Jesus? Why do we have to ask the saints to be praying for us? It’s not so much that we have to; of course we don’t have to, of course we still go directly to the Lord with all of our prayer concerns. It’s kind of like we get to, like we have a whole community. As it says in Hebrews 12:1, “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Everyone who has lived and died in Christ, throughout all of history, is present with him in the royal chamber in the city of the King right now, standing in worship around the throne, just like it says in the book of Revelation. What are they doing all day? They’re praying. So we can ask them to pray for us. I think a lot of times the problem is with that little word, pray. We think, well, we pray to God, we should pray to anybody else. But in English the word used to just mean to make a request of someone. You might say at the dinner table, “I pray thee, pass me the broccoli.” So it just needs to ask for something. If I was to ask St. Thekla to pray for me, it would be making a request of her, asking in fact for her prayers. We do this all the time. If you have a big prayer needs coming up, like maybe you’re going for a job interview, you would ask all your friends, all your family, “Pray for me, please say a prayer for me, I really want to get this job.” You might send the request in the form of sending an e-mail, or making a phone call, or asking someone in person. When we’re making a request of someone who has already gone to stand in the presence of Christ, we send that request by means of prayer. It’s just a medium of communication. It doesn’t mean that you’re worshiping the person. I have a friend of mine, a neighbor once, read something I wrote about prayer to the saints, and she said “I’m not convinced. I’m going to go on going directly to the Lord with all my prayer requests.” And I said, “Well okay, if that’s what you want, I won’t pray for you anymore.” Because, after all, if we’re not going to ask the saints, the ones who are in glory, to pray for us, why would we ask each other to pray for us? Why would you ask anybody to pray for us? I’m just saying, expand that one more circle. That this great cloud of witnesses actually does surround us, invisibly whenever we’re at worship. They are worshiping beside us. We just can’t see them. One reason we cover the walls of our church with icons is to make them visible, so that we can see the images and realize that they really are there.