Praying to the Godhead
Time and again, I have heard people arguing about praying to Jesus or in Jesus’ name. On one side of this argument, people argue that the Scriptures say, “pray to God through Jesus” and that prayer should always be addressed to God the Father. One the other side of the argument, people argue somewhat on a logical basis in three ways:
- Jesus is part of the Godhead so when we pray to “God,” we pray to Jesus also.
- Jesus would hear our prayers as “mediator” so we can speak to Him.
- Our great love for Jesus demands that we would pray to Him.
None of these arguments is necessarily Scriptural. Let’s take them one by one.
The Godhead Argument—While Jesus is part of the Godhead, we are commanded to pray to the Father through Jesus (i.e., Rom 1.8; Eph 5.20; Col 3.17). Similarly, we are told we have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2.18). In this sense, the Father has a different role in prayer than Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are able to speak to our “Father in Heaven” because of the work of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The Mediator Argument—Jesus is called our mediator multiple times in Scripture. In all four occasions, it speaks directly to His role in mediating our covenant (cf. Hebrews 8.6; 9.15; 12.24). In 1 Timothy 2.5-6, we are told “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” This does not deal with Jesus’ role as mediator in our prayers. Jesus’ role is not to take our prayers to God and speak on our behalf. This function is more accurately given to the Holy Spirit, who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8.26). The Spirit takes our prayers to God and intercedes on our behalf.
The Love Argument—While we all would openly admit our immense love for our Savior, this in itself does not prove that we should speak to Him if He taught us to pray to the Father. Our love should cause us to obey (Jn 14.15), not bypass His commandments so we can express our love in our own way.
The Only Valid Argument—The only sure way to come to an answer on this question is to find examples or commandments in Scripture that will tell us to whom we should pray, of which there are both. Jesus tells His disciples in John 14, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14.13-14). Jesus clearly intended the disciples to continue to depend on Him and make requests of Him after He left them. John later applies this same commandment to us today. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him (1 John 5.13-15). The context is clear that Jesus hears our prayers and if He hears, He answers. Clearly we are commanded to pray to Jesus. We also have examples of those in Scripture doing so (cf. Acts 7.59; 1 Tim 1.12; 1 Cor 1.2; 2 Thess 2.16; Rev 22.20). Stephen did after being stoned. John did during his heavenly vision. Paul did so regularly. If they spoke to Jesus, we can also.
If we can (and should) pray to Jesus, does this mean we can also pray to the Holy Spirit? Logic would point to “yes” but we must apply the same standard of Scripture. We are told we have communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13.14) and fellowship with the Spirit (Phil 2.1). It is impossible to have communion or fellowship with one to whom you do not speak.
There is no reason to avoid speaking to Jesus or the Holy Spirit in prayer. They, along with the Father, care for each one of the citizens of the Kingdom. They rule over us. They give us instruction. They provide bountifully for all of us. We are in a relationship with them all. Yet, remember that the Father is supreme in authority (cf. 1 Cor 11.3; 15.27). Even Jesus taught us to pray to the Father (Matt 6.9-13). While we can speak freely to any member of the Godhead, we must recognize the authority of the Father just as they do in their work for the Kingdom. It is the Father who is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of man. We have access to the Father because of Jesus and the Spirit and we must continue to give the Father His exalted position of glory and majesty.