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Intercession of the saints is a Christian doctrine common to the vast majority of the world's Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and a number of Reformed Christian communities. Intercessory prayer is a petition made to God on behalf of others. If a believer prays for their children or friends, their enemies or leaders, then the believer is interceding on behalf of another. Equally, the believer may pray to a saint or the Blessed Virgin Mary for them to intercede with God to fulfill the believer's request. The doctrine of saintly intercession goes back to the earliest church. The justification for calling upon a saint in prayer is that the saints are both close to God, because of their holiness, and accessible to humans.

Biblical basis

Some Christians say that Jesus' parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 indicates the ability of the dead to pray for the living. Paul's repeated references to Jesus Christ as "advocate" for the believers also indicates that Jesus, living at the right hand of God, may intercede for the believer. (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) By extension, other holy people who are living in Christ on earth or in heaven (having left their earthly existence) may be able to intercede-through Christ- on behalf of the petitioner. (John 11:25; Romans 8:38-39) This is a controversial doctrine, because in some faiths only Jesus is considered holy enough to intercede for people. From the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, as well as the Anglican perspective: if those living here on earth can intercede on behalf of each other, then those already glorified in heaven, and even closer "in Christ", are made holy as "one" unified through him (the mediator between God and men- on earth and heaven) by his sacrifice, can certainly intercede for those on earth as well. (Hebrews 2:11 and Hebrews 10:10; 1 Timothy 2:1-5).

Roman Catholic views

Roman Catholic Church doctrine supports intercessory prayer to saints. Intercessory prayer to saints also plays an important role in the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Also some Anglo-Catholics believe in saintly intercession. They may point to such Scriptural passages as Tobit 13:12-15, Revelation 5:8, or Revelation 8:3-4, which depict heavenly beings offering the prayers of mortals before God, and in addition to James 5:16 (where all those in heaven can be presumed to be living righteously), which states the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Both those for and against the intercession of saints quote Job 5:1.

Anglican views

"Scripture does not teach calling on the saints or pleading for help from them. For it sets before us Christ alone as mediator, atoning sacrifice, high priest, and intercessor."—Augsburg Confession, Article XXI.[1]

The Anglican Communion makes a distinction between a "Romish" and a "Patristic" doctrine concerning the invocation of saints, permitting the latter, but forbidding the former. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England condemned the Romish invocation of saints as "a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God" (Article XXII). The Oxford Movement saw a revival of the Patristic practice, which is now found among High Church Anglicans and especially Anglo-Catholics.

Protestant views

Many Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, in accordance with verses like 1 Timothy 2:1-5, which says that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of living humans praying to dead humans — Jesus Christ being the lone exception, because He is believed to be alive and resurrected, and because He is believed to be BOTH human AND Divine. The practice was attacked both by the Waldensians of the 12th century, and the various Gnostic Bogomil groups (including the Albigensians). The Calvinists and Zwinglians were particularly zealous in their rejection of saintly intercession.

Lutheran views

Traditional Lutheran belief accounts that saints pray for the Church in general,[2] but are not mediators of redemption.[3] Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, approved honouring the saints [4] by saying they are honoured in three ways: firstly by thanking God for examples of His mercy; secondly by using the saints as example for strengthening our faith, and thirdly by imitating their faith and other virtues.[5][6]

Jewish views

There is some evidence of a Jewish belief in intercession, both in the form of the paternal blessings passed down from Abraham to his children, and 2 Maccabees, where Judas Maccabaeus sees the dead Onias and Jeremiah giving blessing to the Jewish army. There are also opposing views in that to God alone only prayers may be offered.

In modern times one of the greatest divisions in Jewish theology (hashkafa) is over the issue of whether one can beseech the help of a tzadik - an extremely righteous individual. The main conflict is over a practice of beseeching a tzadik who has already died to make intercession before the Almighty. This practice is common mainly among Chasidic Jews,[7] but also found in varying degrees among other usually Chareidi communities. It strongest opposition is found largely among sectors of Modern Orthodox Judaism, Dor Daim and Talmide haRambam, and among aspects of the Litvish Chareidi community. Those who oppose this practice usually do so over the problem of idolatry, as Jewish Law strictly prohibits making use of a mediator (melitz) or agent (sarsur) between oneself and the Almighty.

The perspectives of those Jewish groups opposed to the use of intercessors is usually softer in regard to beseeching the Almighty alone merely in the "merit" (skhut) of a tzadik.

Those Jews who support the use of intercessors claim that their beseeching of the tzadik is not prayer or worship. The conflict between the groups is essentially over what constitutes prayer, worship, a mediator (melitz), and an agent (sarsur).

Muslim views

Intercession is a practice which is greatly prohibited in Islam. Many verses in the Quran stress on this point. One example is "And [He revealed] that the masjids are for Allah , so do not invoke with Allah anyone." [8] According to Tafsir al-Jalalayn the meaning is:"And [it has been revealed to me] that the places of prayer belong to God, so do not invoke, in them, anyone along with God, by associating others with Him, like the Jews and Christians do, who, when they enter their churches and temples, they ascribe partners to God."[9] According to Islamic belief only god "Allah" should be worshipped and invoked.[10] Intercession by some Muslim sects became evident after years from the death Muhammad and his companions. The Arabic term for intercession is called tawassul, which means "begging". Belief in intercession is a defining characteristic of some sects of Islam present including the Shia and Sufi sects. [1] [2] [3]. Salafis are among its most vocal opponents, and consider tawassul a form of shirk.

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