Should We Pray to Jesus?
The question is raised: should we pray to Jesus?
Perhaps the better way to praise the question is: does a Christian have Biblical authority to pray to Jesus.
Those who would answer in the negative on this question often base their position on the the Lord’s model prayer, in which He told His followers, “When you pray, pray thusly: Our Father in Heaven…” (Matthew 6:9). Similarly, Peter notes that his readers call on the Father (1 Peter 1:17). Clearly, prayer to the Father is authorized and expected of the saints. The question is whether this authorization precludes prayer to God, the Son.
Before going further, let us make two observations which should not be controversial for those who believe the Scriptures. The first is that, as the Lord taught, the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). All scripture is given by inspiration of God, all Scripture is true, all Scripture is profitable, and all Scripture is authoritative (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). As the Proverbs note, every word of God is pure (Proverbs 30:5). A derivative of this principle is that the Scriptures, being absolutely true, cannot contradict themselves.
The second observation is a logical extension of the first. When our interpretation or application of one Scripture contradicts other Scripture, or is contradicted by that Scripture, then our interpretation is false. When we find ourselves in such a situation, the humble servant of God acknowledges his error and seeks to correct his interpretation.
Concerning prayers to Jesus, in order to establish authority, we need that which is required for all authorized practices: commands, approved examples or a binding necessary inference. Specifically, we need either direct commands to pray to Jesus, divinely approved examples of men who prayed to Jesus, or else, a passage which infers, of necessity, that prayer to Jesus is permissible.
If we examine the New Testament, it is rather easy to find apostolic examples of prayers to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s look at two. The first is found in 2 Corinthians 12:8. The apostle Paul recounts to the Corinthians concerning a thorn in the flesh, and then says concerning the thorn that three times he pleaded with the Lord to remove it. The context of the passage, verses 9 and 10 in particular, wherein Jesus replies to Paul,show that the person to whom Paul was praying was none other than Jesus. Thus, we have a clear example, provided in an inspired book, that the apostle Paul prayed to Jesus, not once, but three times, and Jesus, rather than rebuking the apostle for doing so, instead replied and explained why He was not going to fulfill the request.
The second example is found at the end of Revelation. There as the apostle John is closing out the last book of the Bible, he ends with a prayer, “Come Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Now, its not a long prayer, but it’s still a prayer. It is a direct request from a man on earth, to the Savior in heaven, asking Jesus to return to earth and claim the final victory.
With two or three witnesses, God establishes a principle or a truth, and here we have two obvious apostolic examples of inspired men who prayed to Jesus, and were directed by the Holy Spirit to record the behavior for our benefit.
When a passage of Scripture contradicts an interpretation of Scripture, we should, in humility re-examine our interpretation. Those who would say there is no authority for such prayers must accuse the apostles of wrongdoing.
It seems likely that sometimes people try to over-distinguish between the work of the Father and the work of the Son. While clearly there is a delineation of roles between the Father and the Son, Jesus said, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me,” (John 14:11) and said concerning prayer, “whatever you ask in My name, that I will do,” (John 14:13), clearly putting Himself in the position of answering prayers.
Jesus is God (cf. John 1:3; Hebrews 1:1-3). He is not God the Father, but He is fully divine. He sits on high on the throne of God (cf. Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 3:21), and, as the Creator of all things (cf. Colossians 1:16), the Judge of all men (cf. Matthew 25:31-32; Acts 17:31), and the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15), He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He is almighty God, and, seeing as how He is not on earth, if you want to communicate with Christ, the only avenue open to you is prayer.
But what about Jesus’ clear teaching to pray to the Father?
Let us note a couple of things about that. Firstly, the apostles prayed to God the Father. We have clear examples of them doing so, and the Scriptures tell us we should call on the Father. No man should stop praying to the Father. Jesus certainly encouraged us to do so, and to do so often.
But a principle can be binding without being exclusive.
The model prayer, which Jesus taught His disciples is not an exclusive prayer which of itself forbids all other prayers not molded in the exact same image. Rather it is an outline of a potential prayer, and a very good prayer at that, which covers many of the things we should pray about. But there are other prayers in the New Testament which do not follow the exact same pattern. Jesus’ prayer in the garden for instance, was quite a different prayer (Matthew 26:39). As was His prayer recorded in John 17. Jesus obviously did not always structure prayer after the one model prayer He provided. Likewise, we see the apostles praying for boldness to speak, a thing not directly addressed in the model prayer (Acts 4:23-30). And Paul writes to Timothy and tells him that Christians should pray for their leaders and those in authority; another subject not addressed in the model prayer (1 Timothy 2:2).
Clearly the model prayer is not an exclusive prayer, forbidding any prayers that depart from its pattern. And we should not treat it as such.
It is wrong to add to God’s word. It is also wrong to take away from God’s word, forbidding what God has allowed. Clearly, examples of prayers to the Father outweigh examples of prayers to the Son, and we have an obligation and a privilege towards such prayers. No one should forbid such prayers. Yet, at the same time, there is clear authority to pray to our Lord and Brother, and we should not seek to bind our interpretation on others when that interpretation is contradicted by inspired examples of men who did the very thing we are teaching against, and were approved in doing so.
by Jonathan McAnulty