Faith always begins through God’s invitation to us to be in relationship with Him. Our affirmative response to His invitation to us begins at our baptism.
In baptism, we are forgiven of original sin, become a beloved child of the Father, and are incorporated into the Body of Christ. When we think of the Body of Christ, we may be tempted to think just of the Church on Earth. Christ’s body is not restricted to those on Earth striving to become saints, it includes the saints in heaven and those becoming perfect in purgatory.
Scripture affirms that we are surrounded by the saints in heaven while on Earth. The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). Through the Body of Christ, the saints in heaven are watching over us. Certainly, they watch over us through the example of their life and their writings they left us. Perhaps even more importantly, they also watch over us through their prayers for us.
All prayer springs from the depth of our heart, stirred by the Holy Spirit, the love of God given to us through our baptism and confirmation. The Spirit directs our prayer to heaven to be heard by any person of the Blessed Trinity or any member of the heavenly court dwelling with God in heaven.
The Book of Revelation gives us a powerful image of how the saints offer our prayer to God. St. John tells us in one of his visions that he saw before the Lamb of God, “Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones” (Revelation 5:8). A similar passage to this one can also be found in Revelation 8:3-5. These passages show the saints hearing our prayers and offering them to God as incense before His heavenly throne.
We ask people to pray for us because it strengthens our confidence and peace that people are praying with us for an intention and we know the power of having a community pray for an intention as well. How much more for the saints! St. James tell us, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16). Those in heaven have been fully sanctified and are now beholding God face-to-face. Their prayers can be quite powerful for us to receive the needed grace in the intention we are praying for.
The response to our prayer is always authored by God. He may choose to respond through a favorite sign of a saint, such as a flower if one is praying to St. Therese of Lisieux. Regardless of how the answer to our prayer comes, we should not only thank the Lord who is the source of all grace, but also those who have been interceding for us, including our friends in heaven.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the Review.
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis.