There is indeed much confusion regarding how to pray and to whom one should pray; however, the Bible clearly reveals that the followers of Jesus Christ should direct their prayers, first and foremost, to God the Father.
When asked about how to pray by one of His disciples, Jesus was very specific regarding to whom prayer was to be offered: “So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven ‘” (Luke 11:2). In the full context of His instruction about prayer, we find this final comment: “‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! ‘” (Luke 11:13).
Jesus teaches that we should address our prayer to the Father, and in so doing, He is pointing to the ultimate relationship that God is creating with mankind! In the account in Matthew concerning Jesus ‘ instruction about prayer, we read, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him ‘” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Note that Jesus says that the heathen think that their prayers are heard. That also applies to those who are deceived and believe that they are practicing Christianity! Jesus warns that many will say that they invoked the name of Jesus as a part of their religious practices; however, Jesus states: ” ‘And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” ‘” (Matthew 7:23).
When Jesus and His disciples came to a city of Samaria, He discussed worship with a woman from the area–a Gentile. Jesus stated: “‘…Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth ‘” (John 4:21-24).
In a pointed exchange between Jesus and some of the Jews, we find this record in John 8, verse 42: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but he sent Me. ‘” Continuing in this account, Jesus shows that even these Jews who were a part of the physical lineage of Abraham were not true worshippers of God: “Jesus answered, ‘If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him… ‘” (John 8:54-55).
Knowing the Father is the result of being called. Here is how Jesus explains how one may come to know the Father: ” ‘All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him ‘” (Matthew 11:27).
Jesus said, “‘…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me ‘” (John 14:6). He taught His disciples that following His death and resurrection they were to pray to the Father–asking in the name of Jesus Christ (compare John 15:16; 16:23). Jesus opened the way for His followers to pray directly to the Father: “‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God ‘” (John 16:26-27).
In His own personal references about God, Jesus refers to Him as “Father”–particularly when praying. (Compare Matthew 26:39, 42; Luke 10:21; Luke 23:34, 46; John 11:41; John 12:28; John 17:1) The remarkable truth is that this Father-Son relationship is what has always defined these two members of the God Family, and it is the kind of relationship that Christians are promised throughout the limitless future of eternity! Please refer to our booklet titled, “God Is A Family,” for a fuller explanation.
Jesus told His disciples that He was about to return to His Father, and in this context, He said, “‘…My Father is greater than I ‘” (John 14:28). Paul adds this explanation about the plan God is working out: “Then comes the end, when He [Jesus Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Also, we read in verse 28: “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
The Book of Hebrews explains: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). Hebrews also reveals that Jesus Christ opened the way to the Father, and that He continues as High Priest on our behalf when we come before God the Father in prayer: “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25; also, compare Hebrews 4:14-16). John writes: “…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1; also, compare Romans 8:34).
The early New Testament church was encouraged to pray, and Paul directed Christians to bring their needs and desires directly to God the Father through–that is, in the name of or by the authority of–Jesus Christ: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
There is absolutely no Biblical basis for praying to anyone but God. When John, on two occasions was so overwhelmed and filled with awe by the visions revealed through one of God ‘s angels, he reacted by falling down to worship the angel: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God ‘” (Revelation 22:9; compare Revelation 19:10).
However, there is at least one Biblical example when one of Christ’s servants prayed to Christ. We read in Acts 7:59-60: “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God [note that the word “God” was added, as it is not in the original] and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he said this, he fell asleep.”
It is therefore not wrong to include, OCCASIONALLY, in our prayers to the Father a direct acknowledgement of Jesus Christ [besides the fact that we are to pray “in Christ’s name,” or by His authority]. After all, Christ is God, and He was even worshipped when He was on this earth, in the flesh. We receive the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son, and both the Father and the Son live in us. The Holy Spirit, however, is not God or a person; therefore, we should never pray to the Holy Spirit (see our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”). We can ask God for more of His Spirit to assist us in coming to the Truth and for help in living as Christ lived.
Additionally, praying to Christ should not become the major focus of our prayer life. As the Scriptures show, Christ directed us to pray to the Father–as the HIGHEST BEING in the God Family. Because the Father accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, the way is now open for us to come with confidence to the throne of God for help (compare Hebrews 10:19-22).
When we do pray to the Father, we have this guiding assurance: “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:22-23).
Lead Writer: Dave Harris