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Does Islam cause terrorism?  Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Moral Equivalency Applied Islamic History 0409.htm

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Why does God Allow Evil?  Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm

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Should People Pray to Their Dead Relatives and Family Members?



There are two basic mistakes in praying to anyone who isn’t the Creator Himself.  First of all, we shouldn't pray to anyone other than to God (meaning, the Father and, sometimes, Jesus).  This is the fundamental principle of the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3):  “You shall have no other gods before [or besides] Me.”  When Jesus rejected Satan's final temptation to worship him, He quoted from the Old Testament:  "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Matt. 4:10).  There is no place for praying or worshiping anyone else besides the Creator.  Three times in the Bible after someone mistakenly started worshiping someone else falsely, he was (or they were) immediately corrected.  When Cornelius "fell at his feet," Peter told him, "Stand up; I too am just a man"  (Acts 10:25-26).  Having been overwhelmed by the visions he had received through one angel, John "fell down to worship at the feet of the angel."  But the angel replied to him, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God" (Rev. 22:8-9).  After the pagans of Lystra misidentified Paul and Barnabas as the gods coming down to earth as men, they brought sacrifices out to offer to them.  In response, Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and cried out to the crowd, "Men, why are you doing these things?  We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them" (Acts 14:11, 14-15).  By contrast, when King Herod mistakenly accepted praises that he was a god for giving a good speech from a crowd, and he didn’t rebuke them, an angel struck him dead (Acts 12:21-23). These were immediate, clear corrections, not implicit acceptances or "sidesteps" that partially changed the subject.

So clearly we shouldn't pray or worship anyone besides God, for only He has the almighty power to answer our prayers anyway.  The Catholic custom of praying to departed saints or to the Virgin Mary is plainly in error for this reason alone.  (To relabel it "veneration" instead of "worship" doesn't really eliminate the problem, since that's basically a word game, mere semantics, that obscures the reality of what's being done). 


The second error in praying to the dead stems from their being unable to hear us, since they are totally unconscious until the resurrection.  To prove this doctrine in a brief email would be difficult.  You could look up the book "Here and Hereafter" by Uriah Smith at my Web site,, if you'd want to know more about it.  A key favoring the dead being dead is Eccl. 9:5-6, 10:  "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share is all that is done under the sun. . . .  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [i.e., the common grave of humanity], to which you are going."  The dead in Sheol can't praise God, according to David (Ps. 6:5):  "For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol who can give thee praise?"  The dead aren't in heaven either, since even King David wasn't there after Jesus' resurrection, according to the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:29, 34):  "Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says . . ."  So since the dead are unconscious while awaiting the resurrection, they couldn’t hear us even if we wanted to pray to them. 


So, if dead relatives can't hear us, let alone respond to our requests with power, why should we pray to them?  Instead, we should pray to God, who can hear us and has the power to respond to our requests.  There is no place in the canonical Scriptures where anyone prays to someone who is dead. So we should follow Jesus' model prayer, and pray to God the Father when we need help (Matt. 6:9-13), not to the Virgin Mary, to departed saints, or to dead ancestors, like Chinese peasants traditionally did.  Clearly, we shouldn’t pray to (dead) relatives and family members.



Eric V. Snow


Click here to access essays that defend Christianity:  /apologetics.html

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Click here to access notes for sermonettes:  /sermonettes.html


Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm

May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm

Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm

Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm

Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html

Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm

Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm

Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm

Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm



Links to elsewhere on this Web site:   /apologetics.html   /book.html   /doctrinal.html  /essays.html  /links.html /sermonettes.html  /webmaster.html     For the home page, click here:    /index.html