“…Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit. My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5: 16-20)
This passage explains not only why we should pray to the (canonized) “saints,” but also why we should ask one another for prayers, and why we should, ourselves, pray for others. The Prophet Elijah, celebrated this Friday according to the Older Calendar, is indeed one of the greatest saints of Salvation History, but he was, nonetheless, “a man of like nature with ourselves.” On occasion Elijah demonstrated small-heartedness, and even prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19: 4), – in which case God did not “harken” to his small-hearted prayer. But God did hear the “fervent” prayers of His prophet.
Thus we ask for the prayers of the “saints,” not because they were perfect, but because they were “sanctified,” that is to say, “dedicated” to God. This is also why we ask for the prayers of, and pray for, other faithful in our church-community, because we have all been “sanctified” in Holy Baptism. The extent of our or their “saint-hood” is not something we are given to judge or evaluate. But even those of us who are well aware of our own falling short in the area of “saint-hood” (ahem…) need not hesitate to pray fervently for others in need of prayers, because this “labor of love” for others can also “save” our own “soul from death,” and “cover a multitude of sins” of our own. So let us love one another, and pray for one another, because it’s good for all of us, both ourselves and our others! “Remembering our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God.”