I was asked the other day on behalf of someone who’s a Catholic Christian why Catholics pray to Mary.
There’s a whole larger theological sweep, comparing Mary with Eve as the mother of all the living, and, as the bearer of God, with the ark of the covenant. But from a bit of digging around in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the following seems to me are the key points that the doctrine is drawn from.
Luke 1.28-30. Mary is uniquely the favoured one because The Lord is with her. (p570)
Luke 1.48 “All generations will call me blessed” – “the Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship” (p222)
Luke 1.38 “Let it be to me according to your word” – “Without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son” (p110)
This is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception: “The Blessed Mary was, by a singular grace and privelege of Almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ…, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (p110)
It follows that because of her unique position that “we can pray with her and to her” (p571): “because of Mary’s singular co-operation with the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church loves to pray in communion with the Virgin Mary” (p571), including “entrusting the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus” (p569)
Luke 11.27-28. More blessed than the body which bore Jesus are those who hear and keep God’s word. While Mary is certainly blessed, true blessing comes from honouring God, not physical or biological closeness.
Mark 3:31-34. Jesus’ mother and brothers stand outside the house where Jesus is teaching and ask him to come out to them. It looks like Mary did not always have full confidence in Jesus – are we sure she was sinless? (Cf Mark 4.11 – to be outside the house was to be outside the kingdom and not understanding Jesus’ teaching) On the other hand, Mary’s position is not fundamentally unique: while certainly blessed to be the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:42-43), Jesus declares that anyone who does God’s will is his brother or sister or mother.
Therefore, we do not need Mary’s help in bringing our prayers to God, and Scripture does not encourage us to seek it. Rather:
Ephesians 3:11-12 – We have full access to God through Jesus
Romans 8:26-27 – The Spirit of God intercedes for us to the Father
Romans 8:34 – Christ Jesus is interceding for us at God’s right hand
Hebrews 10:19-22 – We can draw near to God in full confidence, because of the blood of Jesus.
Our Lord gives us our pattern for prayer: “this then is how you should pray: Our Father…” (Matthew 5:8-13)