How Can a Human Like Mary Hear Millions of Prayers? The Answer Is in the Bible

The Blessed Virgin Mary’s extraordinary role in the Kingdom of God is completely harmonious with Scripture.

Diego Velázquez, “The Coronation of the Virgin,” ca. 1635
Diego Velázquez, “The Coronation of the Virgin,” ca. 1635 (photo: Public Domain)

A Calvinist friend of mine, with whom I am engaged in ongoing cordial dialogues, raised this issue, and stated that this is what Catholics teach when we assert that God gives power to Mary so that she can hear many thousands of simultaneous prayers or intercessory requests.

He contended that God takes such prayers to Mary and as such acts as a “mediator” to her. I had never heard this before. It’s an interesting question to ponder and reply to as an apologist.

The immediate response is that these prayers are directed through Mary to God, not through God to Mary. All Catholics are doing is applying what James (5:16) recommended: “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”

God told Abimelech that Abraham would pray for him, so he could live, “for” Abraham was “a prophet” (Genesis 20:6-7). Was God, then, the “mediator” of Abraham in that instance?

God told Job’s “friends” that “my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly” (Job 42:8). Was God the “mediator” of Job, too?

St. Paul and others — including, potentially, we ourselves — function as “mini-mediators” of God’s grace and salvation just like Mary does:

  • “Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16)
  • “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:8-17)
  • “For by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16; cf. Ephesians 3:2 and James 5:20)
  • “Some ... may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1; cf. 4:10)

The Bible also teaches that we are his “co-workers” and that his works are ours and vice versa:

  • “The Lord worked with them” (Mark 16:20)
  • “We are God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
  • “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  • “Always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you” (Philippians 2:12-13).

All of this being the case, it is nothing so unbelievable or extraordinary to believe in faith that God chose to involve Mary in intercession and the distribution of graces, even should he decide to do so in every case. God can do whatever he wants! He once used a donkey to speak and express his will to Balaam. He appeared in a burning bush and in a cloud. He chose to come to earth as a baby. Why should anything he does or chooses to do surprise us, or make us wonder in befuddlement? The ending of Job makes this clear enough. His thoughts are as far above ours as the stars are above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Mary is simply a helper or chosen vessel, just as Moses or John the Baptist or Elijah or Paul or Peter or John or anyone else was. In no way does this impinge upon God’s sole prerogatives, because he is simply using one of his creatures for his divine purposes. There is nothing intrinsically impossible, excessive, idolatrous or unbiblical in these beliefs held by Catholics through the centuries and firmly entrenched in Sacred Tradition. It is not an a priori impossible or implausible belief to hold, from a biblical perspective. It’s completely harmonious with Scripture.

This objection proves too much, in light of God’s sovereignty over all of his creation. Literally, no one could do anything without his power. God makes it possible for Mary to hear millions of intercessory prayers and then present them to God on our behalf. No problem at all for him! It’s simply a portion of everything that he continually makes possible in every nanosecond. Paul says, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Is Mary hearing our prayer requests and giving them to God somehow not part of that? Her actions are different from all the other God-enabled actions in the universe? It seems that an angel is involved in presenting our prayers to God in the book of Revelation: “The smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Revelation 8:4). The Bible says that Jesus is “upholding the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3) and that “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

But we are to believe that enabling and empowering one person, Mary, to hear intercessions is too much for God to handle, or beyond his capabilities? That’s very curious. It’s quite odd for someone who adheres to Calvinism, which places extreme (and praiseworthy) emphasis on God’s sovereignty and causation, to bring such a charge.

Even beyond all this, the Bible teaches that followers of Christ would be “united with him” (Romans 6:5), “one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17), “changed into his likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18), “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) and “the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13); indeed, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Then we get to the indwelling. We are “in” the Father and the Son (John 17:21; 1 John 2:24), and “in” Jesus (John 6:56; 14:20; 15:4-7; 16:33; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 2:6-7, 10; 1 John 2:24, 28; 5:20). God is in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13, 15) and we are “in” God (Colossians 3:3; 1 John 2:5, 24; 3:6, 24; 4:13, 15). Jesus is “in” us (John 14:20).