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Can Christians Pray to Mary?

Can Christians Pray to Mary?

One of the most special relationships between people is between a mother and her child, and there is one mother in all of history whose first-born was truly unique.

Mary was a peasant girl whom God favored, and as a virgin she gave birth to the Messiah. In the two thousand years since this world-changing event, some Christians have elevated Mary. For those denominations, they believe that people should pray to Mary as an intercessor, bringing prayers and supplications to her. While it is a sincerely held belief, it is not supported by Scripture, rather, it is upheld by centuries of complicated theology and doctrine.

The Bible clarifies Jesus Christ serves as the intercessor for those who put their faith and trust in Him, and the Holy Spirit translates our prayers, which are to God alone.

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Who Was Mary?

Silhouette of Mary and baby Jesus

During the early Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a young woman was born in Israel named Mary. She was a descendent of David, and many theologians believe her genealogy is traced in the Gospel of Luke, following the descendants of David through his son Nathan. The Gospel of Matthew most likely traces the genealogy of Joseph, who was a descendent of David through Solomon and his son Rehoboam. These two lines show that Jesus was a physical and legal descendent of David, both through the line of kings as well as through other children of David.

Some people try to discredit the Bible by pointing out the genealogies identify two different men as Joseph’s father. However, it was common for men related to one another to adopt the children of relatives who died. Mary’s father may have adopted Joseph after his father died.

Mary and Joseph were betrothed. During this time, an angel visits Mary and declared, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:30b-33). She conceded to God’s will.

At first Joseph thought to quietly put her aside, but an angel came to Him and assured Him Mary didn’t cheat, but the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. They got married, and after Jesus was born, they went on to have other children together. She lived to see her firstborn crucified – and resurrected.

What Is an Intercessor?

An intercessor is a person who steps in and intervenes on behalf of another person. In the Bible, people need an intercessor to go to God because He is holy, and they are separated from Him by sin.

Before the Law of Moses, righteous men and prophets such as Abraham and Job made intercession. After God gave the Israelites the Law, the High Priest did. After Jesus ascended back to Heaven, He became our intercessor, detailed in Hebrews 4:14-10:22. Paul summarized it to the church in Rome, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us’” (Romans 8:34).

Some Christian denominations believe that Mary, and other saints, can serve as intercessors.

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What Denominations Pray to Mary?

Young catholic woman praying with a rosary

The earliest prayer to Mary is recorded from around 250 AD, and veneration of her in earnest began in north Africa in the third century. As the church grew, the groups that venerated her began to develop doctrine about Mary. However, not all sects of the early church participated in this veneration.

Today, the denominations that pray to Mary are:

- The Roman Catholic Church

- High Church Lutheranism

- Anglo-Catholicism

- Eastern Orthodoxy

- Oriental Orthodoxy

Some in these denominations hold that Mary can act as the Mediatrix - an intercessor on behalf of believers. The earliest use of this word was around the 4th century.

In contemporary discussions, the justification of praying to Mary and the Saints is that because Christians pray for one another in this life, believers can ask the Christians in Heaven to pray for them as well. They argue their prayers and intercessions are more powerful, because the Saints are in God’s presence, and closer to Him.

In Catholicism especially, Mary is venerated above all other people, second only to God Himself. They only worship God, but they hold Mary in high esteem. In Catholicism, this adoration is supported by four extra-Biblical doctrines called the Four Marian dogmas.

These dogmas are:

- She is the Mother of God

- She was assumed into Heaven body and soul

- Mary was immaculately conceived without original sin being passed onto her

- She was a perpetual virgin

These dogmas make Mary the most blessed of the heavenly saints. Combined with the belief that, as the Mother of God, she is closest to Him, the teaching is that Mary is the most powerful intercessor outside of Jesus Christ, since she can convince her Son to be merciful.

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What Does the Bible Say about Intercession?

couple holding hands in prayer

The denominations that pray to Mary acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the true intercessor. The Fifth Council of Trent and the text Dogmatic Constitution on the Principal Mysteries of the Faith affirm Christ as the mediator to the Father. To assess if their interpretation of Mary and praying to Saints is correct, however, requires an examination of the Scriptures.

In the Old Testament, the High Priest made intercession to God for the forgiveness of sin. The High Priest was supposed to live a life sanctified and righteous so he could approach God in the Holy of Holies and make atonement on behalf of the people. No High Priest in the Old Testament lived a perfect life, and they needed to atone for their own sins as well. In the Old Testament, all High Priests were living men. No one dead is seen making intercession for the living.

In the New Testament, the writers affirmed believers should pray for one another. Catholics believe this includes deceased believers, since they are part of the Church, so they go to them just like they would ask a priest or a friend to pray for them. This logic also applies to Mary.

Two common verses cited by Catholic apologists are:

- Paul asks for prayers from the Roman church: “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30).

- James encouraged believers: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16-17).

Catholics will argue the dead in Christ are still believers, and part of the body of Christ, therefore, believers can ask them, and Mary, to pray for them. However, in the New Testament, the writers only encourage living believers to pray for other living believers. They never say to pray to, or for, the dead. Bible verses that do not support the idea of people in heaven being concerned with prayer include:

- Psalm 115:17

- Ecclesiastes 9:5-6

- Isaiah 42:8

- Matthew 6:9

- John 14:13-14                        

- Philippians 1:23-25

- Revelation 14:13

Another passage sometimes used is Hebrews 12:22-24. These verses describe approaching the throne of God in heaven, and all the glory that surrounds it, including the dead in Christ. Catholics will point to the saints surrounding the throne and argue the believer can approach them for intercession. This interpretation ignores the larger context. The writer was juxtaposing how much better it is to live in the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection and to have Him as our mediator, compared to the days of Moses.

The full passage says:

“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:18-24).

In the days before Jesus’ sacrifice, coming into the presence of God was a fearful, if amazing, moment, because of God’s holiness and man’s sin. After Jesus, anyone who puts their faith in Him has His righteousness credited to them, and they can approach the throne of God directly with boldness; God is their Father, and they co-heirs with Christ. In fact, God through the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.

There are passages in the Catholic Bible, specifically 2 Maccabees, where people prayed to and for the dead. The Maccabees record events that took place during the time between the prophecies given to Malachi and the birth of Jesus. Even if the account of these prayers took place historically, that does not mean those behaviors were correct, or that Christians should adopt them. The Jews did not consider the Maccabees Scripture, nor did most of the early church fathers.  While some sects in the early church studied them, the Catholic Church did not consider them Scripture until the Protestant Reformation, adopting them at the Council of Trent as a response to criticism.

Evidence supporting the practice of only praying to God, and not venerating Mary, is clear and direct in Scripture.

- During Jesus’ lifetime, someone tried to credit special blessings to Mary, and Jesus did not affirm it:

“As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’  But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (Luke 11:27-28).

- The Apostle Paul affirmed:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

- Paul clarified the Holy Spirit’s role is to intercede:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

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Can Christians Pray to Mary?

a woman praying outside

When examining the Bible, even when considering the Apocrypha, there are no instances where God affirms praying to anyone other than Himself. God always directs prayer toward Himself. All veneration should go to God. Mary did not consider herself more special than anyone else, recognizing her own need for a Savior.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, people who have a relationship with Him can approach the throne of God directly through prayer. Jesus will intercede, and the Holy Spirit assists the believer in their prayers. While it is okay to appreciate Mary for her humility, for her servant heart, and for raising the Lord Jesus, her role has never been to intercede. If the intercession of the righteous is powerful, then surely the most powerful intercessor is Jesus, who was the Word at the beginning, became flesh and lived a sinless life, and who rose again, conquering sin and death.

There is no need to pray to Mary, in light of who Jesus is, and our relationship with Him.


Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Edition. New York: Random House, 2003.

Allison, Gregg. 40 Questions about Roman Catholicism. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2021.

Allison, Gregg. Historical Theology An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2011.

Allison, Gregg. Roman Catholic Theology & Practice An Evangelical Assessment. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.

De Chirico. Same Words, Different Worlds Do Roman Catholics and Evangelicals Believe the Same Gospel? Westmont: Intervarsity Press, 2021.

Pope Paul VI. Dogmatic Constitution on the Principal Mysteries of the Faith. Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1965.

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Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on