Should We Pray to Jesus?
I just finished reading an article with the above title. A few days ago I was in a public place and noticed some old issues of The Watchtower that is published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. As you may know, this is a regular publication of Watchtower Witnesses (they like to call themselves Jehovahs Witnesses but they really are not accurate and genuine witnesses for Yahweh God). I picked up the copies for later perusal, although I dont recommend this for others.
One article in the issue that I went over was entitled, Should We Pray to Jesus? The unnamed author (Watchtower publications always keep the authors unknown) listed and discussed many references in the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament to show that we should pray to God the Fatherand to Him alone!
For example, when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He said, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name. . . (Luke11:2). The Lord said, Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven. . . (Matthew 6:9). He instructed them, Pray to your Father who is in secret (6:6). On the night of His betrayal, Jesus said, If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you (John 16:23). Jesus Himself prayed to God the Father: I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth (Matthew 11:25).
After Christs resurrection, His followers continued to address God the Father in prayer on a regular basis. The early Christians lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them (Acts 4:24). Notice the words of Paul: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all (Romans 1:8). I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). As we read through Pauls letters, it is normal for Him to pray or express the fact that he did pray to God: I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all (Philippians 1:3-4). To the Colossians, the apostle wrote, We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (1:3).
It seems quite certain that Christ taught us to pray to God, His (and our) Father. Further, the apostles also taught and exemplified prayer to God the Father, who is in heaven. The Witness article concludes that we are to pray to our heavenly Fatherand to him alone. They contend that faithful men and women reserved prayer for God alone. But is this the full story?
We dont doubt that we should normally and generally pray to God our Father. Abundant testimony witnesses to this fact. But there is another side to this matter, as any student of the Bible should know. There are a number of references that show that it is natural and permissible for us to address the Lord Jesus Christ is prayer as well.
In the upper room, Jesus told His apostles: Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:13-14). This appears to be an authentic verse that should be accepted as inspired (see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 245). Here we see that we can ask Jesus anything in His name. Granted, this is an unusual construction, but it is clear enough.
Consider also Pauls description of his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). The apostle says, Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me (v. 8). Who was the Lord to whom Paul prayed? Verse 9 says that the Lord said, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Paul then said, Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (v. 9b). It was Christs power that was in question, thus He must have been the Lord to whom Paul prayed and who responded to Pauls prayer.
As we leaf through the New Testament, we may notice Pauls comments at 1 Timothy 1:12: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me. Just as he thanked God the Father, so he could thank Jesus Christ Himself, through prayer. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). This calling suggests prayer to the Lord (cf. Romans 10:9, 13). Paul also refers to those who call on the Lord Jesus from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Another indication would be the term, Maranatha, which may mean, Our Lord, come! (1 Corinthians 16:22).
In the gathering of disciples before Pentecost, the apostles were concerned about filling the place that Judas had occupied. The assembly prayed, You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to His own place (Acts 1:24-25). We know that in Acts, Lord can refer to Jesus (2:36) or God the Father (4:24). The prayer quoted above may refer to Jesus who is the closest antecedent (1:21). Furthermore, just as Jesus had chosen the original twelve, the apostles knew that He could choose a replacement for Judas.
It may be significant that singing and making melody with the heart is directed to the Lordevidently a reference to the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 5:19 with v. 20). (However, verse 20 does refer to giving thanks to God. See also Colossians 3:16.) Singing to Christ would be tantamount to praying to Christ. The final book of the New Testament (Revelation) ends with a prayer to Jesus: Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.
There is sufficient evidence for us to conclude that prayer to the Lord Jesus was a practice acceptable to Jesus and the early Christians. We should not shun the practice. At the same time, we need to honestly admit that the vast majority of references to prayer specify that God the Father is the object. He is specifically addressed in most cases. Therefore, we would suggest that most of our praying should be to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. With this, we admit that both prayer and singing may also be directed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely the Witness statement that faithful men and women reserved prayer for God alone is incorrect. The reason why these people refuse to address Jesus in prayer is because they hold that God and Jesus are not equal (ibid.). They deny that Jesus is God (as well as the Son of God the Father). But for those of us who do acknowledge Christs deity (cf. Colossians 2:9), we may sometimes address Him directly. Lets not deny the truth in our effort to promote the truth!