Saints Can Hear “Millions” of Prayers? (vs. Jordan Cooper)

Saints Can Hear “Millions” of Prayers? (vs. Jordan Cooper) March 20, 2024

Including a Summary of the Extraordinary, Unfathomable Characteristics of Redeemed Human Beings in Heaven

Rev. Dr. Jordan B. Cooper is a Lutheran pastor, adjunct professor of Systematic Theology, Executive Director of the popular Just & Sinner YouTube channel, and the President of the American Lutheran Theological Seminary (which holds to a doctrinally traditional Lutheranism, similar to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod). He has authored several books, as well as theological articles in a variety of publications. All my Bible citations are from RSV, unless otherwise indicated. Jordan’s words will be in blue.

This is my 13th reply to Jordan (many more to come, because I want to interact with the best, most informed Protestant opponents). All of these respectful critiques can be found in the “Replies to Jordan Cooper” section at the top of my Lutheranism web page.

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This is a response to a portion of Jordan’s YouTube video, “A Critique of Prayer to the Saints” (4-19-20).

30:52 To argue for prayers to the saints, what you’re arguing for is not only the idea that saints are in heaven praying for the church generally before the Father and seeing kind of the events of the world unpacked themselves. What they’re saying is that the saints have an almost divine omniscience, because the saints themselves are to some degree able to hear the prayers of so many people. I mean, think about the Blessed Virgin Mary or think about St. Peter  . . . how many prayers St. Peter must have to actually hear, so that he can hear every word that is spoken by everyone that is praying to him and not just out loud but even prayers that are in your head. So it gives the saints almost this kind of divine quality or this divine attribute of almost omniscience, to the point that they’re able to hear everything both externally and even in people’s minds. And we’re simply never told that those are qualities that are true of any creature . . . that is never ascribed to mere creatures, so that is the second major theological problem that that we have with that.

The gist of this oft-expressed Protestant criticism is that there is something logically possible, that is, nevertheless, not possible for God to do. God can’t grant these abilities to saints in heaven, even though angels already somehow possess them. Who gave them their powers? So God can’t or wouldn’t do this, we are told. I’m not at all sure of that. These powers need not be “omniscient” (having all knowledge) at all. It’s simply extraordinary abilities, combined with being outside of time in heaven. And indeed there are many biblical examples of extraordinary characteristics that all human beings who make it to heaven will have, and I submit that they could explain hearing “millions” of prayers or requests for intercession. Let’s look at some of those aspects in the Bible, shall we?:

St. Paul states that now we only “see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part” (1 Cor 13:12), and that “eye has not seen” (1 Cor 2:9) what God has “prepared” for us. We shall “see his face” (Rev 22:4) and see Him “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12), and He will be our “light” (Rev 22:5). Saints in heaven “shall understand fully” (1 Cor 13:12), and possess “knowledge” that he describes as “perfect”(1 Cor 13:9-10), and “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17): “the glory that is to be revealed” (Rom 8:18), “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21), and “eternal glory in Christ” (1 Pet 5:10).

St. Paul implies that believers even while on the earth can achieve “the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col 1:9) and can obtain “all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ” (Col 1:10). And they “shall be like” Jesus (1 Jn 3:2) and fully “united to the Lord” and “one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17). Christians “are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). This will be perfected in heaven. Saints in heaven will be “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19) and “the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13) and will be fully “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4) and totally free of and from sin (Rev 19:8; 21:8, 27; 22:14-15). Hebrews 12:1 (“we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”) proves that the saints are quite aware of happenings on earth (especially when we examine it closely and see what commentators think).

If we’re “equal to” angels after death, according to Jesus (Lk 20:36), and “like angels” (Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25), and we know that angels communicate with those on earth (many examples in the Bible; e.g., “the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven” — Gen 21:17), then it stands to reason that the dead saints will by analogy be able to do the same thing. Jesus said, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10). That’s an interior disposition. If angels know that, and we will be “equal” to them, then dead saints in heaven can certainly hear a petition, since by analogy to the angels they’ll be able to discern interior thoughts.

Moreover, there is the whole theology of God indwelling us. We’re described as “God’s temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:22). God “will live in” us (2 Cor 6:16). He’s “in” us (1 Jn 3:24; 4:4). God “abides in” us (1 Jn 3:24; 4:12-13, 15-16). Jesus abides in us (Jn 6:56; 15:4), and He is “in” us (Jn 14:20; 17:23; Rom 8:10; Col 1:27). He dwells in our “hearts” (Eph 3:17). The Holy Spirit is “within” us (Ezek 37:14). He’s “with” us (Jn 14:16), “dwells” “in” or “with” us (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11; 1 Cor 3:16), and is in our “hearts” (2 Cor 1:22; 3:3; Gal 4:6). All of these factors will no doubt be all the more intensified in heaven, and serious disciples have already experienced them to a large degree on earth. We become like God, united to Him.

Is it reasonable, then, to believe that even though the saints in heaven possess all of these extraordinary — and largely unknown and probably incomprehensible to us — characteristics, the ability to hear an intercessory request or a petition (or even millions, having transcended time) is not part of their abilities? That position is neither plausible nor biblical. Facebook friend Peter Rowe made a great related comment on my Facebook page:

I think the fact that computers can literally handle hundreds of millions of requests per second from all over the world at the same time, refutes the notion that this is impossible for a creature, since computers are a human creation and a divine one only secondarily.

Excellent point! If we (distantly echoing God’s creative capabilities) can make a computer that can do all that, certainly God the Creator can make it possible for a person to do so. Their love will be perfected, and will certainly include intercession. We already know for sure that saints and angels present our prayers to God in heaven (Rev 5:8; 8:3-4). What are they doing with them and how did they obtain them? The most logical, feasible explanation is that they had received prayers (technically, intercessory requests) from people on earth as intermediaries to God.

The notion of a human being in heaven being outside of time and in eternity, which is essentially different from time, is not merely Catholic thought. Once one has this view, answering of millions of prayers is entirely possible (and I would say, likely, given these departed saints’ perfect love). What Jordan casually assumes is impossible is not at all: not if God wills it. Protestant writer Ray Stedman wrote:

We constantly think of heaven as a continuation on a larger and perfect scale of life on earth. Locked into our world of space and time, we find it very difficult to imagine life proceeding on any other terms. But we must remember that time is time and eternity is eternity and never the twain shall meet. . . .

The thing we must remember in dealing with this matter of life beyond death is that when time ends, eternity begins. They are not the same, and we must not make them the same. Time means that we are locked into a pattern of chronological sequence which we are helpless to break. For example, all human beings sharing the same room will experience an earthquake together. While there are varying feelings and reactions, everyone will feel the earthquake at the same time. But in eternity events do not follow a sequential pattern. (“Time and Eternity”; ch. 9 of the book, Authentic Christianity, 1996)

The great Catholic author and apologist Peter Kreeft similarly expressed the state of those in heaven as follows:

A related consequence of all time being present in eternity is that we will be able to travel in time when we are in eternity. From eternity time is manipulable: expandable, compressible, reversible, divisible. It is silly-putty time. “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” [2 Peter 3:8], and just as He plays time like an accordion, expanding and contracting it at will, so can we when we live in Him. As an author can move backward or forward in a story, God can move in time, and so can we, once we get out of the story and into the Author. (Every Thing You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven . . . But Never Dreamed of Asking, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990, 168-169)

So where is the direct proof of our being outside of ordinary time as we know it, in heaven? We have already seen it. All we have to do is combine 2 Peter 3:8 (God being outside of ordinary time) with passages such as those that state we “shall be like” Jesus (1 Jn 3:2) and fully “united to the Lord” and “one spirit with him” (1 Cor 6:17), “filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19) and “the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13) and fully “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Moreover, we “abide in” God (1 Jn 3:24; 4:13, 15-16), and specifically, abide in Jesus (Jn 6:56; 15:4). We’re “in” Jesus (Jn 14:20; Phil 4:7). We’re “in” the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9), and “possess the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:13).

I think it’s quite reasonable and plausible to posit that having a different relationship to time will be part of that. And once that is granted, answering all those prayers (that may be simultaneous according to our earth-time, but not in heavenly time-eternity) poses no problem or “difficulty” at all. It’s been shown from the Bible alone. Protestants accept all these verses. Luther and Lutherans believe in theosis (union with God). Yet they also believe that we’re not identical to God in all respects. But we can be “like” Him in the matter of our relationship to time in heaven. God is omnipotent. If He wants this, He can make it happen; no problem! I think we know enough from Scripture and from the very nature of love (His and that of the saints and angels) to know that He does want it.

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Photo credit: EdenMoon (4-17-20) [Pixabay / Pixabay Content License]

Summary: Jordan Cooper expresses the myth about the impossibility of saints hearing millions of prayers at once. I provide much biblical support for its possibility & likelihood.

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