A Review of the January 2015 Watchtower article entitled “Should We Pray to Jesus?”
THE WATCHTOWER JANUARY 2015 page 14-15 ‘Should We Pray to Jesus?’
The article begins with a research poll of 800 youths from more than a dozen religious denominations [source not revealed], asking whether they believed that Jesus answers prayers. Over 60 percent said that they firmly believe that he does. However, one youth crossed out the name Jesus on the survey and wrote “God” instead. The question is then posed “What do you think? Should we address our prayers to Jesus or to God? To find the answer, first let us consider how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.”
The writer continues:
“HIS TEACHING: When one of his disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us how to pray,” Jesus replied: “Whenever you pray, say: ‘Father.’” (Luke 11:1,2) Further, in his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his listeners to pray. He said: “Pray to your Father.” He also reassured them by saying: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:6,8) On his final night as a human, Jesus told his disciples: “If you ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name.” (John 16:23) Jesus thus taught us to pray to the one who is both his Father and our Father, Jehovah God.—John 20:17.
“HIS EXAMPLE: In line with the way he taught others to pray, Jesus personally prayed: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” (Luke 10:21) On another occasion, “Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’” (John 11:41) And as he was dying, Jesus prayed: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) In praying to his heavenly Father—the “Lord of heaven and earth”—Jesus set a clear example for all to follow. (Matthew 11:25;26:41, 42; 1 John 2:6)”
A point to make from the section referring to Jesus’ example is that nowhere did Jesus ever pray using the phrase ‘Jehovah God’. Even in what is commonly called ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ he teaches his disciples to address God as ‘Father’.
But the controversial part of the article follows by its asking the question “Is that how Jesus’ early disciples understood his instructions? TO WHOM DID THE EARLY CHRISTIANS PRAY?
“Within weeks of Jesus’ return to heaven, his disciples were being harassed and threatened by their opposers. (Acts 4:18) Of course, they reached out in prayer—but to whom did they turn? “They raised their voices with one accord to God,” praying that he would continue helping them “through the name of [his] holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24, 30) So the disciples followed Jesus’ guidelines on prayer. They prayed to God, not to Jesus.
“Years later, the apostle Paul described the manner in which he and his associates prayed. Writing to fellow Christians, he said: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.” (Colossians 1:3) Paul also wrote to his fellow believers about “always giving thanks to our God and Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20) From these words, we see that Paul encouraged others to pray to his “God and Father for everything”—but, of course, in Jesus’ name.—Colossians 3:17.”
In the last paragraph the writer concludes by asking “Did They Pray to Jesus?” and continues “The Bible records a few occasions when faithful humans spoke to the heavenly Jesus—and sometimes to angels. (Acts 9:4,5,10-16;10:3,4; Revelation 10:8,9; 22:20) But were those men praying to these heavenly creatures? No. In all such instances, the heavenly creatures initiated the communication. Faithful men and women reserved prayer for God alone.—Philippians 4:6.”
However, the Watchtower Society publication You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth states “You may be having a real fight to get rid of some habit or practice that is not pleasing to God. If so, seek Jehovah’s help. Turn to him in prayer. The apostle Paul did, and he wrote, “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Philippians 4:13). But whom was Paul referring to? The Lord Jesus.
Which heavenly creatures are meant? Angels? Jesus? Here we see the root cause of the problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Is Jesus God to whom it is perfectly correct to address in prayer or is he a created being? In the first scripture from Acts 9, we have the famous encounter on the road to Damascus of Saul (later to become Paul) with the risen Jesus. Notice Saul’s response to the light from heaven and the voice speaking to him. “Who are you, Lord?” The answer was, of course, Jesus. Notice also that the same voice spoke to Ananias, and he also answered, “Yes, Lord”. Later, when he met up with Saul, he recounted that he had been sent by the Lord Jesus. Clearly, both of these men spoke with Jesus and were obedient to their Lord.
In Revelation 10:8,9 John is in conversation with the angel but nowhere is it suggested that he was praying to the angel, any more than in the other references to the visitation by angels to Joseph, Mary, Zechariah. These did not use the title ‘Lord’ when addressing their heavenly visitors. The book of Hebrews makes it quite clear that Jesus is far superior to the angels (1:6).
Not only do Paul and John address Jesus in prayer. So does the dying Stephen in Acts 7:59,60 where we read “As they were stoning Stephen, he made this appeal: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ Then, kneeling down, he cried out with a strong voice: ‘Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them’ (NWT). The word ‘Jehovah’ does not appear in the original Greek text but instead is the word kyrios translated ‘Lord’ in most Bibles, including the Kingdom Interlinear Translation. Stephen was addressing, and therefore praying to the Lord Jesus in both instances.
In John 5:16-23, Jesus knew that when he said, ‘My Father’, the Jews would understand that he was claiming to be of the same substance as Jehovah, that is God. Jesus was also a Jew and understood how the Jewish mind worked. It is very clear that the Jews were not unbelieving; they believed what Jesus said but rejected it, hence their response. They wanted to kill him for committing blasphemy.
The article concludes with these words, “Like the early Christians, we can show our love for Jesus by heeding his advice on prayer. (John 14:15) As we pray to our heavenly Father—and to him alone—the words of Psalm 116:1-2 will become ever more meaningful to us: “I love Jehovah because he hears my voice … I will call on him as long as I live.”
In Revelation 5:13,14 we see Jesus in his heavenly ministry. Who is receiving this honour, glory and worship? The One on the throne (Jehovah) and the Lamb (Jesus). Are we not to do what heaven is doing? In Revelation 22:20, John prays “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus”. Down the centuries this prayer has regularly featured in Christian worship.