The Bible’s Answer
When Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray, Jesus gave them a prayer that is widely known as the Lord’s Prayer, and it begins like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6:9)
Many would conclude from this one verse, “Well, that settles it. Jesus himself said that we should pray to God the Father, so it naturally follows that we should pray to him alone”. However, when searching for an answer to a particular topic in the Scriptures, one must take into account all Bible passages and teachings related to that topic, not just one or a couple. When we do this, what we find is that not only does the Bible teach Jesus’ disciples prayed to him, but Jesus himself taught that we can pray to him. So the Bible does indeed teach that we can pray to Jesus. Let’s now examine some passages.
The Saints in Every Place Prayed to Jesus
Paul began his first letter to the Corinthians by writing:
“Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 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: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
This may look like just another one of Paul’s usual greetings, however pay special attention to the phrase “all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. What does it mean to call upon the name of Jesus Christ? When the Bible uses this phrase, it refers to prayer. The Old Testament particularly makes use of this phrase a lot. In Psalm 116:1-4, for example, we read:
“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
In this passage, we clearly see that calling upon the name of the Lord means praying to him. So it is with Christ. To call upon the name of Jesus means to pray to him, and according to Paul, all the saints (Christians) in every place called upon his name in an act of prayer to him. Therefore, we can also.
Stephen Prayed to Jesus
After Stephen delivered his Gospel-centred speech to the Jews in Acts chapter 7, and announced that he had seen Jesus standing at God’s right hand in heaven, the Jews were so enraged that they began stoning him to death. Verses 59-60 say:
“And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Here, we see that in Stephen’s last dying breaths, he prayed to Jesus that his spirit would be received by him in heaven, and that his enemies would be forgiven. Not only is Stephen’s prayer here one of the greatest examples of following Christ’s commandment of loving one’s enemies, but this is also a clear example in the Bible of him praying directly to Jesus, hence proving that Jesus’ disciples did indeed pray to him, and that we can too.
Paul Prayed to Jesus
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote concerning great revelations he had heard of concerning heaven. But in order to prevent him from becoming conceited over these revelations, causing him to forget about or abandon his earthly duties, God permitted a thorn to be given him in the flesh, through a messenger of Satan. This could have been a chronic health problem, but the passage doesn’t specify. Paul wrote:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)
In this passage, we see that though Paul prayed to Jesus that he would take the thorn away from him, Jesus answered by telling him his grace is all he needs, because his power is made perfect in weakness. Paul then rejoices, knowing that even in his current frail and distraught state, Christ’s power rests most strongly upon him. Here we see a crystal clear instance in the Bible of Paul praying directly to Jesus, and Jesus answering his prayer, giving further proof that Jesus’ disciples did actually pray to him, meaning that we can too.
Jesus Invites Us to Pray to Him
Finally, we now get to what Jesus himself said about praying to him. Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus began telling his disciples about his impending death and return to his Father in heaven, as well as his relationship to the Father, telling them that he is the only way to him. To console his disciples, Jesus then promised them:
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
Here, we see that even though the disciples were disheartened that Jesus was about to leave them, Jesus consoled them by saying wherever they are, whatever situation they’re in, they can always pray to him and ask him for anything in his name, and that he would always answer them. Jesus’ consolation and invitation here is not simply for the disciples alone, but for us too, for the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible authors to put these very words of his in the Scriptures for our benefit, no matter what time we live in. Jesus here promises that no matter what, he is always near to those who love him—as close as a simple prayer away. Since Jesus invites his disciples to pray to him, it is clear that praying to Jesus is a perfectly biblical practice.
All in all, we have examined four Bible passages concerning prayers to Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 says that all the saints everywhere called upon Jesus’ name, which is an act of prayer to him. Acts 7:59-60 says that Stephen the apostle prayed to Jesus, asking that he would receive his spirit in heaven, and forgive his enemies, before dying as a martyr. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 says that Paul the apostle prayed to Jesus, asking him to remove the thorn in his flesh, and that Jesus answered by telling him that his grace given to him is enough, because his power is made perfect in weakness. Finally, in John 14:13-14 Jesus openly invites all his disciples to pray to him at any time, asking him for anything in his name, and promised that he would answer their prayers in accordance with God’s will.
One More Note to Consider
There’s one last thing that we should consider in relation to this question. The Bible teaches without a doubt that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14; John 20:28), the second Person of the Holy Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20). Even if we weren’t to take into account all the aforementioned Bible passages, the fact that Jesus is God alone is enough confirmation that it is just as fine to pray to him as it is to pray to the Father or the Holy Spirit, since they are the one God, united in nature and essence. So, can we pray to Jesus? The fact that: 1. Jesus’ disciples prayed to him, 2. Jesus said that we can pray to him, and 3. Jesus is God, the Bible’s answer is a resounding yes.