.:SHOULD WE PRAY DIRECTLY TO JESUS? —If we are encouraged to pray to Jesus, when should we pray to the Father?
“I read the Acts 7:59 verse quoted on your website to support the idea that we can pray directly to Jesus, but I am still unsure about this because I have been taught to pray to Jehovah the Father and not to Jesus the Son. Can you please send me more Scriptures that explain why we can pray to Jesus? Also, if we are supposed to pray directly to Jesus, what do you say about the Lord’s prayer where Jesus taught us to pray saying: ‘Our Father…’ Since Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, why should we pray to Jesus?”
We agree with you that prayer is a form of worship that belongs exclusively to the Jehovah, the true God. Thus, when we see verses like Acts 7:59 where Stephen said: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,”1. we conclude that Scripture elevates Jesus to the level of Jehovah God because He not only receives prayer, but He is also worshipped along with the Father (see Revelation 5:11-14). Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses often argue that this verse at Acts 7:59 does not support the idea of “prayer” because a few verses earlier, Stephen saw Jesus in a vision. They maintain that Stephen was merely talking to Jesus like he would any other being whom would appear to him (as the angel Gabriel that spoke to Daniel in a vision at Daniel 9:21-22).
Is this argument valid? We believe it is not because Stephen saw the vision of Jesus at verse 55-56 before the Jews ran him out of the city and stoned him (see verses 57-58). So, by the time we get to verse 59 where Stephen called out to Jesus, he was no longer seeing Him in a vision. Also, if you notice the footnote on the word “appeal” in verse 59 in the 1984 study edition of The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References, it says regarding Stephen’s calling out to Jesus: “Or, ‘invocation; prayer.’ ” This same footnote appears in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures published by the Watchtower Society. So, even the Bible publications of the Watchtower Society agree with our assessment about this verse providing an example of a “prayer” to Jesus.
However, even if you don’t want to accept this verse as a guide for a Christian’s response to Christ, take notice for this next verse because Jesus commands us to pray to Him:
“If ever anything you should ask me in the name of me this I shall do.” —John 14:14, Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures
The reason we quote the literal English text under the Kingdom Interlinear’s Greek text is because the translators of the Watchtower Bible removed the first “me” in “ask me” from their New World Translation. In removing the first “me,” we see a clear example of bias against the worship of Jesus in the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Notice that Jesus not only proclaims that we are to “ask” Him for an answer to our petition, but He is the one who responds to our prayers: “…this I shall do.” He does not say: “…this Jehovah shall do” or “…this the Father shall do.” The fact that Jesus answers our prayers demonstrates a direct parallel between the One who receives our prayers and the One who responds. Thus, we see that Jesus encourages His disciples to address their prayers directly to Him. 2.
The next Scripture we would like to bring to your attention is 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. It reads in the New World Translation:
“In this behalf I three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me; and yet he really said to me: ‘My undeserved kindness is sufficient for you; for [my] power is being made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, will I rather boast as respects my weaknesses, that the power of the Christ may like a tent remain over me.”
Here Paul prayed to the “Lord” Jesus three times and Jesus answered his prayer by saying: “My… power is being make perfect in weakness.” Paul concluded by admitting that he would “rather boast …that the power of the Christ may like a tent remain over me.” So, here again, we see an example of a Christian in the Bible praying to the Lord Jesus with Jesus responding to the prayer with His “underserved kindness” and “power.”
Consider these verses of Acts 4:10,12 and 22:16:
“Let it be known to all of YOU and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Naz·a·rene´…by this one does this man stand here sound in front of YOU. …Furthermore, 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.’ ‘…Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.’”
If we are to “call upon” Jehovah’s name in prayer for salvation, why do these verses say that we must call upon Jesus’ name and “not another name” for salvation? If Jehovah’s name must be invoked in prayer for salvation, why would Acts 4:12 say that there is “not another name” but the name of Jesus “by which we must get saved”? It is clear from these passages that the “calling upon” of Jesus name is a prerequisite for salvation and the washing away of our sins.
Romans 10:13 in the Jehovah’s Witness Bible reads: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ ” If calling upon Jehovah means to pray to Jehovah, why doesn’t the act of calling upon Jesus’ name mean to pray directly to Jesus? Ponder what Jesus said at John 6:45:
“Everyone that has heard from the Father and has learned comes to me.”
If you have learned from Jehovah, you are commanded to “come to” Jesus. Have you come to Jesus by asking Him to wash away your sins and to give you eternal life? At John 10:27-30, Jesus promised:
“My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.”
How can you “listen to” Jesus voice if you don’t communicate with Him in prayer? How can you receive “everlasting life” if you don’t ask Jesus to give it to you? Jesus said at John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” How can you go “through” Jesus to get to the Father if you do not deal directly with Jesus by first going to Him prayer for salvation?
“…saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours… God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” —1 Corinthians 1:2, 9 3.
How can you have “fellowship” with Jesus if you never talk to Him?
You raised a good point when you mentioned the Lord’s prayer and how Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father…” at Matthew 6:9. We must keep in mind that by the time Jesus taught His disciples this prayer, they were already clean and forgiven of their sins (John 13:10). But before we can approach the Father ourselves, we must first have our sins forgiven by Jesus Christ:
“And when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic: ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now there were some of the scribes there, sitting and reasoning in their hearts: ‘Why is this man talking in this manner? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins except one, God?’ But Jesus, having discerned immediately by his spirit that they were reasoning that way in themselves, said to them: ‘Why are YOU reasoning these things in YOUR hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and pick up your cot and walk”? But in order for YOU men to know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins upon the earth,’—he said to the paralytic: ‘I say to you, Get up, pick up your cot, and go to your home.’ ”—Mark 2:5-11
The Jews correctly understood that God is the only One who can forgive sins. Jesus as God the Son has the authority of God to forgive sins. This shocked the Jews because they constantly attempted to merit God’s forgiveness by presenting periodical animal sacrifices to the high priest of the Jewish temple system. Their human “high priest” would offer up sacrifices to God that would temporarily mediate between the people and God (Hebrews 10:11).
However, when Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, He replaced the Jewish Old Covenant system and permanently fulfilled the New Covenant role (Hebrews 10:9-10, 12) as our only “High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14) and “Mediator” (1 Timothy 2:5). Thus, He is the only One qualified to forgive our sins and to reconcile us to God the Father (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). This is why we must first pray to Jesus by asking Him for forgiveness of our sins (John 6:45; 14:6) before we can call out to God the Father in prayer.
Scripture teaches that once we have received forgiveness of sins by making Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives (Romans 10:13), we are “adopted” out of Satan’s family (John 8:44) into God’s family (Galatians 4:5-7). While the Jews of the Old Covenant system approached God with formal titles such as “God,” “Lord,” or the personal name “YHWH” (Jehovah), Jesus gave His followers permission to use the intimate title of “Father” when petitioning God because we have a special position as “adopted” children of God. IN the same way that only a son or daughter in a human family is able to call his or her parents “mom” or “dad,” Jesus emphasized that as His followers, we have the special position with God that enables us also to approach Him as “Our Father.”
“Now because YOU are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’” —Galatians 4:5
So, as adopted children of God, Jesus taught His disciples to pray the following sample prayer from Matthew 6:9-13: Take note of the four aspects prayer that He modeled in this prayer:
“YOU must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’”
1. ADORATION: The expression of worship for Who God is. (“…Let your name be sanctified.”)
2. CONFESSION: Admit our sins and receive cleansing and forgiveness. (“…forgive us our debts…”)
3. THANKSGIVING: Gratitude for God’s protection, provision and the promise that He plans will be fulfilled. (“Let your will take place…”)
4. SUPPLICATION: Request for the provision and strength to resist temptation. (“Give us today our bread for this day …deliver us from the wicked one.”)
Since we are the children of God as seen in the model prayer of Jesus, we can approach the Father not only for the forgiveness of sins that we confess, but also for strength to endure temptation. Yet, Scripture consistently proclaims that Jesus, as our “High Priest,” is able to be approached with these same requests just as Paul approached Jesus for strength and healing at 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. Since Jesus lived among us and experienced everything that we struggle with, He is most qualified to relate to our daily struggles and provide the grace and guidance that we need to overcome:
“Seeing, therefore, that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold onto [our] confessing of [him]. For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Hebrews 4:14-16
One of the reasons that we can present our prayer requests to the Father and the Son interchangeably is because the Father receives honor and worship by our honoring of the Son.
“In order that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” —John 5:23
At Revelation 5:11-14, we read of an incident where Jesus receives “worship” along with the Father. If Jesus was created by the Father and is not the true God, why does the Father share His glory with Jesus and allow Him to receive “worship” alongside Himself?
“I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.”—Isaiah 42:8
“So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 17:5
“And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the powerand riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’ And every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, I heard saying: ‘To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures went saying: ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”—Revelation 5:11-14
At Revelation 22:1,3, the throne of God is said to belong to both the Father and the Son. If Jesus is a separate “god” who serves under the true God Jehovah, how can Jesus own the Father’s throne?
“And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb… And no more will there be any curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city], and his slaves will render him sacred service; and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
Whose “throne” is this—the throne of Jesus or Jehovah? Who is the “him” that the slaves will render service to — Jesus or Jehovah? Whose “slaves” will they be —the slaves of Jesus Christ or the slaves of Jehovah?
“for YOU know that it is from Jehovah YOU will receive the due reward of the inheritance. SLAVE for the Master, Christ.”—Colossians 3:24
Whose “face” will these slaves see — Jesus or Jehovah?
“…by means of the Son… He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being.” —Hebrews 1:2-3
“Jesus said to him: “Have I been with YOU men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also]. How is it you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”—John 14:9
Whose “name” will be on their foreheads —the name of Jesus or Jehovah?
“And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads” —Revelation 14:1
From these Scriptural examples, we conclude that it is proper to pray to and worship the Son of God, not only because Jesus is the representation of God’s very being and possesses His glory and His throne of authority, but also because Jesus shares God’s nature as the second Person of the triune Jehovah Godhead.
“because it is in him [Jesus Christ] that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.” —Colossians 2:9
“In answer Thomas said to him: ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: ‘Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.’—John 20:28-29
1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are quoted from the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
2.Note there is a textual variance in the manuscripts of this passage. Some manuscripts do not have the “me” in this passage (like the KJV and NKJV bibles), however the oldest and best Greek manuscripts that we have available today (including Papyrus 66 –the oldest manuscript of the book of John at about 125C.E. and the Society’s manuscript of the Westcott and Hort manuscripts—Codex Siniaticus and Vaticanus) contain the “me.” To learn more about this translational variant see: JOHN 14:14 — DID JESUS SAY “ASK ME ANYTHING” OR DID HE SAY “ASK ANYTHING”?
3.Quoted from the New American Standard Bible.