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It is a common practice among contemporary Christians to pray 'to Jesus'. Because most contemporary Christians believe Jesus is God, they believe they are praying to God. Fair enough.

A common criticism of Catholicism is the practice of asking saints for intercession, often thought of as 'praying to saints'. Protestants claim there is no scriptural basis for this. Fair enough.

However, when Jesus is asked how to pray, he instructs his disciples to pray to 'the Father'. (Matthew 6:9)

He also instructs people to pray 'in Jesus' name'. (John 16:23) However, it seems this is different from praying to Jesus.

Is there any textual evidence in the Gospels that Jesus thought people should conceive of their prayers as being directed 'to Jesus' as opposed to 'the Father'?

  • Except that it's off-topic - we don't do verse search questions here. – curiousdannii Sep 16 at 23:42
  • You can pray to the Father in Jesus' name. John 14:13 and John 16:24-26 imply this. – Perry Webb Sep 17 at 9:01
  • @AnthonyBurg. It looks like two individuals have voted to close your question. I wonder why. – user35499 Sep 17 at 12:00
  • @curiousdannii I'm not seeing that in either "What topics can I ask about here?" or "What types of questions should I avoid asking?" ... unless I missed it, which is probable. Is there a meta post about it? if so, then the question should be closed irrespective of answers given (accepted or not) so as not to enable "but it's been asked before" whinging. – CGCampbell Sep 17 at 12:13
  • @CGCampbell It's one of the site's close reasons: "Questions searching for a text are off-topic." I'm not sure if you can see that when you flag, it may only be shown if you have enough rep to vote to close. – curiousdannii Sep 17 at 12:24
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There are numerous cases in the NT of People praying directly to Jesus. Here is a sample:

  • John 4:10 - Jesus answered and said to her, "If you had known the gift of God and who it is saying to you, 'Give Me to drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given to you living water."
  • John 14:13, 14 -And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me for anything in My name, I will do it.
  • Acts 1:24, 25 - And they prayed, “Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two You have chosen to take up this ministry and apostleship, which Judas abandoned to go to his rightful place.”
  • Acts 7:59, 60 - While they were stoning him, Stephen appealed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Falling on his knees, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
  • Acts 9:5 - “Who are You, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied."
  • 1 Cor 1:2 - To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours
  • 2 Cor 12:8, 9 - Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
  • 1 Tim 1:12 - I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, that He considered me faithful and appointed me to service.
  • Rev 5 contains numerous prayers of praise to Jesus, eg, V8-10, V11, 12, V13.
  • Rev 22:20 - He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
  • Matt 28:17 - When they saw Him, they worshiped Him [this one for completeness] See also Matt 2:11, 14:33, 28:9, Luke 4:8; 24:52; John 9:38, Rom 10:9, Heb 1:5, 6, Phil 2:10,
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  • Thanks for these, which provide some interesting context. Your answer is a bit different from the question, which is whether Jesus thought people should pray to him. Either way, how does Matthew 28:17 qualify as an instance of people praying to Jesus? – Anthony Burg Sep 16 at 22:55
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    @AnthonyBurg - as stated in the answer, I included this for completeness only - worship usually involves praying and praise of some kind. More specifically to your question, see John 14:13, 14 specifically. – Dottard Sep 16 at 23:12
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    @AnthonyBurg - just added another in John 4 – Dottard Sep 16 at 23:28
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    @Dave - ἐάν τι αἰτήσητέ με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου τοῦτο / ἐγὼ ποιήσω from NA27, NA28, UBS5, Majority, Byzantine, etc. TR lacks the "me", but the evidence for its inclusion is compelling – Dottard Sep 17 at 5:57
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    @AnthonyBurg - consult UBS5 or UBS4 – Dottard Sep 24 at 20:58
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This is a good question. Both my wife and I have experienced this in our own church lives because we both pray to God - in the name of Jesus. But not to Jesus directly. It seems most people I know pray the same way.

No. It appears - as noted above - that Jesus instructed people to pray to the Father. In John 16:23-24 Jesus says to pray to the Father in his name:

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Jesus then specifically says that he is not an intermediary in John 16:26-27:

In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Within Judaism, to ask in someone's "name" means you are invoking the name of a righteous person. This would be to merit God's favor toward you to answer the prayer. In Genesis 24:12, Eliazer prays in the name of Abraham:

He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water. Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.

After the Golden Calf incident Moses is interceding on behalf of the Israelites and calls on the name of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”

Not sure about the Catholic part and seeking intercesion from the Saints...I'll ask my brother-in-law who is formerly a Catholic priest and not dogmatic in any way - basically, he'll give me the straight scoop. I'll add it later to my answer.

Even though we are sinful and don't deserve God's favor - by asking in the name of Jesus - God honors the prayer on his (Jesus') behalf.

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Should We Pray to Jesus?

First, why do these questions even arise? Because the Bible says that God, not Jesus, 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 his Father/God. When on earth Jesus himself prayed frequently to his heavenly Father,(which does not make sense if they are equal and both God) 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.

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: 'you shall worship THE LORD JEHOVAH your God, and him only you shall serve.' “ Jesus adhered to the fundamental truth that worship​—hence also prayers—​is to be addressed only to his Father, God.​—Luke 4:8; 6:12.Aramaic Bible.

Acknowledging Jesus in Our Prayers

Jesus died as a ransom sacrifice for mankind, was resurrected by God, and was exalted to a superior position. This brought 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.NWT

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.*

‘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’?

Some may ask about 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 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.

As we have seen, prayers are a form of worship that belongs exclusively to Almighty God. By addressing all our prayers to God, we indicate that we have taken to heart Jesus’ direction to pray: “Our Father in the heavens.”​—Matthew 6:9.

Is there any textual evidence in the Gospels that Jesus thought we should pray to Jesus? There is none.

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  • How do you respond to claims that John 14 includes "If you ask me", referring to Jesus, and hence indicates praying to Jesus? – Anthony Burg Sep 17 at 17:08
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    @AnthonyBurg. The asking is addressed to 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. When ask how to pray, Jesus did not instructed the disciples to pray to him. Consider the context and the rest of the Bible. 1 verse does not make a good doctrine. – user35499 Sep 17 at 21:57
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    An excellent answer. +1 – Ozzie Ozzie Sep 18 at 18:59
  • @Dottard.John 14:14 If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do. ASV. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. WBT If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it. WEB if ye ask anything in my name I will do it. YLT If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. DBT If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. AKJV If you shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. KJ2000B If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. AFV If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. KJB If you ask anything in My name, I will do it NASB Is there a "me" in these versions? – user35499 Sep 19 at 10:07
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    @AlexBalilo You probably should indicate your answer is a copy and paste from wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1994923 . – Anthony Burg Sep 24 at 17:25
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Jesus taught us to open a model prayer addressing to the Father.

Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
“ ‘Father,
hallowed be your name,

Formally, that's what we do as a model prayer.

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

John 14:13 can be applied to formal prayers as well as informal prayers without the opening address to the Father. It is part of the Trinitarian mystery that the Father and the Son are one.

An excellent example of this is in Acts 7:59

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Is there any textual evidence in the Gospels that Jesus thought we should open a model prayer by addressing to Jesus instead of the Father?

No, at least not according to my current understanding.

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Whom should Christians pray to based on the Gospels?

Avinu (אָבִינוּ) / Our Father

Mark 11:25 [KJV] "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

Mark 14:36 [KJV] "And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."

Matthew 6:9-13 [KJV] "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."

Luke 11:2-4 [KJV] "And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.3 Give us day by day our daily bread.4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."

John 14:16 "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever"

John 17:1 [KJV] "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee"

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Even demons are praying to Him asking Him to send them to the swine (Mark 5:12). The apostles, during the tempest on the sea, when He was sleeping, ask Him to deliver them and He does so in His own authority, ordering the sea and wind "Calm down!" and they do (Mark 4:38-39). The disciples wonder "who is He to whom the wind and sea are subjected?" and of course the Gospel writer refers to Psalm 89:9 ("You rule the raging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them") leading any reader to this psalmic parallel and a conclusion of Jesus' divinity, for to nobody but to God the universe obeys directly.

So, also after Jesus' Ascension to Heaven, is there any trace of wit and common sense in a supposition that, if during a tempest a Christian would remember Jesus calming the wind and the sea while on earth, and ask the ascended Jesus who sits on the right hand of the Father "Lord Jesus deliver me from the tempest", Jesus will answer: "Sorry, pal, I had this sovereign authority only during My earthly ministry, but now after I have returned to the Father, I am deprived of this authority, so I suggest you to ask the Father, not Me". Not even funny!

Thus, if Jesus does this and many other divinely authoritative things - miracles, healings, expulsions of demons, forgivings of sins, resurrections from dead - not by asking God, but out of His own sovereign authority as God, the only outcome and conclusion follows that surely, since He is not changed even after His ascension to heaven, Christians can and must pray to Him, as they do to the Father.

Moreover, Christians cannot pray to the Father unless through Him (John 16:23: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name", for if nobody comes to the Father but through the Son (John 14:6) and if the shortest and surest way for humans to come to God is to pray to God, then we cannot pray to Father unless together with the Son who changed radically the universe by giving authority to humans to be sons of God (John 1:12) and thus be able to call God "Father".

And also directly He says and commands His disciples and all Christians to pray to Him "Whatever you ask Me in My name, I will do" (ἐάν τι αἰτήσητέ με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐγὼ ποιήσω) (John 14:14).

Even pagan sources of the 2nd century affirm that Christians praise Christ as God in chants - "carmenque Christo quasi deo dicere" (Letter of Pliny the Younger to Trajan the Emperor), and if they sing to Him as to God, then they prayed to Him as well, for what is there a distance between praising in chants and praying?

A Christian not praying to Jesus is not a Christian.

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  • I delete the comments which have been moved to chat. Please avoided heated and provoking language. Also, the best comments aren't assertions but bring evidence. – Jon Ericson Sep 17 at 16:26
  • @JonEricson Thanks! "heated and provoking language" - I haven't used it in my comments and will be appreciative if you indicate even a one instance of it. My opponent indeed used a term "nonsense" against my assertion, but I am not at all offended by it, sincerely not! - if such words are substantiated by a correct and theologically sound argument, I am ok with it, for theological truth is thousand times thousand more important than barren politeness and idolatrous political correctness. The thing is that my opponent's argument did not live up to the legitimacy of his "nonsense" comment. – Levan Gigineishvili Sep 17 at 20:56
  • i.e. I do not mean that his comment was "nonsense" but that his argument did in no way shatter mine, and thus there was no ground for calling my argument "nonsense". If I write a truly nonsensical argument and you will write to me that it is nonsensical and substantiate this assertion by an argument, I will not be offended at all, but be thankful to you. The other thing is that I tend not to use such terms myself against concrete people, but only against wrong theological ideas in general. – Levan Gigineishvili Sep 17 at 21:13
  • Good before to know, Levan. (And good to meet you!) These comments were flagged by another user as unkind and I tend to agree. Whether or not they seemed unkind to you is important data, but remember that other people can see them as well. If someone who was interested in answering a question in the future sees this exchange and decides not to answer, well, we are poorer for it. Disagreements are best worked out in chat, as a rule. – Jon Ericson Sep 17 at 21:33
  • @JonEricson Thanks for the clarification and good to meet you too. Yes, the "chat" is a fine space to go deeper into details and nuances. I love it. Unfortunately my collocutor stopped responding me on chat thus snapping the discussion. For a dialectician like your humble servant, t h i s is unpleasant, not such a trifle as usage of word "nonsense" or suchlike, which just shows scarcity of arguments augmented by emotional outbreak. But to stop discussion is an offence to truth (which is revealed only through this method of logical discussion and dialectics), and pain to all who love truth. – Levan Gigineishvili Sep 18 at 6:13

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