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2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV):

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Did Paul pray to Jesus?

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The identity of the "Lord" in 2 Cor 12:8, 9 could potentially be either the Father (eg, Matt 11:25) or Jesus (eg, 2 Thess 2:16, Luke 5:8, etc).

There are a number of times in the NT where the unqualified vocative "O Lord" is used such as:

  • 1 Cor 16:22 - If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be under a curse. Come, O Lord!
  • Matt 15:22 - A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly."
  • Rev 15:4 - Who will not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”
  • Rev 6:10 - And they cried out in a loud voice, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You avenge our blood and judge those who dwell upon the earth?”
  • Acts 1:24 - And they prayed, “Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two You have chosen

There are many more - most of these, especially those without qualification, refer to Jesus and thus are prayers to Jesus. I observe that in the NT, the title "Lord" is never used of the Father without an accompanying "God" or "Father" close-by.

Thus, I see no reason to doubt that 2 Cor 12:8, 9 is a prayer to Jesus - it is addressed to the "Lord" and when unqualified, addresses Jesus.

APPENDIX - Prayers to Jesus

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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  • "I observe that in the NT, the title "Lord" is never used of the Father without an accompanying "God" or "Father" close-by." +1
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 17:36
  • +1 @Dottard I'd like to copy your answer here over to my subreddit :)
    – user35953
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 14:49
  • @TonyChan - you are welcome to do so.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 20:29
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It's interesting that this question even gets raised since the very essence of "prayer", at least in biblical terms, is something offered to God the Father. The Father is, after all, the one who answers prayer. Paul said, "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (2 Co 1:20) Is that not abundantly clear? Who does Paul say we pray to? God. Why? Because He's the one from which all blessing flow.

It's the Father throughout all time up until Jesus' time on earth that all prayer was unquestionably offered to...So that when the disciples asked Jesus "teach us how to pray" (Lk 11:1-4), Jesus' answer is a prayer TO God the Father. Note that he doesn't say, "Hey, by the way, you can also pray to me." (And just think about him even saying something like that?? Can you imagine? Talk about usurping authority.) If once isn't enough, in a second place when teaching the multitude he says "when you pray...pray to your Father" (Mt 6:6) Sounds almost like a direct command right there....

Furthermore, we have the clear roles outlined for prayer. The Father hears/answers. The Holy Spirit helps our prayers (Ro 8:26). The Son is the authority by which we offer/ask...again, Paul "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (2 Co 1:20) And again, Jesus' own instructions on prayer, "In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." (Jn 16:23)

Jesus literally says, "In the day you will ask NOTHING of me..." He gives instruction that prayer is to the Father (Mt 6:6, Lk 11:1-4). We have example after example and statement after statement about Paul and his own prayers - all to the Father (Ac 12:4-5, 16:25, Phi 1:4, Eph 3:14-15, Eph 5:18-21, 2 Ti 1:3, 1 Tim 1:12-14, 2:5-6, 1 Co 1:2, Ro 1:8-10, 2 Th 2:13-14, 2 Co 1:20, Col 1:3).

All that to say this in answer to the question. No! Paul was not praying to Jesus in 2 Cor 12. Based on Paul's own instruction and repeated examples of prayer, I'm pretty sure he would not contradict himself. Nor would he do something against Jesus' own instruction.

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  • @C D B. Very good answer. Thank you for your insight. Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 23:26

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