“One glaring problem the Christians have is that Jesus prayed, and had a God himself. This logically lets us conclude that Jesus cannot be God. The logical thing to do is worship and pray to the one Jesus prayed to. If Jesus told you that he had a God, would you honestly take Jesus as God? The logical answer is no, but Christians throw all logic out when it comes to their Bible.” – Answering-Christianity.org
By George Mitrakos| There exists a widespread misconception within the religious world concerning our Lord’s supplication and prayer towards the Father. Divinity deniers see this as just another means by which Christ displays his human dependency on God.
How can Jesus be God if he prayed to God? Was he talking to himself? While it’s true that Jesus prayed to the Father in the Gospels, there is much more to this that needs to be examined. First off, we must understand that the New Testament teaches that God is a trinity of persons sharing deity. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
All three are God and share in God’s essence and nature, but they all have distinct personhood and roles. When we remember this, it’s very easy to understand why Jesus (who is God) would converse with the Father (who is also God). It’s simply a dialogue between two members of the trinity. But we are going to look at this question from three alternative angles.
Within this article, we are going to be looking at:
- A misconception about the word “prayer”.
- Why did Jesus pray?
- A point to remember.
Let us also establish Jesus had and currently has two different natures. Man, and God. Humanity, and deity. And since the historic and Biblical revelation of Jesus is of a fully divine person who took on the form of servant, it should not surprise us to see Jesus praying to the Father in His incarnate state. After all, touching His humanity, Jesus needed to submit and supplicate the Father. This is the sense in which Jesus has a God.
Jesus submitted to the will of the Father to carry out the redemptive plan of humanity, and in His incarnate state needed to have a God since He was truly human. But being fully equal with the Father touching His deity, His manner of prayer must be seen more as a supplication and conversation rather than a lesser being praying to an ontologically greater being.
Misconceptions about prayer
Those who deny the deity of Jesus typically force a limitation on a specific word penned within the Gospels. This time it is the word “pray”. These individuals claim that supplication is ONLY an action which involves a communication between a being of a greater essence with a being of a inferior essence.
Let us further examine the definition of the term “pray” both without and within the biblical narrative and see if there are any inconsistencies between the deity of Jesus and his act of praying to the Father.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word pray means:
- to speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something
- to hope or wish very much for something to happen
- to seriously ask (someone) to do something
We can clearly see that the term “prayer” is not limited within the confines of a God-to-man interaction. Now let us examine the Gospels and Jesus’ words to see if the above mentioned definitions apply to these verses.
According to the gospels, the word pray (in the kjv) has different definitions depending on the context and who it is being used by. For example, in Luke 14:18 the word “pray” is directed by one human to another:
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
In other words, the definition of the word pray does not have to be limited to a communication between a being of a GREATER nature with a being of a LOWER one. When we consider the fact that Christ claimed to be divine, then the word pray when employed by Jesus is simply an communication between him and the Father where he is deeply hoping and earnestly asking something of Him.
“Prayer” does not necessarily imply a human petitioning God. The definition of the word “prayer” proves this. So what we are seeing is one member of the Godhead petitioning another.
Why did Jesus pray?
Let us assume that the above point is false and the word “pray” is limited to the meanings a human speaking to God. This would in no way shape or form affect the doctrine of the God-nature of Christ due to the following reason:
One of the intentions of Christ was to serve as an example for the people to follow.
Hence, when we read the gospels, we constantly run into actions which Christ performs which we wouldn’t expect God to do, but he did them anyways to set a proper example for us to follow in his footsteps.
This can be seen in John 13:12-15 when Jesus washed their feet and said “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you”.
In other words, if God himself will be so humble as to wash another’s feet, so should we. If God were to humble himself before all men and kneel down in prayer in the secret place, so should we.
Jesus praying to the father served more as an example for humanity to mirror his behaviour rather than his need for supplication. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen and how it would happen before he was even born, which is why he says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” in Mark 10:45.
In the book of Matthew alone for example, there are 16 times where Jesus speaks of the prophecies being fulfilled, which proves he knew exactly what would happen to him:
1) ‘Now all this is come about, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Behold a virgin will be with child and will bring forth a son, and they will call His name Immanuel” which is being interpreted, ‘God with us’ (1.22).
2) ‘And He was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son” (2.15).
3) ‘Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted, because they are not” (2.17-18).
4) ‘And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, that He should be called a Nazarene’ (2.23).
5) ‘For this is he who was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make you ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight” (3.3).
6) ‘And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, Toward the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people that sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, to them did light spring up” (4.14-16).
7) ‘That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases” (8.17).
8) ‘That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, My beloved in whom My soul is well pleased, I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will declare judgment to the Gentiles. He will not strive, nor cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed will He not break, and smoking flax will He not quench, until He sends forth judgment unto victory. And in His name will the Gentiles hope” (12.17-21).
9) ‘And to them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, “By hearing you will hear, and will in no wise understand, and seeing you will see, and will in no wise perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them’ (13.14-17).
10) ‘That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet (Psalm 78.2), saying, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things which have been hidden from the foundation of the world” (13.35).
11) ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you saying, “This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (15.7-9).
12) ‘Now this is come about that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell you the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King comes to you, meek, and riding on an ass, and on a colt the foal of an ass” (21.4-5).
13) ‘Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures, The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This was the Lord’s doing and it was marvellous in our eyes” (21.42).
14) “How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” (26.54).
15) ‘In that hour said Jesus to the multitudes, “Are you come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you took me not. But all this is come about, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him, and fled’ (26.55-56).
16) ‘Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me” (27.9-10).
Jesus’ perfect knowledge of the outline of his own life shows that his prayer was not just to ask God for guidance, security, or strength, for he already knew exactly what his life was going to be in its fullest. His prayer (asking and hoping of the Father) was also intended to serve as an example to us. As Paul says, be imitators of God. (Eph 5:1)
Jesus himself answers our prayers
Here is a thought. How could the prayer of Jesus to the Father be the same as us praying to the Father when he demonstrated to us that he himself answers our prayers in John 14:13?
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If the term “pray” really just means a human speaking to God, this wouldn’t make sense because Jesus himself says he answers our prayers. So if Jesus can answer our prayers, he couldn’t be just human. The fact that he can answer the prayers of humans, yet prayed himself, shows both that he is God and that his prayer to the Father is of a different nature than ours.
A human being can’t both answer human prayers and pray to the Father as a human being. Either he can’t answer prayers (but he can), or his prayer is not just a human-to-God interaction. So the fact that Jesus can answer prayers proves that he is God while also being able to talk with other persons in the Godhead.
According to Gill’s exposition of the bible, he states:
that will I do; he does not say, that he would be a Mediator between God, and them, an advocate with the Father for them, and would intercede, and use his interest with him that it might be done, which would have been saying much, and all which he does; but he declares he will do it himself, which is a proof of his deity, and an instance of his omnipotence:
Jesus’ prayer does not negate his Deity
To conclude this article, let us summarize the things we have seen.
- The word pray does not always have to mean a communication between God and Man.
- Jesus used the term “pray” as being a dialogue between two individuals of the same essence.
- One of the methods of instruction employed by Christ was leading by example. Hence if Jesus prayed, then all the more should we.
- If Christ prayed to the Father in like manner to our supplications, then it wouldn’t make any sense because Jesus said that he, himself, could answer our prayers. If he can answer our prayers, he must not be separate from God. If he can answer our prayers, his prayer to the Father is of a different nature than our prayer to the Father.
So there is no contradiction between Jesus praying and the idea of him being a member of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.