What does it mean to pray to a saint?

Praying to a saint isn’t like praying to God. If you are praying to a saint, you don’t think that saint is God. It is more like you are getting a friend to help you out.

Say God is the CEO of the place you work. You are a bit intimidated by him. You need to ask a favor, but you don’t think that he will listen. You don’t think that you are high enough up on the institutional pecking order to talk to him. Maybe you can’t get an appointment. But maybe you don’t even try, because you just don’t think he’ll make time for you.

So you talk to your manager, or his secretary. You ask them to carry the message to the CEO. You ask them because you really need this favor done, or you really need to get this message across. Perhaps something isn’t going right in the organization. Perhaps you see a way that it can be done better. If only this information can get to the CEO, then some action can take place.

You don’t have the authority to make a big sweeping change, but the CEO does. So you let someone know, and they talk to the CEO. Then the change happens (or not).

Because not every time you pray to God does the change happen. Sometimes it isn’t a good thing to ask for. God has the whole picture in mind. So God knows what is best. We can put in our opinions in the opinion box, but we have to trust that what happens is what is supposed to happen.

Now, ideally, you’d go straight to God. Or, you can go to Jesus, who will go to God. But Jesus removed all barriers between us and God. We don’t need intermediaries. We don’t need priests or ministers. We don’t need saints.

Sometimes we feel like we do, in the same way that we feel like we need training wheels when we start to learn how to ride a bike. But what happens when we learn how to ride, and we still use the training wheels? We don’t get as strong as we should.

Jesus makes us worthy to stand before God. When the veil before the Holy of Holies in the Temple was torn in two at Jesus’ death, all barriers between us and God were removed. By his blood we are cleansed, and by his stripes we are healed.

But this is a very human thing. People were constantly throwing themselves facedown when an agent of God (read – an angel) appears to them. They were constantly saying they aren’t worthy. There is nothing in the Bible that says they aren’t worthy, but they keep saying they are. We still do.

So we have saints, and priests, and ministers. We have intermediaries, and go-betweens.

And the message still gets through.

God wants to hear from us, no matter how. Keep praying. Keep asking. Keep knocking. Keep seeking. Keep praying. If you have to use saints, fine. You aren’t praying to them, so much as with them. They are like spiritual friends. But keep praying. God is listening.


If you want to gain an appreciation for how hard it is to learn to write, try learning another alphabet. I’ve always thought that the English alphabet is fairly simple. But that is because I was raised with it. I’ve been using it for years.

When I started tutoring kindergartners, I realized that are a lot of letters that look alike. Lower case “p” and “b” and “d” and q” look a lot alike. A lower case “n” is just a “u” upside down. In one way this is useful. It is a great way to see if a child has a learning disability. If she can’t ever “see” these differences, then perhaps her brain isn’t processing them.

Part of learning to write an alphabet is learning at what point a letter isn’t that letter anymore. This comes into play when you are handwriting the letters. At what point is an “n” an “n”, and at what point is it an “h”? If you put just a little too much tail on the “n” it changes into an “h”. If you put the tail on the right it is wrong. If you put the lines in the wrong place then it isn’t a letter at all. It is just a squiggle.

Writing is just an agreed-upon set of squiggles. Teaching letters to a child is just teaching these symbols, these agreed-upon squiggles. They are symbols because they have meaning. They have meaning because we agree that they do. In and of themselves they mean nothing.

I’ve come to appreciate how hard it is for anybody to learn the English alphabet because I’m learning Hebrew these days. I’m learning to write, read, and speak it. Well, maybe not the whole language. Just now, I’m learning the prayers. I bought a siddur, a Jewish prayer book, but it didn’t show the pronunciations. It showed the Hebrew words and the translation. I want the middle bit – the how-to-pronounce-it bit. I have a book by Blu Greenberg called “How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household” and it has a lot of what I want. There is also a website called “Hebrew 4 Christians” that is very helpful. But none of this is portable. So I’m making my own prayer book. And this involves handwriting the prayers.

Sure, I could literally copy-and-paste, but that would make my little book not so little. Pasting paper onto paper makes the book too thick. Ideally, I’d find some way of assembling this online and then printing out my own little prayer book, but I’ve not found a way to do this. Other alphabets aren’t always supported. And, ultimately, I do want to learn this alphabet. I like learning alphabets. So the best way is to write the words onto the pages myself.

I’m learning a lot of the letters look the same. Some look like just slight variations on other ones. I don’t quite know what makes one letter different from another. What must be included to make sure this letter is this letter? What is too far? What isn’t enough? It is the same as with the “n” and the “h” – what is the line that makes this one different from this one?

I want it to be perfect, but it isn’t going to be perfect without practice. I’m sure that if a reader of Hebrew looks at this, she might be able to figure out what I’ve written. Sure, I could practice on my own, away from this book. I could try to write the prayers and the letters out by hand and then copy them over to this book when I feel that I’ve gotten it – or I can just do it. I think there is something honest about that. I think God likes us to just try, to open ourselves up to being able to make mistakes.

You’ll never learn to walk unless you let go of the table you are holding on to. You have to try to take a few steps on your own. And when you do, your parent is overjoyed. Your first few baby steps are beautiful to her. They are awkward, and wobbly, but they are beautiful. They are beautiful because you are doing it. And with every step, you are walking closer to your parent’s open arms.

I think God thinks the same about my little prayer book. The letters are awkward and wobbly, but they are beautiful. I’m trying. And with every stroke I’m getting better. And with every stroke I’m walking closer to God.