Mary. What a wonderful woman of God. Her faith, her obedience and her whole hearted submission to the will of God never cease to amaze me. Down and throughout the ages few saints have been as sorely tried and tested as she was; and yet through it all, she remained faithful to the God of Israel and to the Son she so problematically bore.
No Bible loving person will fail to be moved by Mary’s God-centred love; but at the same time, no Bible reader could ever fall into the trap of turning Jesus’ mother into a quasi-Saviour like figure to whom we must pray and intercede earnestly (and through whom we have access to the Father). Such thinking is a blatant distortion of New Testament faith. So do I pray to Mary? No, I don’t. Why don’t I pray to her? Let me offer you a bouquet of reasons.
1.- One, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary isn’t God. The Bible makes it crystal clear that prayer is to be directed to God and God alone. The Bible strictly prohibits the deification of any creature in the stead of God. I can’t help thinking how horrified mild Mary would have been had she realized that so many billions of biblically ignorant ‘believers’ would use her name to usurp the authority of the Almighty.
2.- Two, I don’t pray to Mary because there is only one mediator between God and man. Who is that? Let Paul reply in apostolic tone: “The man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The early church nowhere taught the doctrine of co-redemptrix. Of course we don’t deny that Mary played a vital part in God’s redemptive economy- after all, she birthed the very Son of God in Bethlehem!- but to say that she is a bridge between us and God is to do away with the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ blood is the only access a Christian has to the presence of the Father. And only means only!
3.- Three, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary was a sinner just like me. Mary’s joyful testimony gives witness to this awakening truth: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47). Mary called God her Saviour because she too needed liberation from sin. Mary was human, all too human. She had felt the cold bite of sin and stood in need of the saving grace of God. Mary was no sin-free saint. She shared our fallen human condition and thus disqualified herself from any potential calls to prayer-answering ministry.
4.- Four, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary doesn’t listen to me. Mary has spent the best part of the last two millennia caught up in the fullness of celestial bliss. Her gaze has been fixed on the triune Godhead and she has been praising His infinite beauty to ecstatic excess ever since she got to glory. The things of this present world matter very little to her now. She is with Jesus. She joins voices with the angelical host to sing anthems of praise unto her King. Mary doesn’t pay attention to our prayers. She doesn’t have a cell phone any more. And at any rate, if she did have one, I very much doubt she’d turn it on.
5.- Five, I don’t pray to Mary because Mary would want me to pray to God. If I truly want to honour a person I love, the best way is to honour someone they love. If you want to make me happy, speak well about my family, my friends and my loved ones. In the same manner, if sister Mary were still with us, she would take supreme delight in knowing that we love God with as much passion as she does. As a truly Spirit-led woman of God, she would tell us to pray to God, to look to God and to trust in God (never in anyone else).
I hope this short list of five observations (and the list is by no means exhaustive) should shun us from ever thinking of kneeling before the mother of God’s only Son. Mary is not be prayed to. Yes, we admire her faith. Yes, we thank God for her ministry. And yes, we marvel at her exemplary life. But Mary is not to be sought in prayer. God is to be sought in prayer. Any prayer that is Mary-directed is foully offensive both in the nostrils of the Almighty God and an affront to the legacy of a quite wonderful woman of God.