Praying to Jesus

Prayer

Prayer is one of the great privileges we have as Christians. Through prayer, we are able to make our requests known to God (Philippians 4:6), ask for help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7), and ask for forgiveness of sins (Acts 8:22). We are not to be negligent in this, but instead we ought to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The Scriptures teach that we are to pray to God (Romans 10:1; 15:30; 2 Corinthians 13:7). Nowhere does the Bible command or authorize us to pray to any other. Some believe in praying to saints or deceased family members. The word of God speaks of no such practice in the life of a Christian. Though there are three persons of God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), brethren typically think of the Father as the one to whom prayer is addressed. When Jesus taught the multitudes about prayer in Sermon on the Mount, He presented a model prayer. This example prayer – which some refer to as the “Lord’s Prayer” – was addressed to the Father: “Our Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9).

Does this serve as an exclusive pattern for our prayers today? That is to say, are we only authorized to pray to the Father? Many believe this is the case. They believe that whenever we pray, we are to pray to the Father. What about praying to Jesus? Some say we cannot do this. What do the Scriptures say?

Praying TO the Father, THROUGH the Son

Many who believe we are limited to offering prayers to the Father and cannot pray to Jesus will argue that we pray to the Father through the Son. We all agree that prayer can be directed to God the Father. As we noticed above, Jesus presented the example of addressing the Father in prayer (Matthew 6:9). In the garden before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to the Father (Matthew 26:39, 42). Paul spoke of “giving thanks to the Father” (Colossians 1:12). Other passages could also be shown to make this point.

We understand we can pray to the Father. What about the idea of praying through the Son. The passage that most clearly presents this idea is Colossians 3:17 – “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” There we have it, right? Praying (“giving thanks”) to the Father through the Son. That is what the verse says. But what does it mean to pray “through” Jesus?

I have heard it explained before this way: Praying to God is like making a phone call. When we pray, we are “calling” the Father in heaven. Jesus is like the phone line. Our call (prayer) travels through Him. He is involved only to the extent of providing an open line of communication. Our communication is with the Father, not with Christ. But is this what Paul was talking about when he spoke of “giving thanks through Him to God the Father”?

Such an interpretation has the phrase “through Him” indicating that Christ is only a passive participant in prayer, not an active one. If this is necessarily implied by the phrase “through Him,” then we should expect to see this idea of passive participation everywhere such a phrase is used. John spoke of Jesus’ role in creation: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). This verse teaches that all things were created through Christ. Does this mean He was only passively involved? No. The Hebrew writer said, “You, Lord [referring to Christ], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands” (Hebrews 1:10). Jesus was actively involved in creation.

Another example involves the final judgment: “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). Will Jesus merely be a passive participant in the judgment? Again, no. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). He will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). He has been “appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). Again we see that the phrase “through Him” or “through Christ Jesus” being used to indicate active participation in the activity.

Does the phrase “through Him” necessarily imply passive participation on the part of Christ in our prayers? Not necessarily. The phrase alone is not enough to say we cannot pray to Jesus because we only pray through Him to the Father. If we are prohibited from praying to Jesus, we will have to find the prohibition from other passages. It is not in Colossians 3:17.

Jesus’ Work as Mediator

Some will try to use the fact that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant” to show that we pray to the Father and not to Christ. This goes back to the idea of praying to the Father through the Son. The “mediator” is “between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5). Therefore, Jesus serves as the channel through which we can communicate with the Father. We address the Father in prayer. Jesus, the mediator, simply facilitates the transmission. Is this what is meant by the term “mediator”?

Notice three passages that talk about Jesus in His role as mediator:

  • For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
  • But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
  • How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:14-15).

These passages show what Jesus did as a mediator. He offered His life as a sacrifice for sins and delivered the new covenant – the gospel. Paul connected these things with reconciliation: “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Two things are necessary for man to be reconciled to God – the sacrifice of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel. All of this fits with the definition of mediator – “one that reconciles differences between disputants” (American Heritage Dictionary). Jesus’ mission in coming to earth was to “reconcile them both [Jews and Gentiles – all men] in one body to God” (Ephesians 2:16). This is why He is called the “mediator.

Jesus’ role as mediator has reference to His work in offering Himself on the cross and bringing the new covenant. It certainly does not mean we cannot pray to Him.

Passages That Speak of Prayer to Jesus

Thus far in our study, we have seen no prohibition that forbids us from praying to Jesus. Now we will turn our attention to positive authority for the practice. Let us notice some passages that actually refer to prayers being offered to Jesus.

  • Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Paul was referencing the fact that he had repeatedly prayed for his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) to be removed. To whom did He address his prayers? It was Jesus. The one who answered Paul was the one whose power would dwell in him. That was Christ. Paul addressed his prayers about this matter to the Lord Jesus.
  • I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service” (1 Timothy 1:12). Prayer is the avenue by which we can offer thanksgiving to God (Philippians 4:6, Colossians 3:17; 4:2). On this occasion, Paul said his thanksgiving was directed to Jesus. Therefore, we know he was praying to Jesus.
  • These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:13-15). John spoke of asking for certain things and having confidence that “He hears us.” Who is the “He” that hears us? This refers back to verses 12-13 – the Son of God, Jesus.
  • He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). A few verses earlier, the revelation that John had been shown was finished. Some concluding statements for the book are contained in verses 18-21. John reminded his audience of the words of Jesus – that He is coming. He then penned the words of a prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus.” Some may say this was not a prayer. What was it then? John was not writing to Jesus, so this was not a written request to Him. We certainly cannot say this was just an exclamation for then he would be guilty of using the Lord’s name in vain. This was a prayer. It provides us with an apostolic example showing that we are authorized to address Christ in prayer.

Conclusion

Who may we address in prayer? The Father? Yes. Jesus? Absolutely. We have looked through the New Testament and found no prohibition from doing this. Not only have we found no passage that restricts us from doing it, we have seen passages that speak of ones offering prayer to Christ. Prayer is a wonderful privilege. We are able to come before the Father or His Son and have confidence that they will hear us and answer us according to their will.


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