Praying to the Saints

"We should seek the intercessions and the fervent prayers of the saints, because they have special 'boldness' (parresia), before God."
Saint John Chrysostom


The Orthodox Church is a living and vibrant community of faithful Christians made up of the members of the Church militant and the church triumphant. The Church militant are those of us who are still part of this world, diligently striving to live our lives according to God's teachings and commandments. The Church triumphant are those individuals who have been called by God to be with Him in paradise and continue to pray for us.

Holiness or sainthood is a gift given by God to mankind through the Holy Spirit. Man's effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, a famous Orthodox Theologian, has stated that "in private, an Orthodox Christian is free to ask for the prayers of any member of the Church, whether canonized or not. It would be perfectly normal for an Orthodox child, if orphaned, to end his evening prayers by asking for the intercessions, not only of the Mother of God and the saints, but his own mother and father. In its public worship, however, the church usually prays only to those whom it has officially proclaimed as saints."

In the Orthodox Church there are six classifications of Saints:

  1. The Apostles, who were the first ones to spread the message of the Incarnation of the Word of God and of salvation through Christ.
  2. The Prophets, because they predicted and prophesied the coming of the Messiah.
  3. The Martyrs, for sacrificing their lives and fearlessly confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.
  4. The Fathers and Hierarchs of the Church, who excelled in explaining and defending, by word and deed, the Christian Faith.
  5. The Monastics, who lived in the desert and dedicated themselves to spiritual exercise (askesis), reaching, as far as possible, perfection in Christ.
  6. The Just, those who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives as clergy or laity with their families, becoming examples for imitation in society.

Each and every one among these saints has his or her own calling and characteristics: they all fought the "good fight for the faith" (I Tim. 6.12 and II Tim. 4.7). All of them applied in their lives the scriptural virtues of "justice, piety, fidelity, love, fortitude and gentleness" (I Tim. 6.11).

The ultimate goal of humankind is to imitate God and live the life of deification (theosis). Saint Maximos the Confessor describes saints as being men and women who have avoided the unnatural development of the soul, that is, sin, and tried to live the natural way of life, turning and looking always towards God, thus achieving total unity with God through the Holy Spirit. This is why we look to the example of their lives for strength and encouragement, and why we continue to pray to them to intercede on our behalf to our Lord.

The following is a list of Saints called upon for special purposes: *

To Have a Child
St. Anna, Mother of the Theotokos
St. Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner
St. Sabbas the Sanctified of Palestine
St. Irene Chrysovolantou

For Safe Childbirth
St. Eleftherios

For the Care & Protection of Infants
St. Stylianos

For Young People
Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Wonderworker

Delivery from Sudden Death
St. Barbara the Great Martyr

Against Drinking
Holy Martyr Boniface & the Righteous Aglais

For Travelers
St. Nicholas: in general, & specifically for sea travel
St. John the Russian: for transport, auto, busses
St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople: for safety at sea

For Cobblers
St. Eustathius the Cobbler of Georgia

For Physicians
St. Panteleimon
The Holy Unmercenaries, Saints Cosmas & Damian
For the Kitchen, Home
St. Euphrosynos the Cook
St. Sergius of Radonezh: for baking
Sts. Spyridon & Nikodim of Kievo-Pechersk: Prosphora making

For Trading
St. Paraskeva

For Headaches
Holy New Martyr Demas of Smyrna

For Eyes
St. Paraskeva

For Ears
St. Spyridon the Wonderworker

For Teeth
St. Antipas of Pergamum

For Hernias & Intestinal Disorders
Holy Great Martyr Artemius
St. Artemius of Verkola

For Throat
St. Blaise of Sebastia

For Finding Employment
St. Xenia of St. Petersburg

For Help in Studies
The Three Hierarchs:
St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian
St. Sergius of Radonezh
St. John of Kronstadt
St. Justin the Philosopher

For Church-Chanting
St. Romanos the Melodist

For Iconographers
St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist
St. John of Damascus

For Patient Endurance of Affliction
St. Job the Much-Suffering
Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastia: especially in freezing cold weather
Holy Forty-Two Martyrs of Amorion

For Protection Against Thieves
St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Kievo-Pechersk

For Stone-workers
Holy Martyrs Florus & Laurus

For Soldiers
Holy Archangel Michael
St. George the Great Martyr
St. Barbara the Great Martyr

For Spiritual Help, Consolation & Compunction
St. Ephraim the Syrian
St. Alexis the Man of God
St. Seraphim of Sarov

For a Good End to One's Life
Holy Archangel Michael
St. Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople

For Captives and Court Cases
St. Onouphrios the Great
St. Peter of Athos
St. George the Great Martyr

For Help in Distress, Poverty, Etc.
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria
St. John of Kronstadt

For Finding Things
St. Phanourios the Great Martyr
St. Menas the Great Martyr of Egypt

For Meeting a Difficult Situation, an Interview, Etc.
St. David the Prophet, Psalmist & King
The Holy Unmercenaries & Healers
SS. Cosmas & Damian of Rome
SS. Panteleimon & Hermolaus
St. Julian the Martyr
St. John of Kronstadt
St. Nectarios of Aegina
Holy Archangel Raphael

For Animals & Livestock
St. George: cattle & herds
St. Parthenius of Radovysdius: cattle
SS. Spevsippus, Elesippus & Melevsippus: horses
St. Tryphon: geese

For Protection of Crops from Pests
St. Michael of Synnada

For the Protection of Gardens Against Pests
Holy Great Martyr Tryphon: also for hunters and Patron of Moscow

Against Demons & Witchcraft
SS. Cyprian & Justina
St. Theodore Sykeote
St. Mitrophan of Voronezh

For Chastity & Help in Carnal Warfare
St. John the Forerunner
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr
St. John the Much-Suffering
Holy Martyr Theodore the Byzantine
Holy Martyr Ignatios of Athos
St. Mary of Egypt
St. Joseph the All-Comely
St. Susanna [Old Testament]

For Mental Disorders
St. Naum of Ochrid
St. Anastasia
St. Gerasimos of Cephalonia: the possessed

Against Plague
St. Haralambos
St. Marina the Great Martyr

For Help Against Quick-Temper & Despondency
St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

For Workers in Hospitals
Holy Unmercenaries Saints Cosmas & Damian
St. Dositheus, Disciple of Abba Dorotheus

For Guilelessness & Simplicity
Holy Apostle Nathaniel & St. Paul the Simple


* Reprinted from Orthodox Family Life. Volume 3, Issue 3. Spring 1998