A RESEARCHER recently polled over 800 youths from more than a dozen religious denominations, asking whether they believed that Jesus answers prayers. Over 60 percent said that they firmly believe that he does. However, one youth crossed out the name Jesus on the survey and wrote “God” instead.
What do you think? Should we address our prayers to Jesus or to God?* To find the answer, first let us consider how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
TO WHOM DID JESUS TEACH US TO PRAY?
Jesus both taught and showed us to whom we should pray.
HIS TEACHING: When one of his disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to pray,” Jesus replied: “Whenever you pray, say: ‘Father.’” (Luke 11:1, 2) Further, in his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his listeners to pray. He said: “Pray to your Father.” He also reassured them by saying: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:6, 8) On his final night as a human, Jesus told his disciples: “If you ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name.” (John 16:23) Jesus thus taught us to pray to the one who is both his Father and our Father, Jehovah God.—John 20:17.
HIS EXAMPLE: In line with the way he taught others to pray, Jesus personally prayed: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” (Luke 10:21) On another occasion, “Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’” (John 11:41) And as he was dying, Jesus prayed: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) In praying to his heavenly Father—the “Lord of heaven and earth”—Jesus set a clear example for all to follow. (Matthew 11:25; 26:41, 42; 1 John 2:6) Is that how Jesus’ early disciples understood his instructions?
TO WHOM DID THE EARLY CHRISTIANS PRAY?
Within weeks of Jesus’ return to heaven, his disciples were being harassed and threatened by their opposers. (Acts 4:18) Of course, they reached out in prayer—but to whom did they turn? “They raised their voices with one accord to God,” praying that he would continue helping them “through the name of [his] holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24, 30) So the disciples followed Jesus’ guidelines on prayer. They prayed to God, not to Jesus.
Years later, the apostle Paul described the manner in which he and his associates prayed. Writing to fellow Christians, he said: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” (Colossians 1:3) Paul also wrote to his fellow believers about “always giving thanks to our God and Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20) From these words, we see that Paul encouraged others to pray to his “God and Father for everything”—but, of course, in Jesus’ name.—Colossians 3:17.
Like the early Christians, we can show our love for Jesus by heeding his advice on prayer. (John 14:15) As we pray to our heavenly Father—and to him alone—the words of Psalm 116:1, 2 will become ever more meaningful to us: “I love Jehovah because he hears my voice . . . I will call on him as long as I live.”*
According to the Scriptures, God and Jesus are not equal. For more information, see chapter 4 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In order for our prayers to be acceptable to God, we must sincerely endeavor to live up to his requirements. For more information, see chapter 17 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?