Why offering petitions to departed saints offends God
If you are someone who regularly offers petitions to departed saints, try to imagine going a whole week only offering petitions to God. And then imagine yourself doing that for an entire month. You would be pleasantly surprised at just how refreshed your soul would be after 30 days of biblical, Christ-centered prayer.
Scripture instructs followers of Christ to offer petitions to the only One in Heaven who is worthy of such requests: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Remembering departed saints with fondness and appreciation is one thing. Offering petitions to departed saints is something else entirely. In fact, offering petitions to departed saints is actually offensive to God.
In a CP op-ed 10 years ago titled, “Praying to the Departed Conjures Fallen Angels,” I wrote, "Prayers to the departed never reach St. Paul, or St. Augustine, or the mother of our Lord, or the brother of our Lord, or St. Francis of Assisi, or any other saint … If you have offered such petitions, simply talk to the Lord about it and ask Him to close any doors you have opened out of ignorance. And choose to be wise from this day forward by only praying to God, but never again to departed saints.”
Why would God be offended when one of his children offers petitions to departed saints? Because it is hugely disrespectful to the Lord to offer petitions to anyone in Heaven other than God himself. The Lord has all power and authority, and God will do whatever he chooses to do in answer to our prayers. The minute we turn to a departed saint to help grant our petition we veer away from biblical prayer. Even if departed saints could hear our requests, it would still be a terrible idea to offer petitions to them. You see, the Lord forbids his children from attempting to communicate with the departed.
In Deuteronomy 18:9-13, the Lord gave his chosen people the following instructions: “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices, the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.”
Consulting departed saints by offering petitions to them is forbidden by the Lord. The Bible lumps consulting the dead in with sorcery, witchcraft, and the like. Such behavior invites the presence of demons. For example, a seance is a meeting where people attempt to make contact with the dead. This forbidden practice is part of the occult.
Likewise, when individuals offer petitions to departed saints, they are dabbling with dark power, even when these petitions are being sincerely offered as part of one’s religious tradition.
The Holy Spirit produces peace and joy through Scripture and the Gospel message, whereas demons oppress people who engage in occult practices, or in any other type of sinful behavior for that matter.
For example, Ephesians 4:26-27 states: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Holding grudges overnight opens a spiritual door through which demons are able to attack the mind and heart of the person who is holding a grudge and is unwilling to forgive someone.
All of us who follow Christ do things at times that are offensive to God. Offering petitions to departed saints is not a bigger sin than holding a grudge. Both behaviors are offensive to God, and both behaviors give the devil and his demons access into your life of Christian discipleship. Sinful practices prevent us from experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit until we repent and confess our sins to the Lord and rely upon the blood of Jesus to wash our sins away.
Perhaps you are someone who regularly offers up petitions to the departed. And maybe you do so because you were told that saints in Heaven can hear your petitions and can even help to get your request answered. If that is what you were told, you were misinformed. I encourage you to meditate upon Deuteronomy 18:9-13 as you allow the Lord to break whatever chains you have brought on yourself by that unbiblical and dangerous religious practice.
Praying directly to God is the way to be delivered from the bad habit of offering petitions to departed saints. You don’t need that unbiblical practice in your life, and God doesn’t want you engaging in it.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.