Given that it was a Catholic hospital, I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked. Yet, I’d never had this happen before and did not realize this belief was still around.
Moments after I prayed with an elderly man going into surgery, his anesthesiologist informed us it was his turn to pray. I do not remember the specific words he prayed, all I remember is his asking the blessed Virgin Mary to bring his patient back and watch over him during the surgery. His prayer didn’t catch me off guard as much as his explanation.
His mother, he said, had taught him to pray this prayer to Mary (or perhaps rather to ask Mary to pray to Jesus for him). He was certain that the prayer would be answered because as any good son would do, Jesus listens to his mother. He used Mary’s words at the Wedding of Cana as proof that Jesus will even reluctantly obey his mother.
I knew of this teaching historically, I simply did not know it was still present. When I teach on Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation I use Luther’s prayer to St. Anne to explain how the common person in Luther’s day viewed the Lord Jesus. I also use this as a bridge to show why the biblical gospel is so much sweeter.
Michael Reeves summarizes well:
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“…as the knowledge of God declined so Christ receded into heaven. People felt they simply couldn’t approach him. They didn’t know of him as a Savior. And so that being the case, if you can’t approach Christ as a compassionate and faithful high priest who will intercede for us, we need mediators between us and Christ himself. So the thought grew: Well, if I can’t approach Christ, I will approach his mum who will put in a good word for me to Christ. And so people would begin to pray to Mary who would pray to Christ who would intercede with the Father. This actually started getting even stronger. Mary herself started acquiring this very exalted position as the Queen of Heaven and so people thought I should pray to her mother to put in a good word with her who will put in a good word with Jesus. And so the cult of Anne began, Anne being the mother of Mary.” (cf. The Unquenchable Flame)
It is also true that Luther likely prayed to St. Anne because she was the special saint for miners (as Luther’s father had been a miner). He wouldn’t have even thought of praying directly to Jesus, though. I had thought this way of thinking was long buried, but apparently at least one anesthesiologist in Southwest Missouri still holds this view.
I wish had the opportunity to share the gospel with this gentleman. His explanation for the prayer would have served as a tremendous bridge for the gospel. Sadly, he had to quickly wheel the elderly man behind the shroud and into the uncertainty of surgery. Hopefully someday I can share with him how the veil which stood between us and God has been torn by the work of Christ. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross we do not need to go through another mediator. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.
The beauty of the gospel is that God the Father listens. He hears. He cares. He is satisfied with us, because of what Jesus accomplished. We have direct access to God through Jesus. There is no need to talk to Jesus’ mother, we can talk directly to God. In fact He is interceding on our behalf even now. When I ended my prayer, “in Jesus name” there was absolutely no need to invoke the mother of Jesus. In fact, it’s insulting and gospel denying to do this.
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Our prayers are heard and answered not because of our righteousness (or even someone’s standing as his mother) instead our prayers are heard and answered because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Mike Leake is the Lead Pastor at FBC Marionville in Marionville, Missouri. He is currently pursuing his M.Div. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mike is married to Nikki, and they have two children, Isaiah and Hannah. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeLeake.
See Mike’s original article on his page, Borrowed Light.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
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