In Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), Ed Komoszewski and I argued that one evidence that Jesus is God is that he is properly the object of prayer (John 14:14; Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60; 9:14; 22:16; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor. 12:8-9; Rev. 22:20-21; see pp. 47-53). In previous editions of his book Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics (Huntington Beach, CA: Elihu Books, 1998, 2000), Greg Stafford had argued, against this traditional Christian argument, that Jesus is not the proper object of prayer (see especially 2nd ed., pp. 583-86). Ed and I took issue specifically with one of his Stafford’s arguments in support of that standard JW position: Stafford had argued that when Stephen “called upon” Jesus to receive his spirit while he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:59) this was comparable to Paul appealing to Caesar, and therefore not really prayer (585). Ed and I pointed out (Putting Jesus in His Place, 299) that the verb “to call upon” can have a political/legal context (as in Paul appealing to Caesar) or a spiritual/religious context. The latter, not the former, is obviously applicable in the context of Stephen calling on Jesus to receive his spirit. Another writer who had critiqued Stafford’s handling of biblical passages concerning prayer to Jesus was James Stewart, who wrote an online piece examining the textual critical issue of the inclusion of “me” in John 14:14 (“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”).

Somewhat surprisingly, in the third edition of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended Stafford drops his objections to Jesus being properly the object of prayer. Stafford now concedes that Jesus receives, hears, and answers prayer:

“According to the Bible, the Son does hear and respond to our prayers (John 14:13-14). Therefore, no Christian should feel uncomfortable addressing Jesus directly, either as Jesus taught in John 14:13-14 or as Stephen did according to Acts 7:59” (302).

This statement represents a clear change from Stafford’s earlier position (which, again, was and is the standard JW position). Oddly, though, in a footnote Stafford refers readers to the now missing appendix E on John 14:14 from the second edition, in which Stafford had laboriously sought to deny that we may direct prayers to the Son: “For more on the biblical teaching of praying and appealing to Jesus, see Appendix E on pages 583-586 of my Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended….” (302 n. 2). Does he suppose that we have forgotten his earlier view?

As recently as June 2008, Stafford apparently still denied that Jesus was the proper object of prayer, and had intended to include a version of that same appendix in the third edition of his book. Perhaps wrestling with this issue was one of the reasons behind the delay in the book’s release. In any case, Stafford now clearly allows that Christians may properly approach Jesus directly in prayer and that Jesus both hears and answers prayer. One would think this significant change in position would merit some sort of acknowledgment from Stafford that his older doctrine has had to be modified, but to the contrary, Stafford cites his second edition polemic against praying to Jesus as if his position had remained entirely unchanged.

One may state the traditional Christian argument for the identity of Jesus as God from his reception of prayer as a simple syllogism:

  • The only proper recipient of prayer is God.
  • Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer.
  • Therefore, Jesus is God.

I should mention that in Putting Jesus in His Place, Ed and I put this and numerous other lines of evidence in a larger, cumulative-case argument, so that we were not treating this piece of evidence in isolation. Still, the above deductive argument is, we think, a good one. Until recently, Stafford has sought to refute this argument by objecting to the second premise: in his older view, Jesus was not the proper recipient of prayer. Now that Stafford has conceded this second premise, one might suppose that he would have to admit that this argument wasn’t so bad after all. Not so: Stafford now argues that Ed and I are in error in affirming the first premise (with which Stafford himself used to agree).

Ed and I had made the statement, “One basic functional definition [of deity, god, or God] is that a deity is an object of prayer. Any being (real or imagined) perceived to have a supernatural or spiritual nature and to whom devotion is expressed and requests are made is in practical terms one’s deity” (Putting Jesus in His Place, 47). Stafford criticizes this statement, complaining that we “provide no historical discussion or even any modern source for [our] ‘functional definition’ of ‘deity, god, or God’” (Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended, 3rd ed., 301). Notice that Stafford does not deny that this functional definition can be supported, only that we didn’t make such documentation explicit. The fact is that various sources do define prayer as communication with a deity or god:

  • “an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “a reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship” (Free Dictionary)
  •  “the act of communicating with a deity” (Princeton)
  • “the act of addressing a god or spirit for the purpose of prayer or petition” (Wikipedia)
  • “A practice of communication with one’s God” (Wiktionary)

In any case, in the Bible, the only legitimate object of prayer is the one true God, whom the Old Testament calls Yahweh (Jehovah). We cited quite a few biblical texts in support of this point, which is the first premise of the argument as stated above (Gen. 4:26; 1 Chron. 16:8; Ps. 65:2; Is. 44:17; 45:20-22; Joel 2:32). Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, Jehovah alone is the only proper recipient of prayer—and the only deity who really is there and able to answer prayer. So confident of this point was Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah, that he challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest in which “the god who answers . . . is indeed God” (1 Kings 18:24 NRSV). Of course, we know that Jehovah won that contest!

Until recently, Stafford agreed with the first premise of the above argument. Now, however, he dismisses the premise. While he implicitly admits that the premise holds true in the Old Testament, Stafford contends that “God can designate someone else to ‘hear’ and to ‘respond’ to prayers that are directed to such agents but because they are God’s agents who only express his will” (301). Stafford alleges that Ed and I fail “to accept the biblical teaching considered earlier, namely, that God has appointed someone (his most beloved Son) to hear and to respond to our prayers in some sense” (303). Here again, Stafford’s assertion is rather odd, because he has not actually demonstrated from even one biblical text that God had appointed Jesus to hear and respond to prayers as God’s agent. Instead, Stafford deduces that this must be the explanation for prayers directed to Christ, since on other grounds he has already determined that Jesus is not God but only God’s agent. There is no biblical passage teaching that God has assigned to Jesus, as his created agent, the responsibility of hearing and answering prayers on God’s behalf. No such statement appears anywhere in the Bible.

If God had assigned to Jesus, as a creature, the task of receiving and answering prayers as God’s agent, this would be surprising in at least two ways.

1. As Stafford himself seems to concede, it would be unprecedented. No creature in the Old Testament hears and answers prayer on God’s behalf, and in fact the Old Testament everywhere assumes that Jehovah is the only proper recipient of prayer, as has been documented.

2. If God had assigned to a creature the task of hearing and answering prayers as his agent, this would be surprising because it would be inexplicable. Although the idea of the infinite Creator of the universe hearing the prayers of all people (silent as well as audible!) at all times is rather mind-boggling, it is still rationally explicable, because an infinite, transcendent Creator possessing omniscience would presumably have no difficulty hearing (and keeping track of!) all prayers at all times. But this is truly an astonishing activity to suppose any creature capable of performing, even for a minute or two, let alone constantly, at every moment of every day (which is clearly what would be required). If Christ is merely a creature, no matter how great a creature (and undoubtedly Stafford views Christ as a wondrously great creature), it is simply inexplicable how he could hear the prayers of all people who pray to him. As Ed and I pointed out, “Only the transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent God can hear the prayers of all people and respond to them as he chooses” (Putting Jesus in His Place, 47).

I should emphasize here that the really astounding problem for Stafford’s view is not so much that God might answer prayers through Jesus acting as his agent, but that Jesus himself should receive and hear all of the prayers himself. In our book, Ed and I even acknowledged that God is free to choose to answer prayers through created agents: “God may choose to answer prayers through creatures acting as his agents, but that is for him to decide” (ibid.). Stafford ignores this acknowledgment and critiques our position as if we have no awareness of God’s freedom to act through agents. This is a fatal error in his critique. Our position is, not that God cannot delegate certain responsibilities to created agents, but that there are some things that only God can do, and hearing the prayers of all his people is one of those things.

If Jesus can receive and hear all of his people’s prayers, then it would seem that there is nothing Jesus cannot do. Thus, Stafford’s concession implies some astonishing conclusions about Jesus Christ that Stafford’s agent Christology seems ill-equipped to handle.

According to Stafford, in speaking of the reception of prayer as a function of deity Ed and I are defining God in an improper manner. “Bowman and Komoszewski define what it means to be ‘God’ but not in terms of what is done by God. . . . Rather, Bowman and Komoszewski attempt to define what it means to be ‘G-god’ by what is done to God, in this case, prayer.” Stafford’s criticism here illustrates the dangers of treating one aspect of the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ in isolation. We were quite clear in Putting Jesus in His Place that there were multiple streams of evidence for the identity of Jesus as God and that the honors Jesus receives (including prayer) represent just one stream of that biblical evidence. As anyone who has read our book knows, we “define” God in several converging ways, including (among other ways) both what is done by God (his “deeds”) and what is done toward God (his “honors”). Prayer is a perfect example. Jesus both receives the divine honor of receiving prayer and performs the divine deeds of hearing and answering prayer. For example, when Jesus says, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14), we see Jesus receiving divine honors (as the proper object or recipient of prayer, “If you ask me”) and performing divine deeds (as the one who hears the prayer and “will do” it). For largely pedagogical reasons we chose to discuss prayer under the heading of honors instead of deeds, but we could have discussed it under the heading of deeds, or under both headings for that matter.

Finally, John 14:14 directly conflicts with Stafford’s agency Christological explanation of Jesus’ role in answering prayer. Stafford’s position is that believers may approach Jesus in prayer because Jesus acts on Jehovah the Father’s behalf, as his agent. In other words, believers may ask Jesus to do something, on the authority of Jehovah whom Jesus represents as his agent, and Jesus, acting in that capacity as God’s agent, will do it. But there is a key phrase in Jesus’ statement that undermines this theological interpretation: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (emphasis added). We are so used to hearing prayers ending perfunctorily in the words “in Jesus’ name” that we are likely to miss the point. Jesus here specifically invites his disciples to pray to him, Jesus, in his name, on his own authority—not, as one might have expected, on the authority of the Father.

Stafford might reply that the preceding verse establishes that Jesus was offering to answer prayer on the Father’s behalf: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). But there is no Son-as-agent principle here. Jesus promises in both verses that he will do whatever the disciples ask in his name. In verse 13, Jesus describes the result (not the condition) as the glorification of the Father in the Son. This is not the Son as a created agent acting only to bring glory to the Creator. Rather, as we see throughout the Upper Room discourse and prayer in John, this is the Father and the Son as two divine persons who are intent on glorifying each other and being glorified in each other (John 13:31-32; 14:13; 15:8; 16:14; 17:1, 4-5).

In conclusion, Jesus’ promise to receive and answer our prayers illustrates all five of the streams of biblical evidence for the deity of Christ discussed in Putting Jesus in His Place:

  • Honors: Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer, a supernatural, transcendent person to whom we may rightly bring our petitions.
  • Attributes: It is only because the Son is exactly like his Father, sharing in his divine attributes of omniscience and omnipotence, that the Son has the ability to back up his promise to do whatever we ask in his name.
  • Names: Those who truly know the Son as their Lord and God (John 20:28) will be perfectly free to pray to the Son in his own “name,” knowing that because the Father and the Son are “one” (John 10:30) whatever glorifies the Son glorifies the Father and vice versa.
  • Deeds: Jesus actually hears all of the prayers of his people and answers them.
  • Seat: Prayer directed to the Son is directed to one who is intimately alongside the Father in divine glory (John 1:18; 17:5) and thus sits on the very seat of God’s throne, from which he has the authority—not as God’s created agent, but as God’s eternal Son—to receive and answer our prayers.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    40 replies to "Greg Stafford on praying to Jesus"

    • Matt Sullivan

      Why should we care about what Greg Stafford says?

      He is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and does not represent JWs.

      But it is not proper to pray to Jesus according to the trinity since he is said to be the second person. It is more proper to pray to #1. That one who is #1 is Jehovah God.

    • cherylu


      Thank you for posting this. It is a very good point that I had not thought about when speaking to those, Jehovah’s Witnesses or otherwise, that do not believe that Jesus is God.

    • EricW

      [Eastern] Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians pray to the saints and the Theotokos/Mother of God for their intercession all the time. This practice seemed to have arisen rather early in the church – see, e.g., John Rylands Papyrus 470:

      “Beneath your compassion we take refuge Theotokos. Our petitions do not despise in time of trouble, but from danger rescue us, Only Holy, Only Blessed.”

      Some initially placed this papyrus in the fourth or fifth century, but the John Rylands Library description lists it as 3rd – 4th century. If 3rd century, that could push its creation/use back into the late 2nd century.

      Thus, in historical Christian tradition, prayer to a spiritual personage did not require or imply that the one praying to that personage regarded them as being Deity.

      Did Temple-era Jewish tradition and practice explicitly forbid prayer to anyone/anything other than God? Do we have examples of prayers to, e.g., Elijah?

    • Rob Bowman


      You need not care about what Greg Stafford thinks, but his difficulty in disputing the biblical teaching that Jesus is the proper object of prayer should be of concern to you. As I point out, this is the biblical teaching (see the numerous references I cited in my post).

    • Rob Bowman


      First, the fact that such a wide range of dates for the papyrus have been proposed should make you cautious about arguing for the extreme earliest date as part of an apologetic.

      Second, even assuming a date of about 250 for the papyrus, it is about 150 years too late to establish the practice of the Christians responsible for the New Testament.

      Third, forgive my bluntness, but if we base our doctrine on Scripture, rather than on selective appeals to tradition, we will reject prayers to Mary or the saints.

      Your argument does pose an interesting problem for those who take Greg Stafford’s view, however. If he allows prayer to one creature, why not prayer to other creatures?

    • Rob Bowman


      You’re tracking very nicely with me. The point about worship and devotion also going to God’s created agent was one that I planned to make in a subsequent entry here.

    • EricW


      The point I was making/suggesting is that if seeking the intercession of persons who were not deity was, if not normative, at least allowable or practiced and not proscribed within Judaism and/or Christianity in the Ante-Nicene period, then the fact that Jesus is prayed to does not in itself prove His Deity, and I think weakens an argument that says:

      1. Christians and Jews in Jesus’ time only prayed to God.
      2. Christians in the New Testament prayed to Jesus.
      3. Therefore, Jesus is God.

      I’m not encouraging or supporting prayers to saints or Mary, just throwing this into the discussion because it could indicate that there was an acceptance of making petitions to beings other than God. I don’t know, though, hence my question/comment.

    • Rob Bowman


      I am not aware of any allowance within Judaism or Christianity in the biblical period for seeking the intercession of non-divine persons. The argument I made would not, however, be affected at all by the idea of asking supernatural beings to intercede on behalf of the petitioner. That concept is different from asking a supernatural being to do something himself (or herself!) on behalf of the petitioner.

      For example, if it were possible for me to ask Mary to pray for me, I would not be asking Mary to do anything herself for me (heal me, provide spiritual strength for me, etc.) but rather asking her to pray to God on my behalf.

      By contrast, Jesus invites us not merely to request his intercession on our behalf but to ask him anything in his name, promising, “and *I* will do it” (John 14:14).

    • John

      These verses do not prove that prayer is inherently only properly addressed to God. Some of these verses are simply examples of prayer to God. Others contrast prayer to Yahweh with prayer to brass idols. Since no “Christian” or even pseudo-Christian religion would think otherwise, this doesn’t help the case.

      The unprecedented argument: This would depend on your definition of prayer. If you define it as conversing with heavenly beings, then conversing with angels would kill this argument. You have to assume a particular category of conversing where you can’t see the recipient. But why would this be a good category of delineation? We talk on the phone all the time without considering it a wholly different thing.

      And I presume Stafford would put out the unprecedented argument: It is unprecedented in the OT to consider prayer to be going to three persons in one. Apparently he has now modified this to be all prayer goes to the One through the Son.

      The inexplicable argument: This is just making an assumption about the capabilities of a class of being that you know nothing about. Not a great argument.

      Did any of the Church fathers use these arguments during the Arian controversy? Not that I remember.

    • Jeff Downs


      Did any of the Church fathers use these arguments during the Arian controversy? Not that I remember.

      Does this really matter? Have we not grown in our understanding of scripture since then, have not our argument be refined, etc…

      I would hope so. If not, we could simply quote the Church fathers. Notice I say simply, because I certainly believe it is appropriate to quote them, although, it is the scriptures themselves that carry the final authority.

    • Sue

      I think Bruce Ware is pretty explicit that although one can pray in the name of Christ, you can only pray TO God the father, since he is supreme and has authority over Christ.

    • Eric Pement

      Rob, I have for a long time believed that 1 John 5:14-15 is another instance of praying directly to Jesus, one often overlooked.

      [1Jn 5:13-15, NASB] “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. [14] This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. [15] And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

      Contextually, it looks like the antecedent of “He” and “Him” is “the Son of God.”

    • HS Shin

      I’ve learned that getting at what early Christians did is often a good thing. But the reality is, they certainly were not free from making an occasional mistake. I’m okay with the early fathers having prayed to saints and persons other than Jesus — I just think their actions don’t really match up with Scripture.

    • Rob Bowman


      I hope you’re mistaken about Ware, who has always seemed to me to be a good theologian. If you can supply a reference on this point, I’ll take a look.

    • Rob Bowman


      Psalm 65:2 addresses Jehovah as “you who hears prayer”; this seems to assign the hearing of prayer exclusively to Jehovah without any qualification.

      The Isaiah texts do more than contrast Jehovah with manmade idols. They predicate Jehovah’s ability to answer prayer on his sovereignty over history and his exclusive status as the only God. Isaiah 45:20-22 is one of the strongest and most explicit monotheistic texts in the Bible.

      Joel 2:32 prophesies a time when people will call on the name of Jehovah to be saved, and the NT repeatedly applies this very verse to people calling on the name of the Lord Jesus to be saved (e.g., Rom. 10:9-12, among many occurrences).

      Defining prayer as “conversing” is clearly an attempt to change the subject, as my whole line of argument focuses on invoking the name of a supernatural being to appeal to his aid or help or intervention or mercy. “Any being (real or imagined) perceived to have a supernatural or spiritual nature and to whom devotion is expressed and requests are made is in practical terms one’s deity” (_Putting Jesus in His Place_, 47, quoted above). John, you are obviously smart enough to know better.

      Your dismissal of the “inexplicable” argument is far too cavalier. The difficulty of a finite being hearing multitudes of prayers simultaneously is both intuitive and obvious. I’m not inclined to take seriously the claim that I bear the burden of proof on this one.

    • Sue

      Father, Son and Holy Spirit
      The Christian’s life of prayer must rightly acknowledge the roles of Father, Son, and Spirit as we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. page 18

      Prayer, then, follows a paradigm that reflects the taxis of the Trinity The Father has absolute and uncontested supremacy, including authority over the Son and the Spirit, so we pray to the Father. Yet we cannot come to the Father on our own; we have no right of access as finite creatures and as sinners. So we come only on the basis of Christ …. page 153

      So, for example, when we pray, we address God the Fther just as Jesus instructed us. page 44

      We are to join with Jesus in acknowledging that tge Father has supremacy. page 48

      For Ware and many others, the Father never submits to the Son and the Son always submits to the Father. If the Father never submits to the Son, then it is of no value – although not actually sinful – to pray to the Son.

    • Nick Norelli

      Rob: This has nothing to do with your post really, but the reference you’re looking for in Ware’s writing can be found in chapter 1 (cf. chapter 3 [p. 47 esp.]) of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance. Ware says:

      Recall for a moment the opening line of Jesus’ instruction regarding how we should pray. “Pray like this,” he said. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” May I suggest something both clear and radical? If Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, then we ought to do this. For one reason or another, we sometimes follow a different practice. We may encourage our children, especially, to open their prayers with, “Dear Jesus,” despite the fact that Jesus said said to pray “Our Father in heaven…” Perhaps we do not think about prayer as we should because we do not understand the doctrine of the Trinity. As Jesus taught us, we should pray to the Father through the Son. Jesus Christ is the mediator. He is the one through whom we address the Father. He is the one who brings us access to the Father. Our prayers bring spiritual benefit only when we pray in his name. (p. 18)

    • Sue

      Thanks Nick. If you have an electronic version, it would be great to see much of pages 152 and 153, in this book, which is, I think, the passage which has raised the issue for many people.

    • Nick Norelli

      Sue must have been typing her comment as I was typing mine. Sorry for the repetition.

      Sue: I have the print version, but I’ll take a look at those pages. I remember distinctly criticizing his view of prayer to Jesus when I reviewed this book.

    • Sue

      Oh, you are just a better typist! thanks so much. I typed mine from google books.

    • Rob Bowman

      Eric Pement,

      I can’t believe I missed that one! I think you’re right about 1 John 5:14-15. I went back a few more verses and the context continues to support the Son as the person referenced in verses 14-15. Thanks for this valuable insight.

    • Rob Bowman

      Sue and Nick,

      Thanks for bringing this information about Ware’s view to my attention. This is something I think will deserve a separate response.

    • #John1453

      It seems to me that it is incorrect to conclude that we must end every prayer with the words, “in Jesus name”. Praying in His name, from what I can tell by reading the NT, means praying in His authority, because we have the required relationship with Him. I don’t think it means turning a prayer into a magical incantation. Consequently, I rarely end my prayers with the tag line “in Jesus name.” In whose else name would I be praying?

      In regard to Ware, here is another telling quote from his book:

      “Yet notice one more detail. Paul begins his prayer bowing his knees neither to the Son nor to the Spirit but to the Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” The Father then is the Sovereign Ruler over heaven and earth, controlling even the very names that every creature is given. From this position of sovereign supremacy, it is the Father who has the authority to grant this prayer’s fulfillment, and so ultimately all glory and thanksgiving must go to him.

      Because of this, Paul prays to the Father that the Spirit will enlarge the likeness and experience of Christ in those who believe. As Paul’s prayer so clearly indicates, then, the Spirit works in our sanctification to bring honour and glory to the Son, to the ultimate glory of the Father.”


    • Sue

      This blog post summarizes an email exchange with Dr. Ware on this topic.

      Cheryl writes,

      “In my research for our new DVD on the Trinity I am amazed that the teaching that God has a hierarchy of “roles” has some convinced that it is the Father alone who hears and answers prayer. This is Bruce Ware’s position in his book on the Trinity called “Father, Son, & Holy Spirit”.

      In email dialog with Dr. Ware, he has made it clear to me that he does not believe that it is a sin to pray to Jesus; however even though it is not a sin, these types of prayers do not go anywhere because Jesus does not have the role of hearing and answering prayer. On page 152-3 of his book he defines the only way to come to God in prayer. One must go to the Father alone in prayer and come through the authority of Jesus. Without coming to the Father alone and praying “in Jesus name, Amen”, at the end of our prayers, (signifying that we are coming in the authority of Jesus) our prayers will not go to God and our words will be empty, vain words.”

      I am especially concerned because Dr. Ware has written a theology for children, and I would want to have an open dialogue on whether children should be taught that only God has authority and only God can answer prayer.

    • EricW

      Ware is wrong, as the examples from John 14 and Stephen’s death point out.

    • Cheryl Schatz

      In our DVD series on the Trinity called “The Trinity Eternity Past to Eternity Future” I have audio clips on Bruce Ware’s teaching on the Trinity including a clip where he states that “we ought not to pray to Jesus”. You can hear the clip here There are a couple of important quotes on this preview, but the particular clip where Bruce Ware says that we ought not to pray to Jesus is at the 7 minute mark.

    • Elias

      Rob, regarding the following statement:

      “No creature in the Old Testament hears and answers prayer on God’s behalf, and in fact the Old Testament everywhere assumes that Jehovah is the only proper recipient of prayer, as has been documented.”

      This is wrong, because you know that the Angel of the Lord was spoken to as if he was God. In other words, that’s a creation standing in the place of God, receiving communication that might normally be done in prayer.

      Also, in the first paragraph you cite a number of verses to supposedly support “prayer to Jesus”. The ones that actually mention prayer are obviously in reference to God, not Christ (2 Cor 12:8-9 for example).

      And when Christ is spoken to directly, it’s because the person sees Christ in vision (for example, Stephen in Acts, and John in Revelation).

      Finally, verses that say that they “called on the name of Jesus” are not problematic for those who pray only to the Father, since every prayer to the Father is said in the name of the Son. (See John 16:23)

    • Rob Bowman


      Your first argument assumes that the angel of the LORD was a creature. Where the angel of the LORD is identified as the LORD or as God, Christians traditionally have understood this figure as a preincarnate Christophany (appearance of Christ). Besides, later you disqualify any examples of praying to Jesus in which the one offering prayer to him saw him. If that argument is valid, why would it not apply to the angel of the LORD?

      You claim that it is “obvious” that the verses I cited refer to prayer to God and not to Jesus. It isn’t obvious to me. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul says he addressed “the Lord,” which in Paul’s vocabulary almost always refers to Jesus. Then the one to whom Paul prayed answered by referring to “my power”–after which Paul immediately expresses confidence in “the power of Christ.” This would appear to confirm that “the Lord” to whom he spoke was Christ.

      When Stephen addressed Jesus, he didn’t merely speak to him; he stated that he saw Jesus at God’s right hand (i.e., sharing God’s throne), and asked Jesus to receive his spirit and to forgive his killers. Those two actions Stephen asked Jesus to do are divine prerogatives. And Luke says that Stephen “called upon” Jesus to do these things. So this was prayer to deity, not simply talking one person to another.

      Finally, to “call upon” someone or to “call upon the name of” someone, in reference to a supernatural or heavenly being, meant to pray to them as a deity. This is not the same thing as praying to the Father and tacking on the words “in Jesus’ name.”

      See the chapter on praying to Jesus in my book _Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ_, for a more complete defense of the points made here.

    • Cheryl Schatz

      Elias said:
      “And when Christ is spoken to directly, it’s because the person sees Christ in vision (for example, Stephen in Acts, and John in Revelation).”

      When we pay close attention to the account of the vision we see this:

      Act 7:58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

      Stephen saw the vision while he was in the city. After Stephen told what he saw then they dragged him out of the city and started stoning him. It is at this point that Stephen says:

      Act 7:59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
      Act 7:60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

      The account does not even hint that Stephen saw the vision again. Stephen’s prayer to Jesus takes place some time after his vision of Jesus. There is a period of time required for them to drag Stephen out of the city and to stone him to death. Without Stephen having Jesus in a vision in front of him, there should be no denial that this is a prayer to Jesus. Elias assumes the vision is continuing on but he seems to have forgotten that there were events between the vision and the stoning.

    • Marc Taylor

      The fact that the Lord Jesus receives doxologies (hymns of praise) is another proof that He was prayed to (2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 3:18 and Revelation 1:5, 6).
      Very significant is the fact that He is the recipient of the prayer in Acts 1:24, 25. Here He is referred to as “kardiognwstes” (lit. “heart-knower) of all. Thus omniscience is applied to Him.

    • Deo

      Premise A: The only proper recipient of prayer is God.
      Premise B: Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer.
      Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is God.
      By affirming Premise A and denying Premise B, Stafford is NOT defending official JW belief but opposing it. So I think, the title of his book “JWs Defended” is now a misnomer. The WT book “Draw Close to Jehovah” (p. 247, 248) says:
      “Perhaps it is through the privilege of prayer that we
      experience Jehovah’s love in the most intimate way. The
      Bible invites each of us to “pray incessantly” to God. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) He listens. He is even called the
      “Hearer of prayer.” (Psalm 65:2)He has not delegated this office to anyone else, not even to his own Son.”

      The official JW position is to affirm Premise A, and dispute B, i.e. is that Jesus cannot be the object of prayer (contra Jn 14:14)

      But Greg is now disputing A (contra the JW position) and affirming B.

    • Marc Taylor

      I’m wondering how Stafford can affirm that Christ can be prayed to (which demands that He is omniscient, i.e., God) while at the same time deny that He is God.
      Can he or anyone else please explain?

    • David

      There is no question that, according to the Bible, Jesus occupies the highest position in heaven next to God. Does that, however, mean that we should pray to Him? Many people, because of their love for Jesus, direct prayers to him, but what does Jesus himself think about such prayers directed to him?

      Why would such a question arise? Because, for one thing, the Bible at Psalm 65:2 refers to Jehovah God as the “Hearer of prayer” and at Ps. 5:1-3 the psalmist David said: “To my sayings do give ear, O Jehovah; Do understand my sighing. Do pay attention to the sound of my cry for help, O my King and my God, because to you I pray. O Jehovah, in the morning you will hear my voice; In the morning I shall address myself to you…” For people who believe that Jehovah is part of a triune God, along with Jesus and the nameless holy spirit—Why didn’t David at times pray to Jesus, or to the Son as the Logos, as well as to the holy spirit if the three are all considered eternal together as God? This triune concept of God, of course, was completely foreign to David, and for all worshippers of Jehovah God prior and during Jesus’ coming to earth as a human. And, as well, this concept was completely foreign to Jesus’ apostles and early Christians. In fact, this triune concept of God was totally foreign to all Christians until its final formulation in the 4th century of our Common Era when “Christians” were forced to accept this doctrine with the sword of execution if they didn’t.

      Since Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer” it is easy to understand why servants of God in ancient times, such as the Israelites, prayed only to Jehovah God, the Almighty. Did things change when Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to deliver mankind from sin and death? No, prayers were still directed to Jehovah. When on earth Jesus himself prayed frequently to his heavenly Father, and he taught others to do the same. In the Lord’s Prayer he did not teach us to pray to him, but instead gave us this model: “OUR FATHER…” (Matt. 6:6,9).

      Prayer is a form of worship. Even The World Book Encyclopedia acknowledges that, stating: “Prayer is a form of worship in which a person may offer devotion, thanks, confession, or supplication to God.”

      On one occasion Jesus said: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’ ” Jesus adhered to this fundamental truth that worship—hence also prayers—is to be addressed only to his Father, Jehovah God. In fact, praying to Jesus is in direct conflict with how Jesus taught us to pray. In fact it could even be considered disobedience to the method of prayer that Jesus outlined for Christians! And, praying to the holy spirit has no more foundation or Biblical example than does praying to Jesus, and would also be considered to be in direct conflict to Jesus’ instructions on how to pray.

      At Phil. 2:9-11, Paul said: “For this very reason also God exalted him [Jesus] to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.” Do the words “in the name of Jesus every knee should bend” mean that we are to pray to Jesus? No. For a prayer to be acceptable, it must be presented “in the name of Jesus,” but it is, nevertheless, according to Jesus’ instructions, addressed to Jehovah God and serves to His glorification. For this reason, Paul says: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.” Notice, clearly, Paul did not include Jesus or the holy spirit as recipients of “petitions [to] be made known to God”, which distinction Jesus himself makes when referencing his Father as “God” or “my God”. (John 4:24; 6:27,46; 10:36; 17:3; 20:17,31; Rev. 3:2,12).

      Just as a path leads to a goal, or destination, so Jesus is the “way” that leads to God the Almighty. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). These words of Jesus help us to see that we should present our prayers to God through Jesus, and not directly to Jesus himself. The fact that Jesus himself on numerous occasions prayed to God, his Father shows that he himself worshipped Jehovah as well. Remember how he stated at John 20:17 (cited above): “…For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.’ ”

      Some may have in mind Paul’s words at 1 Cor. 1:2 where he mentioned “all who everywhere are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” In Greek the expression “to call upon” can mean things other than prayer. How was the name of Christ “called upon” everywhere? One way was that the followers of Jesus openly acknowledged him to be the Messiah and “Savior of the world,” performing many miraculous acts in his name. (1 Jn 4:14). Acts 3:6; and Acts 19:5). In fact, The Interpreter’s Bible states that the phrase “to call on the name of our Lord…means to confess his lordship rather than to pray to him.”

      Accepting Christ and exercising faith in his shed blood, which make the forgiveness of sins possible, also constitute a “calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Acts 10:43 states: “To him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name.” Note too Acts 22: 16: “And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by calling upon his [Jesus’] name.” And we literally say Jesus’ name whenever we pray to God through him. This is in harmony with John 15:16b which states: “…In order that no matter what you ask the Father in my name he might give it to you.” And John 16:23 which states: “In that day [after his death] you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (NIV). These verses are clear that Jesus said to ask the Father, but doing so in Jesus’ name. Jesus never said to ask, or pray, to Jesus himself, or to the holy spirit, but always to pray to the Father, but doing so by “calling upon the name of Jesus Christ.” So, while showing that we can call upon the name of Jesus, the Bible does not indicate that we should pray to him!

      By not directing prayers to Jesus personally, we are not degrading his position, but instead we give all the glory to God, just as Jesus did, and showed so often that giving glory to God was exactly what Jesus wanted his followers to do. John 14:13 states: “And whatever it is that you ask, I will do this in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son!” Phillips Modern English translation states it this way: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do—that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” And NIV puts it this way: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” All of these translations make it clear that we should ask God (in prayer) but we should call upon Jesus’ name, or ask in Jesus’ name.”

      What about the account of Stephen appealing to Jesus: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”? Doesn’t this prove that it is proper to pray to Jesus? Actually, there are two accounts of what appear to be prayers, or at least conversations with the glorified Jesus Christ. This one of Stephen at Acts 7:54-60 and the other is at Rev. 22:20 where John says: “…Come, Lord Jesus.”

      At Acts 7:59,60 we read: “And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: ‘Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.’ And after saying this he fell asleep [in death].”

      Some translations say that Stephen prayed to God, saying “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”, which is not correct in two ways. First, the Greek does not say that Stephen “Prayed to God” but simply as translated into English: “called upon and saying: ‘Lord Jesus’…” (Kingdom Interlinear, translated from Westcott and Hort); and “calling upon and saying: ‘O Lord Jesus”…” (Emphatic Diaglott translated from the Vatican 1209 manuscripts). Stephen’s appeal to Jesus in Acts 7:59 is just that, an appeal, not a prayer. The Greek word used is “epikaleo”, the very same word Paul used in reference to Caesar as recorded at Acts 25: 11,12, 21: “ ‘…I APPEAL to Caesar!’ Then Festus, after speaking with the assembly of counselors, replied: ‘To Caesar you have APPEALED; to Caesar you shall go.’ ”…But when Paul APPEALED…” This same Greek word “epikaleo” is used as in Stephen’s case. Would you say that Paul “prayed” to Caesar? No! and neither was Stephen “praying” to Jesus. All the different translations I have say “appealed” at Acts 25, yet the same word is used in Stephen’s case. Translators are inconsistent there. Some say “prayed”, the KJV says “called”, others “invoked” and still others say “appealed”.

      Looking closely at the account (Acts 7: 54-60) we see that Stephen “caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” Stephen “saw” Jesus in a vision and, evidently reacting as if he were in Jesus’ personal presence, he felt free to speak this plea to the one whom he recognized as the Lord Jesus Christ, and he appealed to him. There is nothing to indicate that this was a prayer, but instead, a conversation. Mere speech to Jesus does not constitute “prayer” anymore than mere speech to God is necessarily prayer, as is seen in the judgment in Eden and in the case of Cain. (See: Gen. 3:8-13 and Gen. 4:9-14). After this the account at Acts 7:60 says that “on bended knee” then Stephen cried out, this time, no doubt in prayer: “Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.”

      Many translations in verse 60 say “Lord” which is confusing as to whom he is praying. The NWT says: “Jehovah”. On what basis do they show a difference when Stephen is appealing to Jesus in verse 59 and actually praying to Jehovah on bended knee in verse 60? Please consider the following: Stephen was following the example here of Jesus, who prayed similarly, to the Father (Luke 23:34): “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Interestingly, the MacArthur Study Bible (no connection whatsoever with JWs) says: “As had Jesus before him (Luke 23:34), Stephen prayed to God to forgive his killers.” The NWT Reference Edition references the Greek Scriptures in Hebrew by Franz Delitzsch, 1937, for the British and Foreign Bible Society; Greek Scriptures in Hebrew by Isaac Salkinson and Christian David Ginsburg, Pub. 1891 by the Trinitarian Bible Society; Christian Greek Scriptures in Hebrew by the United Bible Societies, Jerusalem, 1979; and The Christian Greek Scriptures, Hebrew by J. Bouchet, Rome, 1975, as authorities that show that “Lord” in verse 60 is referring to Jehovah, or God, rather than Lord Jesus Christ.

      We have a similar account with the apostle John, at the conclusion of the Revelation, when he says: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20). But again the context shows that, in a vision (Rev. 1:10; 4:11,2), John had been hearing Jesus speak of his future coming and thus John responded with the above expression of his desire for that coming. In both of these cases, the situation does not differ much from that of the conversation John had with a heavenly person at Rev. 7:13,14: “And in response one of the elders said to me: ‘These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?’ So right away I said to him: ‘My lord, you are the one that knows.’ And he said to me: ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, …’.”

      There is no indication that any of the apostles or disciples ever “prayed” or even spoke in conversation to the glorified Jesus Christ in heaven, under any other circumstances aside from these two accounts related to visions that Stephen and John saw—and then, in the case of both accounts, prayer was not involved. So, the Apostle Paul rightfully states at Phil. 4:6: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.” And Jesus rightfully and clearly stated at John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So, following Jesus’ instructions as shown in this paper, we should direct our prayers to the Father, but through the name of Jesus Christ.

    • Marc Taylor

      Hello David,

      You wrote. “Some may have in mind Paul’s words at 1 Cor. 1:2 where he mentioned “all who everywhere are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” In Greek the expression “to call upon” can mean things other than prayer.”

      It’s not simply “to call upon” but “to call upon the name of the Lord”. This always refers to prayer.
      Psalm 116:4
      Then I called upon the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I beseech You, save my life!” (NASB)
      Lamentations 3:55-57
      I called on Your name, O LORD, Out of the lowest pit. You have heard my voice, “Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, From my cry for help.” You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” (NASB)

      Spicq: “Let every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,” that is, God. Such is the object of faith profession and worship: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Henceforth, Christians are those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, who worship his divine majesty and implore his sovereign protection (Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Lord, 2:350).

    • Mike

      David, based on what you said I’m going to assume you are a Jw . I’d like to reply to your post , since it was so long I’ll number the paragraph’s and respond to what you said in them .
      # 2 you asked , ” Why did’nt David at times pray to Jesus , or to the Son as the Logos…” and then you stated that the concept of the Trinity was completely foreign to David as well early Christians until it’s final formulation in the 4th century .

      First of all David would not have known about many truths that the New Testament was to reveal . Furthermore , the Watchtower leadership has created teachings that were not known by those originally in the organization , it took a ,long time . Example : in 1935 , The President of the W.T. had what has been called a ” flash of light” [ see W.t. 2-1-1982, p 14] and introduced the new doctrine that the there was really only one heavenly class (the 144,000) not two .

      #3 you said , ” Did things change when Jesus , the Son of God , came to earth to deliver mankind from sin and death ? This was concerning prayer to God , and so your answer was “no” . While prayer to God did’nt change per se , there was a monumental change that occurred in how sinners could gain God’s approval , especially for receiving salvation —
      it was a new arrangement , and it concerned His Son , thus a right relationship with the Father is now by a new “way” –Jn 14:6 , and approaching the Savior personally is a required part of it — ” Come to me ” [ Matt 11:28]
      You mentioned Matt 6:6-9 . It is a great passage of scripture ,and it’s true . but it came early in Jesus’ ministry , more on prayer and a proper relationship with the Father ( His new arrangement ) was revealed later in the Gospels and N.T.
      #4 you cited the World Book Encyclopedia for a definition of “prayer” . It is fine , and Jesus is worthy to receive each of the four things mentioned .

      #5 you correctly note that worship / prayer is a ” fundamental truth ” of the Christian faith . Unfortunately you claim that to pray to Jesus is to be considered disobedient to what Jesus taught about prayer . How about not showing appreciation to the Father personally for His blessings to us , is that being “disobedient ” ? I think so . The W.t book
      ” What Does the Bible Really Teach?” mentions how to show appreciation in legitimate way is to tell Him personally “thank you ” in prayer ( p 169) . It also rightly mentions that a relationship with the Father is like that of close friends because communication with Him is a staple part (p 168) . It is through prayer that ” helps us draw close to Jehovah” and will ” keep your love for Jehovah burning brightly ” ( p 164, 189) . All this is true . However , W.t. leaders have told Jw’s that prayer to Jesus in not appropriate conduct for Christians , thus to be grateful for the ransom ( said be God’s greatest gift ) it is proper to tell the Father for sending His Son , and to tell Jesus for paying the ransom . Furthermore, if prayer is a vital way that we can draw close to God and experience a intimate personal relationship/friendship with Him , but apparently Jesus does’nt deserve this — if we follow the Watchtower. Yet for Jw’s who are concerned about receiving an approved standing with the Father, they will comply with His arrangement by coming to Jesus and bowing before him and asking him for pardon of sins ( Matt 11:28 ; Mk 2:10 ) , what commences is a very personal relationship with Jesus , an intimate friendship — sweet communion , interaction through prayer , between two persons like is normal among friends . The Father was the friend to those who surrendered to Him in the O.T. –James 2:23 , and the Father and His Son are each friends with those in the N.T. who surrender to Jesus –Jn 15:13,14 ; 1 Cor 1:9 .

      #6 you used Phil 2:9-11 and asked , ” Do the words ‘ in the name of Jesus every knee should bend ‘ mean that we are to pray to Jesus ? ”
      That phrase means to give to Jesus what would glorify the Father , i.e. worship . Remember, when we talk about worshiping Jesus it is not to the exclusion of His Father , rather it is to fulfill the Father’s will concerning us and all angels — Matt 28:18-20 ; Heb 1:6 . The Father delights in His Son receiving the same honor as He , it brings Him glory to have it so –Jn 5:23 ; Phil 2:11 . It’s proper submission and treatment of the Father AND His Son Christ Jesus as they look down from heaven . Rev 22:3.
      Jn 5:23 ; Phil 2:11 . It’s proper honor of the Father AND His Son Christ Jesus –Rev 22 :3 .

      Did you know that the Watchtower prophet once taught for years and years that proper Christian religious behavior was that the Father and His Son Christ Jesus both were to be worshiped and used Phil 2:9-11 to prove it ? It was also taught that Jesus could be prayed to . [ see W.t 7-15-1898 p 216 ; 1-15-1926 p 23 ; Preparation (1938) p 328 ; Deliverance (1926 ) p 204 ; W.t. 10-15-1945 , p 313; That has shocked Jw’s to find that out because of the huge implications of it . If you are a Jw you know that according to the Watchtower Jehovah has picked the Watchtower to be His ole channel for the flow of Biblical truth to man [ W.t magazine 5-15-1955 and July 15, 1960 ] that Jehovah uses the Watchtower magazine and publications to feed His people trustworthy “Bible based ” doctrine ; that what appears in the Watchtower magazine if not human opinion but is spiritual truth [ see W.t. magazine 7-1-1958 p 406 ; 1936 YearBook of Jw’s p 63 ; 11-1-1987 p 20 ; W.t 8-15-2014 p 21 ] .
      Bottom line : the Watchtower is not a reliable guide to trust as a teacher of the Bible , especially concerning fundamental doctrines –Eph 4:14 .

      As you are well aware this doctrine is a fundamental truth . Yet it has been discarded in favor of something different and thus today’s Jw’s are told that it is not proper to worship Jesus nor pray to him , and so they miss out on gaining a personal relationship with Him . Sadly, they are stuck in the O.T. and thus have not complied with Jehovah’s new arrangement for salvation –asking Jesus for salvation : John 5:39-4o ; Acts 22:16 ; Rom 10:12 .

      #7 you cited Jn 14:6 . That’s beautiful verse , it reveals that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus . It’s only by coming directly to Jesus — THROUGH meeting Him — that commences a personal relationship with him and then gains a right standing( acceptance ) with the Father . The Father draws us to Jesus and then Jesus introduces those who have asked him for forgiveness ( Mk 2:10 ) to His Father — Jn 6:44 , 52.

      I’ll close for now and post the remainder later .

    • Mike


      #8 you cited 1 Cor 1:2 and believe that early Christians did not engage in prayer to Jesus their Savior because the phrase ” call upon the name of Jesus ” can mean something other than prayer according to the Greek language . Actually, depending on the context it certainly does mean prayer / invocation etc . and 1 Cor is one such context . Even scholar Joseph Thayer ( he does not believe in the Trinity ) mentions this fact on page 239 of his , Greek Lexicon of The New Testament.
      So many other scholars do also — The Expositor’s Greek New Testament (1910) p 759 ; Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of The New Testament , vol 3 p 497 ; to name a few .

      R.T. France , rightly notes about this phrase : ” Not only does the phrase in itself indicate that prayer to Jesus was a normal and distinguishing characteristic of Christians in the 50’s , but ‘ to call on the name of the Lord ‘ is a regular Old Testament formula for worship and prayer offered to God .” [ cited in Bowman’s book ” Putting Jesus in His Place ” p 50 ] .
      The O.T. arrangement : ask Jehovah for salvation — Joel 2:32 . God’s new arrangement added His Son to this . Thus –Acts 22:16 .
      Religious devotion , in part , in the Old arrangement included prayer and praise to God [ Ps 105 :1-5 ] . In the new arrangement this was now a part of the early Church activity towards Christ and this was what Paul intended to show in 1 Cor 1:2 . Just as Jewish people in the O.T. were grateful for God’s blessings and salvation and told Him so in prayer , so too early Christians were grateful to Jesus ( for paying the Ransom etc ). and showed their appreciation by telling Him so in prayer to him — ” calling upon his name ” . 1 cor 1:2 affords us a small window to read of that activity .

      #9 you said , “Accepting Christ and exercising faith in his shed blood , which makes the forgiveness of sins possible , also constitutes a ‘ calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ .”

      “also constitutes”? only because to receive forgiveness of sins you must first “accept” Him , and to accept Him is to invite Him into your life i.e. to personally meet Him and ask to be forgiven. Mere knowing about who He is (the Savior) and knowing about what He did ( Ransom) does not equate for receiving salvation . You can “accept ” those truths all day long and not receive forgiveness of sins .Jesus’ invitation to Jw’s is still the same as when He met the woman at the well , He told her He was the one that could give her “living water ” IF she asks Him for it –Jn:4:10. It’s the difference between knowing about Jesus and what He did , and to know Him .
      Paul received this forgiveness because he prayed to Jesus — that’s what ” calling upon his name ” in Acts 22:16 means , that’s the context . The context of Rom . 10 :9-13 is also helpful in learning the truth about this particular phrase referring to prayer .

      You said , ” And we literally say Jesus’ name whenever we pray to God through him .” You used Jn 15: 16; 16:23 .

      But praying to the Father in Jesus’ name is more than repeating ” in Jesus name ” at the end of a prayer . When we come to the Father in Jesus’ name it also involves the person of Christ :
      ” The characteristic New Testament usage of ‘ name ‘ … links it very closely with personality , as in the Old Testament …. Everywhere ( the term ‘ the name of God ‘ ) is used in the O.T. sense of the revealed nature and character of the Savior God . ” [ Witnessing The Name , by Doug Mason , p. 9] .

      #10 you said , By not directing prayers to Jesus personally , we are not degrading his position ….”

      “Degrading” his position ? How about ignoring him ? That would would be to exhibit an ungrateful attitude . Even the W.t admits that to be grateful to the Father for His blessings , to show appreciation to Him , is to tell Him thank you in prayer [ The W.t. book , What does the Bible Really Teach ?” p 169 ] . Yet , even though Jesus paid the ransom , which Jw’s have called God’s greatest gift , they are told by their leaders that prayer to Jesus is not appropriate Christian behavior . That’s not being very grateful . I personally thank Jesus every day for what He did for me –1Pt 2:24 , but also for who He is — a very real and personal Savior !
      Paul knew the truth and so he thanked the Father [ Col 1:12 ] and he thanked Jesus His Son [ 1Tim 1:12 ] .
      Here’s the Watchtower’s own Greek interlinear at 1 Tim 1:12 , the Greek side :

      ” Thanks I am having to the (one) having empowered me to Christ Jesus the Lord of us , because faithful me he considered having put into service, ” . That’s how the Greek reads at 1 Tim 1:12 . Paul had a personal relationship with the risen Savior , thus at times he praised him through prayer , and at other times he pleaded for Jesus to help him with a physical problem — 2Cor 12: 8 . He enjoyed a intimate relationship with both the Father and the Son and thus prayed to each , and that lies at the very heart of the Christian life — 1 Cor 1:9 .

      you cited Jn 14:13 . You should have included vr 14 because that gives more of the picture concerning this issue .
      You used Philips Modern English translation and the New International Version to prove your claim . But vr 14 in the NIV reads :
      Jesus said , ” You ask me for anything in my name , and I will do it .” Phillips translation also says “me” . In fact your claim gets even weaker because the Watchtower’s New World translation , 1984 Reference Edition has a footnote for vr 14 , where they admit ” ask me ” is another rendering .
      Furthermore , the Emphatic Diaglott , which was the Interlinear New Testament that the Watchtower once published and advertised widely , stated in a footnote to vr 14 that it could be rendered ” ask me anything in my name , this I will do ” .
      Also , The Bible In Living English ” by Stephen Byington , which was once published by the Watchtwower , has “me ” in vr 14 .
      The whole point with Jn 14:13,14 and 15:16 and 16:23 ; is simply this : Christians get to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name and He (the Father ) will answer , and they also get to pray to Jesus himself if they feel the need to and he will
      answer the prayer . Both are deeply involved in a Christians life .The N.T. reveals that the Father and the Son are joint possessors and joint bestowers of divine blessings to those who humble themselves before them — 2 John vr 3 .

      #11 you mentioned Stephen in Acts 7:59-60 and said , ” Does’nt this prove that it is proper to pray to Jesus?”
      Yes it does . It is proper . In fact even the W.t. inadvertently admitted this fact !
      In the W.t. of 2-1-1959 p 96 , they answered a question from a reader about Acts 7:59 that since Stephen prayed to Jesus does’nt that prove that Jesus to be Jehovah . The answer given was that Jesus was not Jehovah , but they had to admit inadvertently that Stephen did in fact PROPERLY pray to Jesus . Here’s what they said at the end of the article about this :
      ” So it was proper for Stephen to petition Jesus over this matter , and his PRAYER indicates PROPER understanding on his part .” { I used the capitals used for emphasis ) .

      # 13 you said , ” First the Greek does not say that Stephen ‘ prayed to God ‘ , but simply as translated into English :
      ‘ called upon and saying : Lord Jesus….”

      But the verse ( 59 ) does say that Stephen called upon Jesus , and that’s what we are looking at here . You cited the Watchtower’s Kingdom Interlinear and their Emphatic Diaglott , , and we’ll also look at the Watchtower’s own New World Translation to see what these have said about vr 59 and Stephen and Jesus :

      – the 1950 ed of the New World Translation(NWT) renders vr 59 that Stephen “made appeal ” to Jesus . A footnote for vr 59 says ” Or, invocation; prayer ” .
      This same footnote was in the 1951 revision of the NWT’s New Testament , as well as the 1971 NWT , and the 1984 Reference Edition NWT . Furthermore . it appears in the Watchtower’s Kingdom Interlinear N.T. 1985 edition , and the Emphatic Diaglott states in a footnote :
      ” The prayer of Stephen then would read , ‘ Lord Jesus sustain my spirit , or ‘ assist me to suffer’ “.
      That should settle the matter . Stephen did pray to Jesus .

      you said , The Greek word used is ‘ epikaleo’ , the very same word Paul used in reference to Caesar as recorded in Acts 25:11,12,21,…. ‘ I appeal to Caesar ‘ ! ”
      you claim that since the same greek word is used in Acts 7:59 and in 25:11 then does’nt that mean Paul prayed to Caesar?
      David , you should realize that the same word in Greek can have different meanings , it depends on the particular context in which they used which will determine the meaning.The word used in Acts 7:59 and Acts 25;11 has the same
      basic meaning — to call , to call upon; appeal ; etc . However , this ” same word ” argument of yours is not valid . This word has a everyday secular use and a sacred religious use , the context in which it is used determines how it is understood . Greek scholars show the different meanings , and in verses like Acts 7:59; 1Cor 1:2 ; Acts 22;16 etc the meaning is one of invocation , calling upon ; i.e. as in prayer etc .

      The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament , by Moulton and Milligan , p 239 starts off their article on this word, ” The various New Testament usages of this common verb …. The middle usage ‘ invoke ‘ ; ‘ call upon ‘ as in Acts 7:59 …”
      A Greek – English Lexicon of The New Testament and Other Early Literature. by Bauer , Arndt and Gingrich , p 294 says that one usage is ” appeal” to someone as in Acts 25:11 , but another rendering is ” of calling on a divinity” and lists among other verses Acts 7:59 ; 1 Cor 1:2 ; Rom 10:13 ; Acts 22:16 etc .
      The Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament , ( 1878 ) by Robinson , p 278 also shows the separate usages in the Greek between Acts 7:59 compared to 25:11 . There’s a difference .

      #14 you maintain that since Stephen saw Jesus in a vision in Acts 7:55 that therefore he really did’nt pray to Jesus. You should have looked more closely at verses 54-60 . In vr 55 Stephen has a vision , and then later he is thrown out of the city (vr 59) and it is at that time he prayed to Jesus . So the vision came much earlier.

      You also used the excuse that since Stephen was only on bended knee in vr 60 that therefore he was’nt actually praying to Jesus in vr 59 . But Mk 11:25 says it is ok to stand while praying . Even the Watchtower admits that a prayer can be uttered while standing [ What does the Bible Really Teach ? ” p 168 ] .

      #16 you cited Rev 22:20 and said that was a vision of John’s not a prayer . The Watchtower calls it a prayer — see their books , Revelation It’s Grand Climax At Hand , p 319 ; also Babylon The Great Has Fallen ” p 681 ; also Aid to Bible Understanding p 1331 , it states : ” The Bible ,as presently arranged , ends with a prayer ” — Rev 22:20,21 ; ”

      #17 you cited Phil 4:6 . That is a great verse , and taken together with what the rest of the N.T. reveals about prayer we can know that while usually we pray to the Father in the name of Jesus , we also get to petition our living Savior . This is God’s new arrangement for salvation and for true worshipers as they walk through life .

      David, I will be praying that your eyes will be open to Jesus and how the Father loves you so much . If you were the only person on the earth that needed salvation Jesus would have come and died for you . Comply with the Father’s arrangement for everlasting life by reaching out to Jesus today .
      Take care
      Take care


      to those who serve them — 2 Jn vr 3

    • Aaron Shafovaloff

      On YouTube you can search for “Q & A – Tom Schreiner and Bruce Ware” (starting at 16:44).

      We get nuance on Bruce Ware’s position, which otherwise has been construed to be that of praying exclusively to the Father. I post this here to help those Googling the issue.

      While he describes praying to the Father as the “normative pattern”, he also acknowledges Biblical evidence of praying to Jesus: Maranatha in Revelation 22:20 and Stephen in Acts 7:59. He also affirms the appropriateness of expressing gratitude or sorrow directly to the Spirit. He says that he has done this himself. “It’s appropriate to approach them as persons.”

      • Marc Taylor

        Thanks for the information Aaron.
        Bruce Ware discussed how it is normative to pray to the Father in terms of petitionary praying/requesting and that he doesn’t see that there is enough weighty counterbalances to do the same unto the Lord Jesus (does this mean for an equal amount of time?) Am I correct in what he was pointing out?
        I think we have plenty of evidence for making petitionary prayer/requests unto the Lord Jesus. We can ask “anything” to Him (John 14:14; cf. 1 John 5:14-16). Jesus was asked to choose a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:24-25). Stephen asked Jesus to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59), and then asked Him to forgive those who murdered him (Acts 7:60). Peter commanded Simon to ask Jesus to forgive the intentions of his heart (Acts 8:22, cf. v. 24). Paul asked Jesus to remove the thorn from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Both the Father and the Lord Jesus were asked by Paul to direct his way (1 Thessalonians 3:11). Paul also asked Jesus to increase their love for one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:5). Both the Father and the Lord Jesus are asked to comfort and strengthen their hearts (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Jesus is asked to grant mercy (2 Timothy 1:16, 18). Jesus is asked to repay Alexander for his deeds (2 Timothy 4:14) and then He is asked not to count things against others (2 Timothy 4:16). Jesus is to be asked to heal and raise up the sick (James 5:14-15). He is asked how long He will refrain from judging those who murdered Christians (Revelation 6:10; cf. “holy and true” in Revelation 3:7). Jesus is requested to return (Revelation 22:20).
        Notice also that when salvation is being requested that it is to be done unto the Lord Jesus by calling on His name (Acts 2:21; 9:14, 21; 22:16; Romans 10:12-14; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:22).

    • Marc Taylor

      Stafford espouses the idea that Christ can be worshiped in a “relative sense,” but He is not to receive “the highest form of worship.” Both citations below are from the 3rd Edition of Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics.

      1. the “worship” of Jesus in a relative sense is appropriate ​​​​​​​if God permits it. (page 366)

      2. Jesus himself reserved the highest form of worship for his God and Father, when he told Satan, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service [Greek: λατρεύω, latreuo].” – Matthew 4:10. (page 367)

      On pages 367-368 Stafford denies that the Lord Jesus receives this highest form of worship (latreuo) in Revelation 22:3. I believe he is in error, but the fact that he affirms that Christ can be prayed to really nullifies his point. One of the ways Anna rendered lateruo unto God was by means of her “prayers” (Luke 2:37). Furthermore, to call upon the name of the Lord [Jesus] in 2 Timothy 2:22 corresponds to serving (latreuo) God with a clear conscience (2 Timothy 1:3).
      Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT): Calling on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tm. 2:22) is the same as worship with a clear conscience (2 Tm. 1:3). In the formal speech of the Pastorals the pure conscience is the total standing of the Christian. This is particularly plain when the difference between the life of the Christian and that of the heretic is formulated in compendious confessions (7:918, synoida, C. Maurer).

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