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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Novenas and answered prayer

by Catherine Frakas 08 Apr 2001

Novenas and answered prayer QUESTION from Faith on January 5, 2003 Please forgive me if this question has been answered previously, but I really have been struggling with this...
I have on ocassion made novenas asking for the intercession of saints. Frequently, favors are granted and prayers are answered. My concern is that the bible says No one comes to the Father but through Me. Jesus was pretty specific about this. We all know that God is also a jealous God. I have been searching the scriptures for references about praying to or with saints but cannot find anything. I don't want to offend God. Why can't we just take our requests to him? The confusing part for me is that it seems novenas work for many people. To me this is not much different than Santeria even though that religion is a disguise for voodoo. The principle is the same though...pick a diety that represents a particular area and pray to them or ask for their help. I thought the Bible says ask God with full confidence and he will do whatever you ask in Jesus' name. I will admit that the reason I have said novenas asking for saints to intercede is that often when I pray directly to God I feel like he doesn't hear me and doesn't respond. Some of my prayer requests involve guidance and to be honest, often I still don't know what to do after I've prayed. Having a favor granted is one thing. Like if you pray to receive enough money to cover some expenses so you don't lose your house. That is an easy one. When the money arrives, you know your prayer is answered.
But when your prayers involve something complicated, how do you know you've been heard and answered? For example, let's say you pray to find your soul mate and you have full confidence that God will lead you to this case you know your prayer will be answered, but how do you know EXACTLY what or who God's will is? I think a lot of people are curious about this. Many protestants think praying novenas to saints is bordering on superstitious or is wrong. However, how do you account for the unbelievable testimonies regarding saints like St. Jude. Is there scriptural support for the practice of making novenas? Thanks.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 11, 2003 Dear Faith:
You are asking for ABSOLUTE and EXACT proof of an anwsered prayer. You will not get one. Prayer is not a scientific experiment where the results can be measured with exactness. Prayer is an act of faith.
Prayer is also NOT like a magik or voodoo prayer. In the occult, the prayers are incantations that are designed to manupulate the forces of nature, to control the spirits.
We do not control God and our prayers are NOT an attempt to control God or the forces of nature.
Prayer is a petition to our Father and our Father ALWAYS answers prayer -- it is just sometimes the answer is NO, or LATER, or maybe comes in a way that we do not readily recognize or even miss altogether.
As far as praying to saints, this IS in the bible. It is called intercessory prayer. We are a family (Eph 4:4; Rom 12:5; Col 3:15) and we are to love one another (Rom 12:10) and are to encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11). When one of the family suffers, the whole family is to be concerned (1 Cor 12:12-27). Thus we are to pray for each other (Rom 15:30; Eph 4:3; 2 Thess 1:11; 3:1; Eph. 6:18 1 Timothy 2:1. ).
The Bible says that the prayers of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16b; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalms 15:29; 33:16). There are no people more just and righteous than those already in heaven and those in heaven do watch over us; the Bible says so in Heb 12:1.
The souls in heaven are more alive than we are. They are not dead. Mk 12:26-27 tells us that God is the God of the living and not the dead; and Wisdom 3:1-6 tells us that the just on in God's hands.
We are able to petition the saints to interceded for us because it pleases God to allow this. He allows this because we are not a group of individuals with a common interest in Christ -- the is a club. We are FAMILY and it pleases the Father to see his children helping each other.
As for a Novena, St Jerome said: The number nine in Holy Writ is indicative of suffering and grief (St. Jerome, commenting on Ezech. 7:24; -- P.L., XXV, 238, cf. XXV, 1473).
There are many reasons why Nine was used and became a common custom but the most important point to make is that IT IS NOT REQUIRED to have Scriptural support. That is a pecularly Protestant and heretical notion that is nothing more than man-made doctrine. The bible itself refutes the notion that everything MUST be in the Bible. The table grace most of us say at the supper table is not in the bible either.
The practice of a novena is merely a prayer forum, a custom. We can set aside 10 days of prayer if you want, or 4 days, or whatever you want -- it does not matter. Nine has some symbolic meaning, but it does not matter. What matters is that we pray.
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