Insight on the Scriptures, the two-volume encyclopedia published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1988, addresses this question under the heading, “The Hearer of Prayer” [Volume II, page 667 and 668]:
“The entire Scriptural record testifies that Jehovah is the One to whom prayer should be directed… To pray to false gods and their idol images is exposed as stupidity… the gods they represent are unworthy of comparison with the true God, for the idols do not have the ability either to hear or to act, and the gods they represent are unworthy of comparison to the true God.”
We are in full agreement with the Watchtower on this point; large portions of Scripture are given to the prohibition of idolatry, which would include prayer directed to anyone but God. The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” Ex. 20:3.
The WT then adds this statement,
“Though some claim that prayer may properly be addressed to others, such as to God’s Son, the evidence is emphatically to the contrary.” [Insight, page 667]
The WT does not specify what it means by “others” but it lumps God’s Son in with these “others.” The WT is emphatic: it is not proper to pray to Jesus. They lay out their reasoning from Scriptures that apply – but not all of them as we shall see:
Acts 7:59, While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Rev. 22:20, He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The WT explains, there are “’rare instances” like these, in which words are addressed to Jesus Christ in heaven, but “they are not prayers.” Their explanation for Stephen’s “exceptional expression” is that he was seeing a vision of Jesus standing at God’s right hand and “reacted as if he were in Jesus’ personal presence”, and, John “had been hearing Jesus speak of his future coming” and was “expressing his desire for that coming.”
The WT then offers the following red herring:
“In both cases, that of Stephen and that of John, the situation differs little from that of the conversation John had with a heavenly person in this Revelation vision. [Rev.7:13,14]; (compare Acts 22:6-22).”
Differs little? Stephen and John were addressing Jesus. But in Rev. 7:13 and 14 John was questioning “one of the elders.” That is not a “little” difference, as the question on the table is whether it is proper to pray to Jesus.
The WT gives its final directive on this: “Compare Acts 22:6-22” -- without quoting any part of that passage. Then the WT changes the subject.
What should be obvious to anyone familiar with the Bible, is this: the WT completely ignores Acts chapter 9, a fuller account of the one recorded in Acts 22:6-22, the dramatic conversion of Saul [the Apostle Paul], in which are numerous verses that have bearing on our question, whether it is proper to pray to Jesus! This omission is worth thinking about.
Watchtower concludes with this, “There is
nothing to indicate that Christian disciples so expressed themselves under
other circumstances to Jesus after his ascension to heaven. [Insight, page 668]
Acts chapter 9, The Conversion of Saul (Paul)
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing
out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high
2 and asked him for letters to the
synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way,
whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
3 As he neared
- The Lord identifies himself as “Jesus”; it is Jesus who is being persecuted. v. 4,5
- There is only one antecedent to “Lord” in this chapter: Jesus! v. 5
- It is Jesus who speaks with Saul; it is Jesus who speaks with Ananias. v 4,10
- The Lord’s disciples are Jesus’ disciples, or it would include all Jews. v. 1
- The Lord calls on Ananias who responds, “Yes, Lord.” v. 10
- The Lord tells Ananias to go to Saul for “he is praying.” v. 11
- Addressing Jesus, Ananias calls Christians “your saints.” [Jesus’ saints] v. 13
- Addressing Jesus, Ananias says Christians “call on “your name.” [Jesus’ name] v. 14
- The Lord [Jesus] says Saul is “my chosen instrument to carry my name” before the Gentiles and the people of Israel. v. 15
- Ananias confirms that the one who appeared to Saul on the road is Jesus, and that Jesus is the one who sent him to Saul. v. 17
- Result is that Saul [Paul] began to teach that Jesus is the Son of God. v. 20
- “Those who call on this name”; “call on” (pray to), “this name (Jesus’ name). v. 21
- “Saul proved that Jesus is the Christ”, after Jesus appeared to him. v. 22;
- Saul had “seen the Lord [Jesus] and the Lord [Jesus] had spoken to him.” v. 27; see I Cor. 15:8.
- Saul “preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” v. 27
boldly in the name of the Lord.
The “name of Jesus” and the “name of the Lord” is used interchangeably.
Therefore, the Watchtower’s conclusion that “There is nothing to indicate that Christian disciples so expressed themselves [prayed] under other circumstances to Jesus after his ascension to heaven. [Insight, page 668], can only be reached by ignoring and misinterpreting the most pertinent Scriptures on the subject.
Jesus is both proper and welcomed by Him!
Phil 2:9-11Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
may ask me [Jesus] for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
(Please refer to our companion article on the Kingdom Interlinear Translation.)
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Written by Greta Olsoe