Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 14
This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.
All right, welcome back to the podcast, everybody. We’re here with another episode and another
question. And the question for this episode is, do Christians need priests to pray on
That’s a good question, and I think there are a couple of different ways
to phrase this to try to get at the point of what the person is asking here. You could
say, do Christians need priests to intercede for them? Or do Christians need to go to priests
for confession and forgiveness?
Now, let me just say a word to the evangelical Christians
in America who are listening to this right now. This question might not pique your interest
because we really have no involvement with priests as evangelical Protestant Christians
in America. However, this question is of interest to many Christians around the world because
in other parts of the world, there are basically priests for hire. You see this a lot in Asian
countries, for instance. Essentially, there are priests who say if you pay them a certain
fee, they will pray to God on your behalf. And they’re doing this because they’re portraying
themselves as having some sort of special access to God that other people do not. And
so by paying them, they will go to God for you, and you can be certain that your prayers
are heard. And many people end up paying them for this.
We also have to keep in mind the many Catholics in the world today who go to a priest literally every single week to confess their sins and receive the formal remission of sin imparted by the priest. It’s called
the sacrament of penance. The priest will then tell the person what they must do to
receive the forgiveness fully. They’ll say something like, say, 10 Our Fathers and three
Hail Marys. And then your sins that you just confess to the priest, they will be absolutely
forgiven. And so while most evangelical Protestants in America might not struggle with this issue,
there are many Christians throughout the world who are seeing this practice take place. And
there are many Catholics around the world who are engaging in it every single week.
And so we need to ask the question we ask every time. What does the Bible say about
it? Do Christians need priests to pray on their behalf? And we need to get some clarification
here for a second. We need to understand the difference between praying for somebody and
praying on behalf of somebody. Praying for someone is lifting up another person in prayer
to God. Praying on behalf of someone is serving as a mediator between that person and God.
It’s essentially like saying the other person doesn’t have the access to God that you might
have. They don’t have the right to approach God himself. And so you must do it in their
Now understand this. Praying for someone is entirely biblical. I mean, we see this
throughout the New Testament, countless examples of this. If you think about the letters of
Paul, Paul would often start his letters by telling the church that he was writing to
that he remembers them in his prayers always. The Bible even says in James chapter five
and verse 16 that we are to pray for one another. If you remember the letter to the Colossians
that Paul wrote, Paul specifically asked the church in Colossae to pray for him and those
ministering with him. And so praying for other Christians is not only biblical, it’s a command.
However, praying on behalf of someone, serving as a mediator for that person is entirely
unbiblical for Christians today. And there is a caveat there.
The reason that I say today is because in the Old Testament, a certain group of people did have the biblical God given responsibility of serving as mediators and praying on behalf of others. Those were
the priests and the high priest. So if you’ll just remember the priestly garments that Aaron,
the first high priest wore, you’ll recall that he wore a breastplate and on that breastplate
it had all 12 names of the tribes of Israel on it. And he would wear that breastplate
as he made sacrifices and pray to the Lord. And what he was doing is he was literally
representing all 12 tribes to the Lord. He was serving as a mediator between those 12
tribes and God. He was going in between them. However, the reason that this is unbiblical
today is because Jesus fulfilled the role of the great high priest and he continues
to serve in that office today.
The Bible says that he is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. So there is no biblical warrant for someone, a person, to serve as a mediator today. When Jesus died on the cross, you’ll remember that the veil was torn. It was split in two. And that veil was the curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest
of the temple. And just keep in mind that the holy of holies was the place where God
met with man. It’s where man and God met together. And no one can enter that place except for
the high priest on the day of atonement.
But now, because of Jesus, the Bible says in Hebrews chapter 4 in verse 16 that we can approach the throne of God with boldness. You see, Jesus has eliminated the separation between God and man. And we can now approach God through Christ because the Bible says very plainly in 1 Timothy chapter 2 in verse 5, for there
is one God and there is one mediator between God and man, the man, Jesus Christ.
So just listen to me clearly on this. You do not need anyone other than Jesus Christ to mediate
between you and God. You do not need a priest to pray on your behalf. If you are a Christian,
you can go to the Father in prayer through Christ at any time because a priest does not
have some special access to God that you do not have. The Bible teaches that every single
believer is indwelt by the same Spirit of God. Every single believer is part of the
royal priesthood. We have been made a kingdom of priests to our God through Christ. And
so listen to me, every single believer has the exact same access to God as every other
believer because our access is in and through Jesus Christ alone.
So let’s just say a few words about the Catholic practice of confession and the sacrament of penance and things like that. First and foremost, the ability to forgive sins belongs to God alone. Catholics will
often go to a priest and they will confess their sins in order that they might be forgiven
of their sins. But the ability to forgive sins belongs to God alone. The crazy thing
is even the Pharisees knew this. For as much as they got wrong and as often as they were
opposing Jesus, even they knew this. When there was a man who was on a mat and Jesus
was telling him to get up and walk and take his mat and go home, Jesus said, Son, your
sins are forgiven. And the Pharisees said, Who can forgive sins but God alone? You see,
even they knew that only God can forgive sins. So no priest has the ability to forgive your
sins. Secondly, the prescription given out by the priest is entirely unbiblical.
I mean, just think about it like this. Shouldn’t it be concerning that priests today who claim
to be the direct successors of the apostles say and do things that the apostles themselves
never did? Should that not raise some red flags for us? I mean, think about this. When
Peter finished his first sermon at Pentecost and the crowds asked him, What must we do
to be saved? Peter did not prescribe any Our Fathers or Hail Marys. When Paul found out
about the sinning that was going on in the church in Corinth and how they were tolerating
it, he did not say, say, five Our Fathers and two Hail Marys. He said, Get rid of the
sin that is within you. Put the one who refuses to stop sinning out of the fellowship until
he repents and then receive him back with gladness. When Paul confronted Peter about
his sins, which we read about in Galatians chapter two, he didn’t say, Peter, now you
know what you have to do. You have to go say 10 Our Fathers and six Hail Marys. No, he
called him out on his hypocrisy and he called him to repentance. And so these prescriptions
that are given out by the priests today are entirely unbiblical and foreign to the apostles
They’re also unbiblical because first and foremost, one, the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father, was given as a model prayer, not a prayer to be prayed as penance for sin. And two, and this might even be more importantly, you will never find anything in all of the Bible that says you are to pray to anyone but God alone. In fact, every time someone in scripture prays to anyone else but the one true God, it is called blasphemy and idolatry.
So do not pray to Mary. She cannot help you.
The third thing that we should say about the Catholic practice has to do with confession. It’s true that the Bible does command Christians to confess their sins to one another. We read about that in 1 John 1 9. We also read about it in James chapter 5 and verse 16. But this is to occur between believers as a means of
accountability and discipleship. You see, the Bible says that as a body of Christ, as
believers, we’re to do life with other believers who will be able to hold us accountable and
help us live out the faith in a biblical manner. However, the Catholic practice eliminates
these elements entirely because just think about how it’s set up. You enter a confessional
anonymously, and then there’s a barrier between you and the priest so that he cannot see who
is confessing. Well, that completely eliminates the accountability, the fellowship, and the
discipleship that’s supposed to take place within these relationships between Christians.
And so they’re practicing a biblical command in an entirely unbiblical way.
And so let’s just summarize some of these points very quickly. No Christian has more access to God than any
other Christian. We all have the same access to God because it comes through Christ alone.
So you don’t need to go to someone to pray on your behalf when you, if you are a Christian,
you have Christ and you have the spirit of God dwelling in you and you have the exact
same access to God that any other Christian would have. So you don’t need someone to pray
on your behalf as a mediator because there is only one mediator between God and man,
and that is Jesus Christ. So you can go to God through Christ at any time and you can
actually do so boldly because of Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. So you don’t need
to go to a priest and have him mediate for you. There is one mediator and that is Jesus.
Also remember that the office of a priest has absolutely no basis in the New Testament
whatsoever. Every single Christian is part of the royal priesthood. We have been made
a kingdom of priests to our God.
Also remember that God alone can forgive sins and pronounce
the forgiveness of sins. No man can do that. The prescriptions given by priests today are
entirely unbiblical. The call of the Bible is repentance, turning from your sins and
committing yourself to Christ, not praying, wrote prayers as an act of penance. And then
finally remember that confession is to occur within Christian relationships for accountability,
fellowship and discipleship. So you don’t need a priest, you only need Jesus and praise
God that we have him. So I hope you found that answer helpful and as always just dig
into the scriptures and we can see what the Bible has to say about all these questions.
Thanks for the question. I look forward to answering more in the future.