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Is it Proper to Pray to Jesus?

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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.   

The 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 priest
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 Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4          He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5          "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied.
6          "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7          The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
8          Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
9          For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10        In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered.
11        The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 
12          In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
13        "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
14        And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
15        But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
16        I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
17        Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18        Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
19        and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
20        At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
21        All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"
22        Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
23        After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,
24        but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
25        But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
26        When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
27        But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
28        So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
29        He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
30        When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 

-         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

-         Speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.  v. 28 

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.

Prayer to Jesus is both proper and welcomed by Him! 

Phil 2:9-11
Therefore 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."

John 14:14
“You 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