I've been reading Surprised by Hope by imminent theologian N.T. Wright. It is an extremely tough read since Wright writes a lot like Paul...lots of extra long sentences filled with long words and references to people and things with which he thinks I'm familiar. But I love what he says about the afterlife, not only because it makes me really anticipate what God has in store for us, but because there is strong scriptural basis for his beliefs.
I may use several blog entries to shine the light on Wright's views of heaven. If you think we are destined to float among the clouds in an endless, spirit-like, nebulous way for eternity, you'll be thrilled with what he says.
There's not room in a blog entry to fully develop what Wright says about paradise. So instead, let me drop some random statements he makes on the subject:
All departed Christians are in substantially the same state, that of restful happiness. Though this is sometimes described as sleep, we shouldn't take this to mean that it is a state of unconsciousness. Rather "sleep" here means that the body is "asleep" in the sense of "dead", while the real person - however we want to describe him or her - continues.
This state is not, clearly, the final destiny for which the Christian dead are bound, which is the bodily resurrection. But it is a state in which the dead are held firmly within the conscious love of God and the conscious presence of Jesus Christ while they await that day.
I do not, however, find in the New Testament or in the earliest Christian fathers any suggestion that those at present in heaven or (if you prefer) paradise are actively engaged in praying for those of us in the present life. Nor do I find any suggestion that Christians who are still alive should pray to the saints to intercede to the Father on their behalf.