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Henrik Hagnell wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Were there any traditions in the Old Testament of asking saints for their intercession?

We do it nowadays but I never hear anything about it before the time of the Early Church.

It is not even mentioned in the New Testament.


  { Were there any traditions in the Old Testament of asking saints for their intercession? }

Eric replied:

Dear Henrik,

In 2 Maccabees 15:12-14, it says,

12 Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been High Priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: 13 after this there appeared another man, admirable for age, and glory, and enclosed with great beauty and majesty: 14 Then Onias answering said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremiah the prophet of God."

So Jeremiah, who had died centuries earlier, was shown in a vision to be interceding for Israel.
We also see an oblique reference in Jeremiah 15:1, where God says

1 Then the LORD said to me, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!

thus implying that Moses and Samuel had tried to intercede for Israel in their latest escapade.

There was a tradition that Elijah would come help those who asked for his help (Matthew 27:47).

In the New Testament, we see the principle in Revelation 5:8. It speaks of the twenty-four elders, who represent the saints in Heaven, offering incense, which is the prayers of the saints (i.e. the prayers of the holy ones on Earth). Therefore the elders are interceding for those on Earth who seek their intercession.


Bob replied:

Dear Henrik,

Thanks for the question.

In the Old Testament there were no saints to ask for intercession because Heaven wasn't open until Jesus opened it by his Death and Resurrection.

But interestingly we see Jesus meeting with Moses and Elijah, who spoke of all that would happen when He would go up to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 9:28ff). It is easy to imagine that they were encouraging Jesus on His Mission, and certainly were praying for Him from their place in Abraham's Bosom. Jesus is our example and shows us that we are very much connected to the heroes of our faith that reside in God's Care. We know those persons are now fully with God in Heaven, so that is even better.

We also see in Hebrews 12 a cloud of witnesses that are in Heaven, watching what goes on with our struggle. Likewise James tells us that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16-17), so those that are in our faith family, that are rooting for us from Heaven, are providing the best prayers. It is also interesting how James mentioned Elijah (the one Jesus met with) in that very passage.


Bob Kirby

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