For many years I’ve heard Christians “pray” to Jesus. I believe that because Jesus Prayed to a Being Higher than Himself (God), We are to pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Am I wrong in thinking this way, or are we to pray to Jesus? – Mike T.
Should we pray to the Father or to Jesus? To some, the question may seem silly. “Well, Jesus is God, so it doesn’t really matter who you pray to!” they may argue. Of course, on one level, such an answer is absolutely correct. The Son is just as much God as is the Father, and God isn’t going to ignore the prayers of His children because we addressed the wrong Person of the Godhead. But on the other hand, the question is deeply important, because it says a great deal about our understanding of our relationship to God and what exactly Jesus did for us.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), He gave them a model prayer that begins, “Our Father,” not “Dear God.” He did not say, “Well, you pray to Me, of course . . .” Certainly, from a Trinitarian perspective, Jesus is identifying the Person to whom the disciples should pray. But more than that, the word “Father” brings out the relationship between God and believers. It is used only fifteen times in the Old Testament with reference to God, yet the New Testament uses it nearly 250 times! The Jews were not accustomed to thinking of God as “Father” except in the distant sense of a protector and the one who brought them into existence (cf. John 8:41). Even then, though, there is a difference in referring to God as your Father and addressing Him as such.
What makes this truth even more amazing is that through Jesus such intimacy can be had at all with God. Again, while there is nothing wrong with praying to Jesus, it is important to recognize that His life and death allowed us access to the Father’s throne. This truth would be grand enough to simply pray to God as God, but to address the Father as Father, all thanks to Jesus, is humbling to consider!
Finally, I have always wondered when I hear people praying to Jesus what their view of the Trinity actually is. It is very easy to slip into the thinking that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all really the same Person, and that God simply manifests Himself in these different ways as the situation demands. This view is technically called Modalism and was condemned centuries ago as a heresy. It has made something of a resurgence in recent years thanks to Oneness Pentecostalism. In most cases, the people who pray to Jesus probably simply have not stopped to consider these issues, but it is possible that such languages actually shows a misunderstanding about the very nature of the Godhead.
The bottom line is that while it is certainly not wrong in any way to pray to Jesus, we should direct our prayers primarily to the Father, for that is why Jesus came in the first place. We have a relationship with Him thanks entirely to the Son, and we live in that relationship through the power of the Holy Spirit.