Since Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6), why do we not pray to Jesus?
Jesus is our high priest and intercessor (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Tim. 2:5), and as such it is through him that we approach God’s throne in prayer (John 14:6). We address “our Father in heaven” in prayer rather than Jesus because Jesus himself directed us to do so (Matt. 6:9; Lk. 11:2).
Some point to situations in the New Testament such as Stephen’s address to Jesus during his martyrdom (Acts 7:54-60), Paul’s address to Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-5), and Paul’s prayer to the Lord concerning his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-9) as scriptural precedent of Christians praying to Jesus. However, it needs to be pointed out that in Acts both Stephen and Paul were experiencing miraculous visions in which they had direct contact with Jesus. That is not the same thing as Christians praying to a God whom they cannot see and who does not converse with them directly. This miraculous interaction could also apply to the interaction between Paul and “the Lord” in 2 Corinthians. Another possibility concerning the 2 Corinthians example is seen when we remember that the term “Lord” is used in the New Testament not only in reference to Jesus, but at times to his Father also (2 Cor. 5:10-11; 6:17-18). Thus, it is possible that Paul was addressing the Father in 2 Corinthians 12. Even if he was conversing with Christ in that instance, it still would fall under the category of miraculous interaction which would not apply to us today. Jesus told his disciples to address their prayers to their Father in heaven, so that is what we must do.
3 thoughts on “Bible Q&A: Should We Pray to Jesus?”
Just a few thoughts about this, I’m not contentious about it, I used to believe the same thing you do about it.
John 14:14 is the verse most often used in this discussion, “If you ask anything in my name I will do it.” However, the oldest manuscripts have the pronoun “me” in verse 14, thus the ESV, NASB, NLT and some others have “If you ask me ….” So this definitely puts it in a different light.
1 Tim 1:12 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord…” How did Paul thank Jesus? Did he speak the words or sing them? Or did he say anything to Jesus?
Does the visionary situation with Stephen forbid us from doing or saying anything he did? The apostles preached the gospel and confirmed it with miracles, but that doesn’t prevent us from preaching the same gospel today.
Under the Old Testament covenant people prayed directly to God with no intercessor, but under the New Testament we must still pray to the Father but we’re not allowed to pray to Jesus, so what does Jesus do? He is our high priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities but we can’t say anything to him?
I read where one brother said we may sing to Jesus but if we pray to him it is sin. I really think that is splitting hairs.
I would not dare lead a public prayer addressed to Jesus, because of the strife it would cause, but in my private prayers I have prayed to him on many occasions of stress and anxiety. He died for me, he knows what it’s like to be tempted in the flesh, may I thank him in prayer, may I ask him for strength? 1 Tim 1:12; Phil 4:13
I know the general teaching of the New Testament is to address the Father in the name of Jesus Christ ( by his authority, not just intoning those words at the end of the prayer), but I don’t think it’s a sin to pray to Jesus in private, I would put this in the Roma’s 14 category. I’ve known some brethren to become irate about this (not saying you are, I know you’re not that kind of person), but I think there should be liberty in this matter.
Just some thoughts that I pretty much keep to myself, but I felt that I could share them with you.
Thank you for your good work,
Hi Hugh. I appreciate your thoughts and you taking the time to express them to me. Concerning John 14:14, remember that the Lord was talking directly to the apostles. The NT would later show that the Lord, like he did with Stephen and Paul, would speak directly to one of his apostles, Peter, in a vision, and Peter spoke directly to him. This is all taking place during the time period in which the Lord spoke directly to some (it should be noted, not all) of his followers and they directly to him. For these reasons one is hard-pressed to prove conclusively from John 14:14 that we are allowed to directly pray to Jesus in our non-miraculous prayers which are outside the realm of visions in which the Lord directly speaks to us.
Concerning 1 Timothy 1:12, let me ask you this. Every time someone says, “Thank God” (as in, they’re driving along and a reckless driver misses t-boning them by **that much** and the first words out of their mouth are, “Oh, thank God”), are they by necessity praying to God at that moment by saying, “Thank God”? The other day, my little girls ran out ahead of me in the Wal-Mart parking lot and they weren’t watching their surroundings. I saw that they were about to run in front of a car and yelled for them to stop, which they immediately did. The car went on. I said under my breath, “Oh, thank God.” I then scolded them for not watching where they were going. After that, inside my head, I said a short prayer of thanks to God. Did I inherently say two prayers by virtue of the “thank God,” or one? In my mind, I said one. You would need to conclusively prove that simply saying that one thanks Deity to oneself is automatically and inherently a prayer to that Deity. Additionally, remember that Paul said this while in his mind he was addressing Timothy. Was Paul praying to God while simultaneously communicating to Timothy? Can one pray in that way? If I mention gratitude, or praise, or any other pious mindset to God in a conversation with you, does that mean I’m automatically expressing gratitude or praise, etc., to God while simultaneously talking to you?
Concerning Stephen, you are correct that the gospel must be preached today as it was then, albeit without miracles. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the Lord does not appear to us today in visions and thus put us in a place where we can directly address him “face to face,” as it were. It should also be pointed out that there is no evidence that the Lord directly appeared to all of his followers in the early church in this manner, thus affording them the opportunity to address him directly. If Stephen, Paul, and the like are to be used as precedence for us praying directly to Jesus, then most of the early church never got to pray to Jesus like they did.
Concerning your question about Jesus being our high priest and yet we can’t say anything to him, remember that he is also our Lord and King, having all authority. It is him who told us to address his heavenly Father in prayer. Thus, we show our gratitude and love for him as our Savior and High Priest by simply doing what he says.
Romans 14 deals with things which Deity has not legislated. A careful study of Romans 14 shows Paul through inspiration telling the vegetarians that God had not commanded that Christians avoid meat. The same cannot be said here. By specifying to whom we are to pray, the Lord has revealed his will for us in the matter. Thus, if we do anything else, it is based on our own feelings, suppositions, and desires, not his will. We need to simply obey what he told us to do here and trust that by doing so our goals of receiving strength and having him know of our infirmities and giving us what we need to overcome them will still be achieved.
Thank you for sharing this with me, and thanks for reading. 😊
I pray in Jesus name everyday!!