Teaching: Can We “Pray” to Jesus Christ?

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There is a controversy among Christians who believe that Jesus is not God but the Son of God, about whether or not we can pray to Jesus. The only definitive place to go for an answer to that question is the Word of God. It is important when trying to answer such an important question that we do not base our position upon only one Greek word or one verse. Rather, we must examine the scope of Scripture to see what it says. We believe that the Bible makes it clear that one can pray to Jesus, but does not have to, and we will do our best to show why that is.

There are many points of logic in understanding why we can pray to Jesus. Before we delve into the issue, however, it is important to understand that the basic and fundamental definition of “prayer” is “asking.” Our prayers may also include some praise, but in every language, prayer is fundamentally asking for something, as is clear from studying the Hebrew and Greek words translated prayer, and even looking up “prayer” in an English dictionary. Below are some points of logic and Scripture that indicate we can pray to Jesus.

1) Jesus is Lord of all (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12), and has all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). How can he be “Lord” in any real sense if we cannot ask him for things? Now that the Lord Jesus has all authority, it makes even more sense that we petition him, even as it made sense that people petitioned him when he was alive in his earthly ministry. Hundreds, even thousands, of people asked Jesus for things when he was on earth. Does it make sense that someone could ask Jesus for something over 2000 years ago, but cannot do so now?

2) We are to have fellowship with the Son (1 John 1:3). How can we have fellowship with Jesus, which clearly indicates being in relationship with him, but not ask him for anything? We have fellowship with God and ask Him for things, and we have fellowship with other Christians and ask them for things, so does it make sense that we are to have fellowship with Jesus but not ask him for anything?

3) Jesus said that his followers could ask him for things.

John 14:13 and 14
(13) And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
(14) You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

These verses become especially enlightening when they are read as they were written in the original text, which was without punctuation: “…I am going to the Father and I will do whatever you ask in my name…you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” It is clear from these verses that Jesus knew he was going to the Father, and wanted people to ask him for what they needed. Their doing so is a prayer, whether it is formally in a church building or informally as one is going about his or her daily business.

4) The Word of God makes it clear that believers in the early Church thought it normal to talk with the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

A) After his ascension, the disciples prayed to Jesus about choosing a replacement for Judas. This was logical because they understood it was Jesus who had originally chosen the twelve.

Acts 1:24 and 25
(24) Then they prayed [proseuchomai], “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen
(25) to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”

Although some have contended that the Lord in the above verse is God, it is more logical that it refers to Jesus. He was the one who chose Judas, and he was addressed as “Lord” by all the apostles over and over in the New Testament.

B) Stephen called upon Jesus, not God, when he was being stoned.

Acts 7:59 and 60a
(59) While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed [epikaleo= “calling upon”], Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
(60a) Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

C) Paul pleaded with the Lord Jesus about his “thorn in the flesh,” as is clear from the context of the following verses.

2 Corinthians 12:8 and 9
(8) Three times I pleaded [parakaleo=to beseech] with the Lord to take it away from me.
(9) But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

5) Verses such as Acts 9:34 and 2 Timothy 4:18 show that as the Head of the Body, the Lord Jesus is actively involved in healing and sustaining its members. It is our contention that any Christian can ask the Lord Jesus to do for him anything that would help him do the works that Jesus did. As Head of the Body, he converses with believers and asks things of them. It is only logical that we would also ask things of him. The New Testament tells us of his personal interaction with Stephen (Acts 7:56); Saul/Paul (Acts 9:1-9; 23:11; Gal. 1:12; 2 Cor. 12:9); Ananias (Acts 9:10-16); Peter (Acts 10:9-22; 2 Pet. 1:14); [1] and John (Rev. 1:9-18).

A) Since Pentecost, many things come to the Body via the Head, Jesus Christ. It is he who:

* Pours out the gift of holy spirit (Acts 2:33)
* Gives us grace (Rom. 1:5; 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor. 8:9; 13:14; Gal. 1:6; 6:18; Eph. 4:7; Phil. 4:23; 1 Thess. 5:8; 2 Thess. 1:12; 3:18)
* Gives us peace (2 Thess. 3:16)
* Gives us mercy (1 Cor. 7:25)
* Blesses us (Rom. 10:12; 15:29)
* Nurtures and cares for the Church, holds it together and causes it to grow (Eph. 5:29; Phil. 1:19; Col. 1:17; 2:19)
* Directs us (1 Cor. 16:7; 2 Thess. 3:5)
* Is interceding for us (Rom. 8:35)
* Gives the equipping ministries to the Church (Eph. 1:1; 4:8,11)
* Gives revelation (2 Cor. 12:1; Gal. 1:12)
* Will transform our bodies at his appearing (Phil. 3:21)
* Will judge, reward, and punish people, according to what they deserve (John 5:21,22; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:23-25; 1 Thess. 4:6; 2 Thess. 1:8)

Could it really be that with such an intimate connection to the members of his Body, the Lord Jesus could then not be addressed by his Church? Surely we can ask our Lord and Head for whatever that we need.

6) Calling on the Name of the Lord.

One evidence in Scripture that people can pray to Jesus is seen by paying attention to the phrase, “call upon the name of the Lord.” Through the Old Testament, when people “called upon the name of the Lord,” it was to pray to, appeal to, or ask for help from God.

Conclusion

It seems clear that we can pray to Jesus for things we need. However, the Bible does not give us clear direction as to when or about what a believer should talk to Jesus, as opposed to God. Whether a believer prays to God or Jesus is left up to the individual.

However, the vast majority of scriptures dealing with prayer make it clear that God is the principal source of all things, and therefore should be the chief focus of our worship, praise, and supplication. Those who enthusiastically embrace the idea of praying to the Lord Jesus must recognize that this practice ought not to be carried out to the point of distracting one from the worship of the Father. We are sure that the Lord Jesus would find it ironic indeed if he himself were to become the principal object of Christian worship and adoration, when his entire life and ministry was devoted to the glorification of his Father.

We should also make it clear that we are not saying that a Christian must pray to the Lord Jesus as part of his or her Christian walk. Because there is no clear command to do so, as there is to God (Eph. 5:19,20; Col. 1:3,9; 4:3), we must never tell anyone they must pray to Jesus. On the other hand, we shudder at the idea of any Christian telling another that it is wrong for him to talk/pray to the Lord Jesus. We would particularly hate to see believers judge one another and segregate themselves from other Christians over the issue of whether or not they pray to the Lord Jesus. We think whether or not one prays to Jesus is a matter of individual conscience, and not an issue about which believers ought to tyrannize one another.

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