Should You Pray to Jesus?
SOME people consider it proper to pray to Jesus. In Germany many have been taught as children that before their meals they should fold their hands and thank Jesus Christ.
According to the Bible, Jesus indeed occupies a very high position in heaven. Does that, however, mean that we should pray to him? You may be among those who, out of love for Jesus, direct prayers to him, but what does Jesus himself think about such prayers?
First, why do these questions even arise? Because the Bible says that Jehovah God is the “Hearer of prayer.” It is hardly surprising, then, that servants of God in ancient times, such as the Israelites, prayed only to Jehovah God, the Almighty.—Psalm 5:1, 2; 65:2.
Did things change when Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to deliver mankind from sin and death? No, prayers were still directed to Jehovah. When on earth Jesus himself prayed frequently to his heavenly Father, and he taught others to do likewise. Just think of the model prayer, sometimes called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father, which is one of the best-known prayers in the world. Jesus did not teach us to pray to him; he gave us this model: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.”—Matthew 6:6, 9; 26:39, 42.
Now let us look at the subject more thoroughly by examining what prayer actually is.
What Is a Prayer?
Every prayer is a form of worship. The World Book Encyclopedia confirms this, stating: “Prayer is a form of worship in which a person may offer devotion, thanks, confession, or supplication to God.”
On one occasion Jesus said: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” Jesus adhered to the fundamental truth that worship—hence also prayers—is to be addressed only to his Father, Jehovah God.—Luke 4:8; 6:12.
Acknowledging Jesus in Our Prayers
Jesus died as a ransom sacrifice for mankind, was resurrected by God, and was exalted to a superior position. As you might imagine, all of this did bring about a change regarding acceptable prayers. In what way?
The apostle Paul describes the great influence that Jesus’ position exerts on prayer as follows: “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Philippians 2:9-11.
Do the words “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend” mean that we are to pray to him? No. The Greek phrase here involved “denotes the name upon which those that bow the knee unite, on which united all (πᾶν γόνυ) worship. The name which Jesus has received moves all to united adoration.” (A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, by G. B. Winer) Indeed, for a prayer to be acceptable, it must be presented “in the name of Jesus,” but it is, nevertheless, addressed to Jehovah God and serves to his glorification. For this reason, Paul says: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.”—Philippians 4:6.
Just as a path leads to a goal, so Jesus is the “way” that leads to God the Almighty. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus taught the apostles. (John 14:6) Thus, we should present our prayers to God through Jesus and not directly to Jesus himself.a
‘But,’ some may ask, ‘does the Bible not report that both the disciple Stephen and the apostle John spoke to Jesus in heaven?’ That is true. These events, however, did not involve prayers, as Stephen and John each saw Jesus in vision and spoke to him directly. (Acts 7:56, 59; Revelation 1:17-19; 22:20) Bear in mind that simply speaking even to God does not in itself constitute a prayer. Adam and Eve spoke to God, offering excuses for their great sin, when He judged them following their sin in Eden. Their talking to him in that way was not a prayer. (Genesis 3:8-19) Hence, it would be incorrect to cite Stephen’s or John’s talking to Jesus as evidence that we actually should pray to him.
How Is the Name of Jesus ‘Called Upon’?
Do you have lingering doubts, still considering it proper to pray to Jesus? One woman wrote to a branch office of the Watch Tower Society: “Unfortunately, I am still not convinced that the first Christians did not pray to Jesus.” She had in mind Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 1:2, where he mentioned “all who everywhere are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” One should note, however, that in the original language, the expression “to call upon” can mean things other than prayer.
How was the name of Christ ‘called upon’ everywhere? One way was that the followers of Jesus of Nazareth openly acknowledged him to be the Messiah and “Savior of the world,” performing many miraculous acts in his name. (1 John 4:14; Acts 3:6; 19:5) Therefore, The Interpreter’s Bible states that the phrase “to call on the name of our Lord . . . means to confess his lordship rather than to pray to him.”
Accepting Christ and exercising faith in his shed blood, which make the forgiveness of sins possible, also constitute a “calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Compare Acts 10:43 with Ac 22:16.) And we literally say Jesus’ name whenever we pray to God through him. So, while showing that we can call upon the name of Jesus, the Bible does not indicate that we should pray to him.—Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17.
What Jesus Can Do for Us
Jesus clearly promised his disciples: “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Does this require praying to him? No. The asking is addressed to Jehovah God—but in Jesus’ name. (John 14:13, 14; 15:16) We petition God that His Son, Jesus, apply his great power and authority in our behalf.
How does Jesus communicate with his true followers today? Paul’s description of the congregation of anointed Christians may serve as an illustration. He compared it to a body and Jesus Christ to the head. The “head” supplies the members of the spiritual body with their needs by way of “joints and ligaments,” or the means and arrangements for supplying his congregation with spiritual nourishment and direction. (Colossians 2:19) In a similar way, Jesus today uses “gifts in men,” or spiritually qualified men, to take the lead in the congregation, even administering correction if it becomes necessary. There is no provision for members of the congregation to communicate directly with Jesus or to pray to him, but they certainly should—yes, must—pray to Jesus’ Father, Jehovah God.—Ephesians 4:8-12.
How Do You Honor Jesus?
Concerning the salvation of humans, what a key role Jesus occupies! The apostle Peter exclaimed: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” (Acts 4:12) Are you aware of the importance of Jesus’ name?
By not directing prayers to Jesus personally, we are not degrading his position. Rather, Jesus is honored when we pray in his name. And just as children honor their parents by being obedient, we honor Jesus Christ by obeying his commandments, especially the new commandment to love one another.—John 5:23; 13:34.
Do you desire to offer acceptable prayers? Then direct them to Jehovah God, and do so in the name of his Son, Jesus. Come to know God’s will, and let your prayers reflect that understanding. (1 John 3:21, 22; 5:14) Draw strength from the words of Psalm 66:20: “Blessed be God, who has not turned aside my prayer, nor his loving-kindness from me.”
As we have seen, prayers are a form of worship that belongs exclusively to Almighty God. By addressing all our prayers to Jehovah God, we indicate that we have taken to heart Jesus’ direction to pray: “Our Father in the heavens.”—Matthew 6:9.
a Some might pray to Jesus because they believe that he is God. But Jesus was the Son of God, and he himself worshiped Jehovah, his Father. (John 20:17) For a detailed discussion of this subject, see Should You Believe in the Trinity?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.