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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
Concerning the Invocation of Saints – part 8

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James 5:15–16

From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Concerning the Invocation of Saints 

Some plainly attribute divinity to the saints, namely the ability to discern the silent thoughts of our minds. They dispute over morning and evening knowledge, perhaps because they doubt whether the saints are able to hear us at one time or another.

They invent these things to defend lucrative services, not in order to treat the saints with honor. Nothing can be produced by the adversaries against this reasoning, that, since invocation does not have a testimony from God’s Word, it cannot be affirmed that the saints understand our invocation or even if they do understand it, that God approves of their doctrine. Therefore the adversaries ought not to force us to adopt an uncertain matter, because a prayer without faith is not prayer. Further, when they cite the example of the Church, it is clear that this is a new custom in the Church, for although the ancient prayers make mention of the saints, they do not invoke them.

Pulling It Together: “The prayer of faith” is an important dimension in Lutheran Christianity. But like too many other Christians we may have developed a misunderstanding of the prayer of faith. We might think of it this way: If I just believe enough then God will answer my prayer. This is the wrong attitude of prayer, foremost because it usurps God, putting all of the power and even the cause of faith in the hands of the one praying. How can anyone muster up enough faith so that God will then respond? They cannot; nor does the prayer of faith work that way, at any rate.

Instead, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to create faith in us (Rom 10:17). It has nothing (Nothing.) to do with us working up enough faith. God causes faith in Christ and through it, makes us righteous. However, this righteousness is not our own—something that happens because we have somehow made ourselves truly faithful. This given righteousness is the righteousness of Christ that covers us when we become children of God through faith and baptism. When one puts on Christ (Gal 3:26–27) through the faith that God has provided, then that person begins to trust in God’s will, seeks out his will, and prays along those lines.

People of faith know that because the Father loves them, he hears their prayers. Therefore, they do not require the assistance of dead saints. The saints of heaven cannot get the ear of God any more effectively or sooner than can any living Christian who prays with faith. To believe otherwise, is to deny God’s love and either his power or willingness to hear.

Prayer: Increase my faith, Lord. Amen.

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