(You can also listen to my thoughts related to this question.)
The answer is possibly yes—at least sometimes. Consider the evidence.
Christ, the God-man, is in Heaven, at the right hand of God, interceding for people on Earth (Romans 8:34), which tells us there is at least one person who has died and gone to Heaven and is now praying for those on Earth.
Then in Revelation 6:10 we see martyrs in Heaven praying to God, asking Him to take specific action on earth. These are saints who have died and are now in God’s presence. They’re actively praying for God’s justice on earth for persecuted believers. It seems likely they’d also be interceding for other aspects of their suffering brethren’s welfare. (Their keen urgency about the justice of God demonstrates again we won’t be passive in Heaven—we’ll be far less tolerant of persecution and a hundred other evils.)
The saints in Heaven are just as much a part of the body of Christ as the saints on earth. (Ephesians 3:15 speaks of “his whole family in heaven and on earth”.) Their sense of connection and loyalty to their brethren logically would be enhanced in Heaven, not diminished, wouldn’t it?
There’s no indication in Scripture that we should pray for the dead. It would do no good to pray for them, since “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Once they die, there’s nothing that can be done to change the state of a believer or unbeliever.
The pertinent question is not “should we pray for the dead?” but “do the dead pray for us?” Revelation 5:8 speaks of the “prayers of the saints” in a context that could include the saints in Heaven. Prayer is simply talking to God. Angels talk to God, therefore angels pray. We will communicate with God in Heaven. That means we’ll pray in Heaven. Will we pray less or more? Given our enhanced righteousness, it seems that in heaven our prayers would be all the more “powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
If people in Heaven witness some of what transpires on earth—then it would seem strange for them not to intercede for those they observe.
It all boils down to assumptions. If we assume those in Heaven aren’t interested in earth—and they don’t observe or feel connected with people on earth—then we’ll conclude they aren’t praying for them. If, on other hand, we assume saints in Heaven observe and take interest in God’s program and people on earth, it stands to reason they would be interceding for their comrades still on the battlefield.
Since God and the angels are clearly concerned with earth, shouldn’t saints in Heaven be? And since Heaven is a place where saints talk to God, shouldn’t we assume that once we’re in Heaven we’ll pray to God for those on earth? Why wouldn’t we?
Questions about our loved ones remembering us or possibly praying for us are rooted in our desire to be assured that our relationship with them continues even though we can’t see them. But of that we can be certain. Though we naturally grieve the death of loved ones, we know that if they are believers, we will one day be reunited. As the apostle Paul writes, “We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, NLT). Their parting is not the end of our relationship with them, only an interruption. We have not “lost” them, because we know where they are. They are experiencing the joy of Christ’s presence in a place so wonderful that Christ called it paradise.
Father, cause the hearts of your people to rejoice that we will one day be with you and with our Savior, Jesus. We praise you also that we will be reunited with our friends and family who know you and have gone before us into your presence. Thank you that they remember us, as we remember them. Until we see them again, comfort us with the knowledge that even now we are not disconnected from them. We have not lost them, and they have not lost us, because we know where they are, and they know where we are. We look forward to our homecoming and the Great Reunion!For more on eternity, browse Randy’s books on Heaven.
Photo by Cody Board on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.