Who Do We Pray To? Part 5
by Karl Kemp 10/10/2011 / Bible Studies
That's all the prayers that I listed while reading through the New Testament, but I'll quote several more passages that will help demonstrate the preeminent role of God the Father before I make some concluding comments and summarize the results of this study.
John 14:28. "You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." These last words, "for the Father is greater than I," confirm the familiar theme that the Father is preeminent in His role to God the Son. The Father had sent Him, and now He was going back to the Father, which would mean great glory for the Son (see John 17:1-5, for example). His going back to the Father would also work for the great good of Jesus' disciples. Now, through His atoning death and the outpoured Spirit, new-covenant salvation would become available.
John 17:3-5. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God [These words strongly confirm the preeminent role of God the Father.], and Jesus Christ whom You have sent [The fact that the Father sent the Son confirms His preeminent role, as do the words of verse 4.] (4) I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. (5) Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." The words of verse 5 confirm the deity of God the Son, very much including the fact that He existed with God the Father before any creating took place (compare John 1:1-4; 10, 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16, 17; Heb. 1:1-3, for example).
Romans 15:6. "so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 8:4-6. "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world [The apostle Paul made it clear though that those worshiping idols were worshiping demons that did exist (see 1 Cor. 10:14-22).], and that there is no God but one [referring to God the Father, but the Bible makes it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are fully deity with God the Father]. (5) For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven of on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, (6) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things [God the Father created all beings and things through His Son (John 1:3).], and we exist through Him [the Lord Jesus, the God-man]."
1 Corinthians 11:3. "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God [God the Father] is the head of Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:24-27. "then comes the end, when He [the Lord Jesus, after He has subdued all enemies in His end-time reign, which will start when the Father sends Him back to the earth (that coming was mentioned in verse 23)] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power [in accordance with the authority, power, and plan of God the Father]. (25) For He [the Lord Jesus] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. (26) The last enemy that will be abolished is death [see Rev. 20:13, 14]. (27) For He [God the Father] has put all things in subjection under His [Christ's] feet. But when He [or, probably better, "it" (referring to Psalm 8:6)] says, 'all things are put in subjection,' it is evident that He [God the Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him [the Lord Jesus]. (28) When all things are subjected to Him [to the Lord Jesus], then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God [God the Father] many be all in all." The preeminent role of God the Father is strongly emphasized here, but the Bible makes it is clear that God the Son will reign with God the Father forever (see Rev. 22:1, for example).
Ephesians 4:4-6. "There is one body [the church, the body of Christ] and one Spirit [the Holy Spirit], just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord [the Lord Jesus], one faith, one baptism [water baptism], (6) one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." We see the Trinity here, and the preeminent role of God the Father is strongly emphasized.
Philippians 2:5-11. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who although He existed in the form of God [God the Son always existed with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit); He was fully deity, the uncreated Son of God.], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [He was totally in agreement with and totally satisfied with His being subordinate to God the Father in some ways. He has always totally loved His role in the Trinity. He has never "grasped" for more. Quite the opposite! He greatly humbled Himself and temporarily set aside His glory to do the Father's will (but He still was deity; God the Son became the God-man), which included His super-important incarnation and all that was involved with His super-important atoning death. Total love, and divine order, reigns in the Trinity at the highest possible level.], but emptied Himself [as a perfect example of humility], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (8) Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient [to God the Father] to the point of death, even death on a cross. (9) For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name [with the very important exception of the name of God the Father Himself], (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This doesn't mean, of course, that all will repent, but those who never will repent (including the devil, the evil angels, and the demons, and large numbers of people) will be forced to bow the knee and confess that they have been defeated and that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
1 Timothy 6:11-16. I'll just quote verses 13-16. Paul is exhorting Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God [God the Father], who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, (14) that you keep the commandment [To keep the commandment includes doing everything God requires of us (by His grace).] without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) which He [God the Father] will bring about at the proper time - He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, (16) who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominions! Amen." I'll also quote 1 Tim. 1:17 again, which contains another glorious doxology addressed to God the Father, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!" These passages strongly confirm the preeminent role of God the Father.
Some Concluding Summarizing Comments:
This study shows that the New Testament typically speaks of prayer being addressed to God the Father. It also consistently speaks of the subordinate role of the Lord Jesus with respect to God the Father, very much including after the Lord Jesus was glorified, and forever. The fact that God the Father has the preeminent role is at least a significant part of the reason why we should typically pray to the Father (and why we should worship Him first and foremost). You might disagree with my understanding of a few of the passages we discuss in this paper, but most of the passages seem very clear to me.
I wasn't aiming for scientific accuracy, but I counted sixty-one prayers addressed to God the Father and seven prayers addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ. (That includes the prayer addressed to God the Father and the Lord Jesus and the prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus and God the Father.) So, ninety percent of the prayers were addressed to God the Father and ten percent of the prayers were addressed to the Lord Jesus. Sixty-one is ninety percent of the total number of prayers, which was sixty-eight.
Five of the prayers addressed to the Lord Jesus are found in 1 Thess. 3:9-13 and 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5, 16, and it is significant that both of these passages started out speaking of praying to God the Father, who has the preeminent role in the Trinity. 1 Thess 3:9-13 go on address God the Father and the Lord Jesus together, and then the Lord Jesus by Himself. 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5, 16 go on to address prayer to the Lord Jesus and God our Father together (in 2:16) and to address prayer to the Lord (apparently the Lord Jesus) two times in chapter 3. (I didn't count the prayer request of 2 Thess. 3:1, 2, since it isn't clear to whom the prayer was to be addressed.) It may be significant that five of the seven prayers that were addressed to the Lord Jesus were limited to the epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians.
As I mentioned, the fact that the Lord Jesus plays such a prominent role in 2 Thessalonians, and to some extent also in 1 Thessalonians, because of the emphasis on His second coming in these epistles, may help explain Paul's addressing some prayers to the Lord Jesus in those epistles. I also mentioned that 1 and 2 Thessalonians (along with Galatians) were the earliest epistles of Paul that we have in the New Testament. And, as I mentioned, the apostle Paul may have known of a need to exalt the Person of the Lord Jesus in the eyes of some of the Christians at Thessalonica. The only other prayers addressed to the Lord Jesus were the glorious words of Thomas in John 20:28, the prayers of Stephen just before he died, and the brief, but important, doxology of 2 Tim. 4:18. These seven prayers (or you could say eight) suffice to demonstrate that it is biblical to pray to Jesus. He is God the Son, and He is very active in our salvation from the beginning to the end. We are saved through union with Him. But this study clearly demonstrates that our prayers should typically be addressed to God the Father through Jesus, in the name of Jesus. As I mentioned, even when the words "in the name of Jesus" or equivalent words, aren't used, it must is understood that our access to God the Father has come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.
I don't believe we would have any problem if ten percent of the prayers in our day were being addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ, or probably not even if it were twenty percent. We do have a problem, however, when most of the prayers, if not all of the prayers, in many circles are being addressed to the Lord Jesus. We can't do better than follow the pattern established by the Word of God, which is based (at least to some significant extent) on the rather strongly emphasized preeminent role of God the Father taught in the Bible. I should also mention that if we should pray to God the Father first and foremost, which we should, we should also worship Him first and foremost too. God the Father has an eternal preeminent role in the Trinity, and I am totally convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit say Amen! to that.
I suspect that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Person most concerned about His being in the spotlight that God the Father should be in. And although God the Father is certainly concerned for the glory of His unique Son, I am sure that He cannot be satisfied when things are out of divine order.
I am very thankful for the verses that demonstrate that it is biblical for us to pray to Jesus. For one thing, as I mentioned, those verses serve to further confirm the super-important deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is so often challenged by the devil and those who listen to him in our day, and throughout the history of Christianity.
I'm going to quote two passages where glory is ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that demonstrates His all-important deity. These passages also demonstrate the preeminent role of God the Father.
1 Peter 4:11. "Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God [God the Father]; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God [God the Father] supplies; so that in all things God [God the Father] may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." I agree with the commentators who say that the words "to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." refer to the Lord Jesus. (The words "to Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen" of 1 Pet. 5:11 refer to God the Father.) But it is also clear (like in Phil. 2:9-11, for example) that all the glory and dominion of the Lord Jesus redounds to the glory of God the Father, who gave the Lord Jesus "the name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9), with the obvious exception of His own name. Note that in the first part of 1 Peter 4:11, Peter spoke of Christians speaking the utterances of God the Father and serving by the strength which He supplies. Like I have mentioned, the Bible makes very clear the full deity of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but it also consistently demonstrates the preeminent role of God the Father.
Revelation 1:4-7. (I had a footnote: I am going to keep my comments to a bare minimum here. These verses are discussed in my paper titled, "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Revelation Chapters 1-10," which is located on my internet site.) "John to the seven churches that are in Asia. Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come [The context here confirms that these words refer to God the Father. These words build on the name Yahweh. We see the Trinity here as we continue.], and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne [These words are a symbolic way to refer to the Holy Spirit (see Rev. 3:1; 4:5; 5:6 and Zech. 4:10).], (5) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead [He was the first man (though He was, and is, a whole lot more than just a man; He became the God-man when He, God the Son, "became flesh" (John 1:14) through His incarnation) to leave death behind and to be born into the fullness of God's new creation life.], and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood [In His atoning death, He released us from our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin, so we could be born again and walk with the victory over sin in the very imparted righteousness and holiness of God.] - (6) and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father [These words, "to His God and Father," by themselves, suffice to show the preeminent role of God the Father.] - to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. [I agree with the widespread viewpoint that these last words refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is fully deity with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit).] (7) Behold, He [the Lord Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen"
May God's good will be fully accomplished through this paper! In Jesus' name!
BRIEF APPENDIX ON THE SUBORDINATE ROLE OF GOD THE SON:
In footnote 2 of this paper I referred to my paper titled "A Verse-by-Verse Study of John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17," which was published in November, 2004. The deity of Christ and the Trinity are discussed under John 1:1-5, 9-19 and Col. 1:15-18, including the footnotes. I'll reproduce part of footnote 8 that I have under John 1:1,
I'll quote part of what Wayne Grudem says under the subheading "The Persons of the Trinity Eternally Existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" ("Systematic Theology" [Zondervan, 1994], pages 251, 252). "...it may be said that there are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God and has all the attributes of God. The only distinctions between the members of the Trinity are in the ways they relate to each other and to creation. In those relationships they carry out the roles that are appropriate to each person.
This truth about the Trinity has sometimes been summarized in the phrase 'ontological equality but economic subordination,' where the word ontological means 'being' [Grudem has a footnote, "See section D. I. above, where economy was explained to refer to different activities or roles."] Another way of expressing this more simply would be to say 'equal in being but subordinate in role [speaking of God the Son and God the Spirit].' Both parts of the phrase are necessary to a true doctrine of the Trinity: If we do not have ontological equality, not all the persons are fully God. But if we do not have economic subordination [Grudem has a footnote, "Economic subordination should be carefully distinguished from the error of 'subordinationism,' which holds that the Son or Holy Spirit are inferior in being to the Father (see section C. 2, above, p. 245)."], then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another, and consequently we do not have the three distinct persons existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity. ...
This is why the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church's doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed.... Surprisingly, some recent evangelical writings have denied an eternal subordination in role among the members of the Trinity [[Grudem has a footnote here, giving examples. I'll quote one of the three paragraphs he has here, "...Millard Erickson, in his 'Christian Theology' (...Baker, 1983-85), pp. 338 and 698, is willing only to affirm that Christ had a temporary subordination in function for the period of ministry on earth, but nowhere affirms an eternal subordination in role of the Son to the Father.... ...." The viewpoint that Erickson expresses is in line with what I (K. Kemp) was taught at seminary, but I have always thought that that viewpoint didn't go far enough in acknowledging the eternal subordinate roles (I didn't say inferiority) of the Son and the Spirit.]], but it has clearly been part of the church's doctrine of the Trinity (in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox expressions), at least since Nicea (A.D. 325). ...."
I have found quite a few helpful articles on the internet dealing with the Trinity, the subordinate role of the Son of God, etc., not that I can endorse everything said in those articles. I'll mention a few articles: "The Historic Case for the Trinity," by K. Dayton Hartman; "Oneness Theology" by "Let Us Reason Ministries"; "The Ontological Trinity and Apologetics" by Doug Powell, and "The Nicene Creed" in The New World Encyclopedia.
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.