Is it Okay for Christians to Pray to Mary?
- Christianity.com Editorial Staff
- 2020 13 Jan
The Bible is clear that Mary’s unique position as the mother of Jesus did not give her any more access to God than another believer in Christ is given. Therefore, Mary is not worthy of receiving prayers from Christians. Jesus addressed this in Luke 11 by emphasizing that it’s more blessed to be a follower of Christ than to be the mother of Christ.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Christians have always been amazed and interested in Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is understandable because her role in God’s redemption plan is unlike that of anyone else. She carried the Son of God in her womb, gave birth to him, nursed him as an infant, and (with her husband, Joseph) nurtured him through his childhood.
Mary is worthy of admiration due to her selflessness, courage, and faith in God. Especially in her time, to be unwed and pregnant was extremely shameful and sometimes even resulted in serious punishment. Yet she faithful fully obeyed when God called her. Her response to the angel’s announcement was to rejoice in song – “My soul glorifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46-55).
Yet for all this, the Bible is clear that Mary’s unique position did not in any way give her special access to God.
This section was adapted from Sam Allberry’s original Christianity.com article.
Mary in the Bible
In Luke 11, Jesus freed an afflicted man by driving out the demon that made him mute. Once Jesus cast the demon away, the man could speak again, and the watching crowd was amazed (Luke 11:14). Some of the crowd questioned Jesus, even suggesting Jesus was operating by power of Satan. As Jesus then started to preach to the crowd, a woman called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you!” (Luke 11:27). Jesus replied to her, ammending, not scolding, saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
“Jesus says that better even than being his mother is being his follower. Better than having him as a son is having him as a master,” according to Sam Allberry.
While praying to Mary is not found in the Bible, the practice is common in the Roman Catholic tradition. The sentiment in Luke 11:27 is referenced in the Hail Mary, which is one of the most popular Catholic prayers. However, Jesus’ correction in verse 28 is missing from the prayer.
Hail Mary Prayer
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary?
In the Roman Catholic church, Mary is seen as a mediator in her own right and therefore, worthy of receiving prayers from Christians.
Veneration of Mary and the practice of praying to her is supported by the Roman Catholic doctrine of Assumption, which holds that after she died, Mary was taken up into heaven like Jesus – physically and spiritually. This was a popular idea since before the Middle Ages, but not made official dogma in the Catholic Church until Pope Pius XII declared it so in 1950.
Such unique devotion to Mary is also supported by the Roman Catholic doctrine of Immaculate Conception, which refers to Mary’s conception, not Jesus’s conception. The doctrine states that as the mother of God incarnate, she was without the stain of original sin from her own conception. Pope Pius IX authorized this idea as official church doctrine in 1854.
What Jesus Said About Prayer
1. Pray in humility.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6)
2. There’s no need for repetitive phrases.
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
3. An example:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
4. Ask God for what you need in faith.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
- BibleHub.com, John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, Luke 11:15.
- Britannica.com, “Assumption,” The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 2018.
- Britannica.com, “Immaculate Conception,” The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 2019.
- Britannica.com, “Roman Catholicism: Beliefs and Practices,” Francis Christopher Oakley, Michael David Knowles, and Others. 2019.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock