Do you pray to Jesus or God? Have you ever thought about the mechanics of your prayers? Maybe you’ve never thought about it or think it doesn’t really matter. To be sure, many Christians today pray to Jesus…and God the Father…and even to the Holy Spirit. This same question was asked and answered by Graham Cole and posted by The Gospel Coalition. He opens with:

“Many Christians pray to Jesus. But are they right to do so? It’s certainly a good question. I believe there are at least two sound reasons to pray to Jesus—-one theological and one scriptural.”

Well, we’re not sure the theological reason has much bearing so we’ll stick with the scriptural part. Does the Bible have anything to say about prayer, who it’s addressed to and if it even matters? Let’s check it out and see if Scripture takes a position one way or the other.

how Scripture answers "Do we pray to Jesus or God?"

We see example after example of Paul, both in actual prayer3,5 as well as simple statements2,4,6,11 that his prayers are to God. Furthermore, we have the instructions from Jesus regarding how to pray: who to pray to1 and that prayer offered in His name would be answered (by God)8. Paul essentially reiterates this with Jesus’ “stand between” role in prayer9 as well as his description of actual prayer he offers12. God is in heaven hearing our prayer and they are pleasing like sweet incense to Him10.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Jesus says to pray in secret to the Father and He will reward you in secret.

In the midst of Jesus’ sermon on the mount and His instruction to the people on how to pray. This immediately precedes His “model prayer” beginning, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

How does it inform?

Jesus specifically instructs to pray to the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

2
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,

Thanks are made to God when praying.

Paul’s opening to the Colossians.

How does it inform?

Paul prays to God, the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

3
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,

Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God in prison.

Paul and Silas were put in prison for preaching in Philippi.

How does it inform?

Paul and Silas praying to God, the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

4
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,

Thanks are made to God in prayer.

Paul’s letter to Philemon.

How does it inform?

Paul prays to God, the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

5
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

Prayer is made to God the Father.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and continues with an actual prayer through verse 21.

How does it inform?

Paul prays to God, the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

6
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Thanks are made to God in prayer night and day.

Paul’s letter to a younger evangelist, Timothy, instructing him in matters of doctrine and congregational order.

How does it inform?

Paul prays to God, the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

7
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

Stephen is being stoned and as he’s dying calls out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Stephen’s testimony of Jesus has enraged the crowd and they are stoning him. Just before him calling out he saw “the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (vs 56)

How does it inform?

This example is often given as an example (the example) of prayer to Jesus. However, Stephen is physically seeing Jesus in heaven at the moment he “called out” to Him vs “prayed to him”.

Does it apply? No

8
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.

A day will come with nothing will be asked of Jesus, but rather the Father “in my [Jesus’] name.”

Jesus giving final instruction to the twelve (chap 13-17) before he is crucified.

How does it inform?

Jesus providing the authority by which prayers are offered to God “in Jesus name.” [If we pray to Jesus, by what authority do we do it?]

Does it apply? Yes

9
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
For there is one God and the man, Jesus Christ, is the only one to advocate to Him on behalf of man.  Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all mankind and was the very testimony at just the right time.

Paul’s letter to a young preacher, Timothy.  This chapter begins with specific instructions on various matters beginning with praying for all.

How does it inform?

Jesus has a specific role to play in our prayer to the Father. Only He can mediate on our behalf.

Does it apply? Yes

10
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

An angel before the alter carried a censer holding incense and the prayers of the saints. The smoke and prayers came before God.

John is seeing the heavenly throne of God the Father (chap 4,5) and other events unfold.

How does it inform?

Prayers come before God the Father (not unlike the incense that burned day and night in the temple; the table of incense sat immediately in front of the Holy of Holies, God’s dwelling).

Does it apply? Yes

11
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Salutation to the church in Corinth, those sanctified in Christ and all those that “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Corinth. Just after this Paul says, “I give thanks to my God always for you…” (vs 4)

How does it inform?

This is sometimes offered as an example of praying to Jesus – the literal application of “calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” However, Scripture defines “calling on the Lord” as turning to Christ which is in fact how Paul is using it here. Prayer is mentioned just two verses later, and it is offered to God (1 Corinthians 1:4).

Does it apply? No

12
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
First, I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all and the witness of your faith to all the world. For God can testify of my service to Him in the ministry in the word of His Son, that I am constantly mentioning you to Him in my prayers and asking that by His will I might finally succeed in visiting you.

Introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

How does it inform?

Paul prayed to God1, through Jesus Christ8.

Does it apply? Yes

Do you agree? If so, share this question and the Bible Study Framework with others.

If you know of some other verses or you have something to add to the verses already listed for this question please leave a comment below! We welcome the public discussion and will incorporate your input into the Framework above. We have nothing to hide and invite your help in considering all that God’s word has to say.

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