Pray to God the Father, Not to Jesus His Son

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1 Pray to God the Father, Not to Jesus His Son by Blake Cortright Prayer is central to the Christian faith; yet, human traditions have clouded the biblical understanding of prayer. Christians are exhorted to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17, English Standard Version) and to pray at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). However, to whom are the children of God to pray? In my experience, I have found more and more people praying to Jesus and less people praying to the Father. Was this the teaching of our Lord? It is difficult to pinpoint a time in history when a doctrine of praying to Jesus, rather than the Father, began. This practice emerged over the years. Yet today, praying to Jesus is commonplace in mainstream Christianity. Phrases including God-Jesus, Father- Jesus, and other extra-biblical terminology have found their way into the prayers of modern day Christians. In Luke 11:1, the disciples said to Jesus, Lord, teach us to pray. Jesus said, When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name (Luke 11:2). An unfortunate side effect of praying to Jesus instead of to his Father is the shift in focus from glorifying God to glorifying His Son. Jesus always pleased his Father. He said, He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him (John 8:29). My food is to do the will of Him who

2 Cortright 2 sent me to accomplish His work (John 4:34). Jesus focused on giving glory to God his Father. Jesus is praised in modern churches more often than the Father. While Scripture clearly teaches us that Jesus, the lamb, is worthy of praise (Revelation 5:12), it also is clear that we are to do all things to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Jesus reflects the glory of God, but the Father s glory is greater than the Son s. Misunderstanding this causes a misplacement of whom to glorify. A friend of mine told me, I pray to Jesus when I need compassion and not a scolding from my Father. This thought process comes from the cultural understanding of Jesus as a loving, caring Lord and of his Father as a wrathful, Old Testament God. Yet, in Exodus 34, the attributes of Yahweh, the Father, are listed He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (Exodus 34:6-7). The Father is very compassionate. He loved the world so much that He sacrificed His only Son for the sins of the world (John 3:16). In the famous Lord s prayer, Jesus provides not a vain repetitious prayer (Matthew 6:7), but rather a breakdown of the essence of prayer. Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:9-13). In the opening line, Jesus acknowledges that he is addressing his Father, and then he makes mention of the holiness

3 of God s name, Yahweh. Hallowed be Your name. This prayer suggests that we are to pray to the Father. Our prayers should glorify Him. Those who pray to Jesus do so, leaning upon a few verses. The verse whatever you ask in my name, this I will do (John 14:13) is used to suggest that we ought to pray to Jesus. Also, the verse Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6) has been used to support praying to Jesus, because no one can come before the Father except through the Son. People who pray to Jesus, however, often use extra-biblical terminology when praying to him. They attribute to Jesus titles which belong to the Father: Father God Jesus, Everlasting Jesus, Jesus Almighty, and so forth. God, the Father, is referred to as everlasting and almighty, but Jesus is not. Acts 7:59 and Revelation 22:20 are used as arguments for praying to Jesus. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59). He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20). The belief is that in both of these instances, followers of Christ are praying to the Son instead of to the Father. However, there is a difference between these verses and prayers recorded in Scripture, such as Ephesians 3: In Acts, it says of Stephen, but he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). This is the only

4 Cortright 4 record where Jesus is seen standing at the right hand of God. Stephen called out to his Savior whom he saw at the throne of God. He was not praying; rather, he was calling to the one he saw. In Revelation 22, John follows a similar pattern. He addresses the one to whom he is speaking. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches (Revelation 22:16). This verse establishes that Jesus, through the angel, is the speaker in this section. He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20). In this verse, John is not praying, but rather he is responding to the speaker. Jesus taught his disciples Whatever you ask in my name, this will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13). All that Jesus did in his earthly ministry, and all that he now does, is to the glory of his Father, God. Paul wrote, For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5). This verse makes plain the relationship between Father and Son and clearly shows Jesus place in our prayers. He mediates between the Father and our unholy selves. Jesus is the only way to the Father. No unholy human can come to the Father but through Jesus who is seated at God s right hand. In prayer, Paul always addressed the Father. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named...to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21). In his letter to the church at Colossi, Paul writes, We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, (Colossians 1:3). The

5 prayers found in the Epistles of Paul are all addressed to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Didache shows that praying to the Father continued into the second century church. This ancient document of Church history describes the proper way to pray during a communion known as Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows, We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have made known to us through Jesus, your servant; to you be the glory forever (Lightfoot and Harmer ). The prayer continues for several lines with this pattern of glorifying God the Father and thanking Him for Jesus the Christ. Thus, we see that the early church believed they should to pray to the Father, not the Son. The third century Christian scholar and martyr Origen taught that Christians ought not pray to the Son, but rather that they should pray to the Father. He wrote, Now if we are to take prayer in its most exact sense, perhaps we should not pray to anyone begotten, not even to Christ Himself, but only to the God and Father of all, to whom even our Savior Himself prayed... and to whom He taught us to pray (Greer 112). His argument continues, it follows that prayer should be addressed to the Son and not to the Father, or to both, or to the Father alone. Anyone...would agree that the first possibility...is completely absurd, and would have to be maintained against the obvious facts. And if we prayed to both, then it is obvious that we should offer our requests in the plural...the very expressions betray the absurdity of this alternative, nor can anyone find in Scripture prayers addressed in the plural. Consequently,

6 Cortright 6 the remaining possibility is that we should pray only to the God and Father of all (112-13). Origen believed Jesus was God, but still he held the belief that the followers of Christ should pray to the Father, not to the Son. Modern day Christians should challenge the traditions of praying to Jesus and praising him more than his Father, a thing he never taught. We should follow the teaching of the one whom we call our Lord. He taught us to pray to the Father. He did everything to God s glory. He always did his Father s will. So too we, if we call ourselves followers of Christ, should pray to the Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus the Christ The Apostolic Fathers Second Edition. Trans. J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer. Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, Print. English Standard Version. [Wheaton]: Crossway, EsvBible.org. Web. Sept Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer and Selected Works. Trans. Rowan A. Greer. New York: Paulist Press, Print.

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