You are here

Chapter 8. Are Worship and Prayer Directed to Jesus?

Chapter 8

Are Worship and Prayer Directed to Jesus?

When Proskyneō is used of Jesus, Does it Mean Divine Worship?

Worshipping Jesus or paying homage to Jesus?

In Matthew 2:11, when the magi visited the infant Jesus, did they “wor­ship” Jesus (ESV) or did they pay him “homage” (NJB)? Here we see two rather differ­ent ways of translating the Greek word proskyneō.

As we shall see, Greek-English lexicons give two main definit­ions of proskyneō, one of which is primary and fundamental, and the other of which is secondary and der­ivat­ive. The funda­mental meaning is “to kneel before some­one” or “to prostrate oneself before some­one”. This is a bodily express­ion of pay­ing hom­age to some­one without nec­ess­arily ascribing deity to him (e.g., bowing before a Roman commander). But in some contexts, proskyneō can have the deriva­tive sense of worship. Whereas the first and fundament­al mean­ing does not necess­ar­ily in­volve the attribution of deity, the second may involve divine worship.

When we encounter proskyneō in the New Testament, the quest­ion of which is its intended meaning can often be settled by seeing who the ob­ject of the proskyneō is. If God is the object, then proskyneō would by definit­ion mean divine wor­ship (e.g., Mt.4:10, “You shall wor­ship the Lord your God”). But if the object of the proskyneō is a human dignitary, then proskyneō would mean kneeling or paying hom­age with­out the attribution of deity.

Hence the intended mean­ing of proskyneō is often gov­erned by who the object of the proskyneō is, and whether he is viewed as divine. The mere use of proskyneō does not, in itself, confer deity on a person, for an act of kneeling does not necessarily involve divine worship.

In the ancient Near East, kneeling or bowing was a com­mon ges­ture of reverence and courtesy, and was not in itself understood as divine wor­ship. We see this not only in the NT but also in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). To give just two examples, Abraham bowed before the Hittites (Gen.23:12) and David bowed before Saul (1Sam.24:8; v.9 LXX). In the LXX of these two verses, proskyneō is the word which is used. Hence it is erron­eous to conclude that Jesus is God solely by the fact that proskyneō is used of him.

What does proskyneō mean when it is used of Jesus?

There are 60 instances of proskyneō in the New Testament, of which 17 are used of Jesus (as the object of proskyneō in all 17 instances). A full list of the 60 instances will be given later.

Where pros­kyneō is used of Jesus, ESV would often trans­late it as “worship” (e.g. the dis­ciples “worshipped” Jesus after he had calmed a storm, Mt.14:33) but some­times as “kneel” (e.g., the mother of the sons of Zebe­dee knelt before Jesus, Mt.20:20). ESV, NIV, NASB tend to trans­late proskyneō as “worship” when it is used of Jesus, presupposing his divin­ity.

But many other Bibles differ from ESV in the way they tend to translate proskyneō when it is used of Jesus. Whereas ESV says in Mt.2:11 that the magi “wor­shiped” the infant Jesus, other translations give no indication of worship: “did him homage” (NJB, NAB, NRSV, Darby); “honored him” (CEB); “adored him” (Douay-Rheims); “bowed low in homage to him” (REB); “prostrated them­selves in rever­ence to him” (ITNT). This is despite the fact that some of these Bibles have trinitarian cred­ent­ials, either by reput­ation or by the Impri­matur, the Catholic Church’s seal of approval (for NJB, NAB, Douay-Rheims).

Whereas ESV renders Matthew 2:11 to mean the worship of the infant Jesus, this interpret­ation is rejected even by many trini­tarian commentar­ies in their analyses of Mt.2:11: For example, Tyndale Com­mentary says that “the verb worship (pros­ky­neō) need mean no more than to pay homage to a human digni­tary”. John Cal­vin emphatically says that the magi did not “come to render to Christ such pious worship as is due to the Son of God,” but intended to salute him as “a very eminent King”. Constable’s Expository Notes says that the magi’s statement “does not necess­arily mean that they regarded Him as div­ine” but “may have meant that they wanted to do Him homage”. Expositor’s Bible Commentary says that the magi’s “statement sug­gests homage paid to royalty rather than the worship of Deity”.

The difference of opinion extends to other verses. Whereas ESV says that the dis­ciples “wor­shiped” Jesus after he had calmed a storm (Mt.14:33), and that the women at the empty tomb “wor­shiped” Jesus (Mt.28:9), most of the afore­men­tioned Bibles speak of bow­ing to Jesus or pay­ing homage to him. For example, for Matthew 14:33, NJB has “bowed down before him,” and NEB and REB have “fell at his feet”. [1]

The crucial question

Since proskyneō can mean either “pay homage” or “worship,” which is the intended meaning when it is used of Jesus? Is it possible for us to arrive at a correct trans­la­tion of proskyneō that does not depend on doctrinal presuppo­sitions? Can we break the deadlock in which trinita­rians interpret proskyneō to mean wor­ship­ping Jesus, and non-trinitarians inter­pret to mean kneel­ing before Jesus?

Com­pound­ing the problem is that Matthew 2:11 (in which the magi “wor­shipped” the infant Jesus) has no obvious internal evidence in favor of the one interpret­ation over the other. If you presup­pose that the magi wor­shipped Jesus, then proskyneō would mean “worship” to you. But if you believe that the magi paid homage to Jesus, then proskyneō would mean “pay homage” to you. So are there external and objective factors that can break the deadlock?

Fortunately, we do have a way of breaking the deadlock because there are four verifiable facts at our disposal which do not depend on doc­trinal presup­positions. None is conclusive by itself, but when the four are taken in com­bination, they guide us to the correct meaning of proskyneō when it is used of Jesus.

Fact #1: Worship is not the fundamental meaning of proskyneō but a derivative meaning

Two standard Greek-English lexicons, BDAG and Thayer’s, indicate that wor­ship is only a secondary or derivative mean­ing of pros­kyneō. BDAG gives the following glosses (summar­y definitions), quoted here verba­tim and in the same order as in BDAG (the lone boldface is mine):

  • to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure
  • (fall down and) worship
  • do obeisance to
  • prostrate oneself before
  • do reverence to
  • welcome respectfully

The other lexicon, Thayer’s, gives the following definitions of proskyneō, quoted here verbatim and in the same order as in the lexicon (cita­tions omitted, the lone boldface is mine):

  • to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
  • to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
  • kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
  • It is used a. of homage shown to men of superior rank;
  • b. of homage rendered to God and the ascended Christ, to heavenly beings, and to demons: absolutely (or to worship)

The striking fact is that in BDAG and Thayer, the two tiny words shown in boldface are the only definitions of proskyneō that have to do with wor­ship. In both these lexi­cons, the idea of worship is given far less prom­in­ence than the idea of kneeling or paying hom­age. In fact, only one quarter of the literary citations in BDAG’s entry are assigned to “worship,” indicat­ing that in New Testa­ment, the fun­damental mean­ing of proskyneō is not worship but kneeling or paying homage. The sense of “worship” is derivative though it is possible in certain contexts. What it means is that we can­not simply conclude that Jesus is God merely by the fact that proskyneō is applied to him; we need more evidence beyond that bare fact.

Fact #2: Proskyneō is almost no longer used of Jesus after his ascension despite its continued use in the New Testament!

The word proskyneō occurs 60 times in the New Testament: 29 times in the four gospels and 31 times after the gospels. Hence the use of proskyneō is about even­ly divided between the gospels and the rest of the NT. To show this, we include two tables below, a shorter one and a longer one.

The near-equal split (29 versus 31) is signifi­cant because of an astonish­ing fact: After the four gospels, pros­kyneō is no longer used of Jesus (with two except­ions) despite the continued use of proskyneō in the New Testa­ment! To be specific, proskyneō is used of Jesus 17 times in the NT, namely, 15 times in the four gospels but only twice after the gospels. This is seen in the following table (hereafter called the “shorter” table):

 

The 17 occurrences of proskyneō applied to Jesus Christ

The Four Gospels (15x)

After the Gospels (2x)

Matthew 2:2

Matthew 2:8

Matthew 2:11

Matthew 4:9

Matthew 8:2

Matthew 9:18

Matthew 14:33

Matthew 15:25

Matthew 20:20

Matthew 28:9

Matthew 28:17

Mark 5:6

Mark 15:19

Luke 24:52

John 9:38

Hebrews 1:6

Revelation 5:14

 

 

 

The next table—the longer one—lists all 60 occur­rences of prosky­neō in the Greek New Testament (NA28). The table is div­ided into two parts: the four gos­pels (29 occur­rences) and after the gospels (31 occur­rences). The 17 occurrences shown in boldface are the 17 that refer to Jesus, and cor­respond to the same 17 listed in the shorter table above.

 

All the 60 occurrences of proskyneō in the Greek NT

Matthew 2:2 2:8 2:11 4:9 4:10 8:2 9:18 14:33 15:25 18:26 20:20 28:9 28:17

Mark 5:6 15:19

Luke 4:7 4:8 24:52

John 4:20 4:21 4:22 4:22 4:23 4:23 4:23 4:24 4:24 9:38 12:20

Acts 7:43 8:27 10:25 24:11

1 Corinth 14:25

Hebrews 1:6 11:21

Revelation 3:9 4:10 5:14 7:11 9:20 11:1 11:16 13:4 13:4 13:8 13:12 13:15 14:7 14:9 14:11 15:4 16:2 19:4 19:10 19:10 19:20 20:4 22:8 22:9

From these two tables, we see that proskyneō is no longer used of Jesus after the four gospels, with two exceptions: Hebrews 1:6 and Revelation 5:14. But Hebrews 1:6 does not count as post-Gospel because it is a refer­ence to Jesus’ physical birth:

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Heb.1:6, quoting Ps.97:7, LXX 96:7).

This verse is found in a passage in Hebrews which declares Jesus’ super­iority over the angels. But the idea of worship is not entrenched in this verse. NJB avoids using the word “worship” when it renders Hebrews 1:6 as, “Let all the angels of God pay him homage”; ITNT has “All God’s angels must revere him”; REB has “Let all God’s angels pay him homage”.

But the more significant verse for trinitarians is Revela­tion 5:14 be­cause it is the only verse in the New Testament that comes close to the explicit worship of Jesus, by the fact that proskyneō is applied to Jesus together with God who is seated on His throne. This verse will be dis­cussed shortly.

Why the sudden drop?

What could account for the sudden drop—indeed, the near dis­appear­ance—in the application of proskyneō to Jesus after the gospels (only two instances, but in reality only one instance, as opposed to 15 in the gospels) despite the contin­ued use of proskyneō in the New Testament?

A clue lies in the fact that the divid­ing point between the gospels and the rest of the New Testament also happens to be the dividing point between the earthly Jesus and the ascended Jesus. This explains why pros­kyneō is used of Jesus in his earthly presence but not in his heavenly absence.[2]

This striking fact tells us that whenever proskyneō is used of Jesus, it ought to be understood as paying homage to Jesus rather than worship­ping Jesus. After Jesus ascended into hea­ven, he was no longer physically present on earth; this would explain why people on earth no longer knelt to him.

But if we take the trinitarian view that proskyneō means the divine wor­ship of Jesus, there would be no obvious rea­son for the worship to stop after his as­cension into heaven. For if Jesus is God as he is in trinitarianism, then divine worship ought to continue in Jesus’ absence, for an omni­pres­ent God can be worshipped anywhere in the universe. In fact, if Jesus were God, we would expect an increase, not a decrease, in the application of pros­kyneō to Jesus after his ascension, because the risen Jesus is now the exalted Lord who has been given the name above every name.

Chronologically, the very last time before Revelation 5:14 that prosky­neō is used of Jesus is Luke 24:52, which is precisely at the point of his ascension into hea­ven! This is not a coincidence. Luke 24:52 is most signi­ficant for fix­ing the cutoff point precisely at the demarcation of the earthly Jesus and the ascended Jesus.

Fact #3: Proskyneō is used mainly by John, yet he almost never applies it to Jesus!

Of the 60 occurrences of proskyneō in the NT, 35 are found in John’s writ­ings versus 25 in the rest of the NT, which would make proskyneō a pre­dom­inantly Johannine word. Yet John applies this word to Jesus only twice in all his writ­ings! (See the longer table above.) These two are John 9:38 (the formerly blind man bowed before Jesus) and Revelation 5:14 (the verse we have noted and will be discussing soon).

On the other hand, John applies proskyneō ten times—in the full sense of worship—to the worship of Satan or the beast or the image of the beast![3]

Although proskyneō is a pre­dom­inantly Johannine word, John almost never uses it of Jesus, a fact that is surprising giv­en that trinitarians regard John’s writ­ings as espousing a high Christo­logy. But there is really nothing shocking about this at all, since it is in John’s Gospel that Jesus declares that his Father is the only true God (John 17:3). In this same gospel, we see the intentions of Jesus’ heart when he exhorts us to worship his Father: “worship the Father” (Jn.4:21); and “true worship­ers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (v.23).

Fact #4: The latreuein word group is never applied to Jesus

We can explain this fourth point as follows:

  • By “word group” we mean a group of words which share a common Greek cognate. In our present case, we now discuss­ing the latreuein word group which consists of three related words: latreuein, latreia, leitourgein.
  • Respectively, these three words mean: (i) to serve or minister as a cultic act­ivity; (ii) cultic devotion; (iii) to render cultic service. The word “cultic” pertains to religious devotion to God.
  • A crucial observation: The latreuein word group expresses divine worship more strongly than any other word group in the NT, yet it is never used of Jesus in the NT!

This is explained in section 1.2 of James D.G. Dunn’s Did the First Christ­ians Worship Jesus? The following excerpts are taken from pp.13-15 of the book (with his footnotes omitted; note the boldface, which I added):

The most common of the other near synonyms is latreuein, which basic­ally means ‘to serve’. In biblical literature, how­ever, the reference is always to religious service, the carrying out of religious duties, ‘to ren­der cultic service’.

. . . . .

And in sev­eral passages latreuein is trans­lated ‘worship’ in English trans­lations. It is noticeable that in each case the object of the verb, the one who is (to be) served/worshipped, is God. Apart from one or two references to false worship, the reference is always to the cultic service/ worship of God. In no case in the New Testament is there talk of offer­ing cultic worship (latreuein) to Jesus.

. . . . .

As with latreuein, so also with the matching noun, latreia, ‘(cultic) service, worship’. It refers always to the worship of God … Here we need simply note that the number of latreia references is very limited, and here too the ‘service/worship’ is never thought of as offered to Jesus.

. . . . .

Bearing in mind that the latreuein word group is the nearest expression for the offering of ‘cultic worship’, the fact that it is never used for the ‘cultic devotion’ of Christ in the New Testa­ment is somewhat surprising for Hurta­do’s main thesis and should be given some attention.

Conclusion of the four facts: Jesus is not worshipped

We have presented four facts which can be verified objectively, empirically, and independently. None of these four facts is conclusive by itself, but when they are taken in combinat­ion, they show beyond doubt that proskyneō, when used of Jesus, means kneel­ing to Jesus, or reverencing him, or paying homage to him—but not worship­ping him as God. Indeed Jesus exhorts us to worship the One whom he calls, “my Father and your Father” and “my God and your God” (Jn.20:17). True worship is not the worship of Jesus but worship with Jesus.

The special case of Revelation 5:14

The following comes from an earlier discussion in chapter 6, but is condensed in a way as to be a fitting conclusion to our present discussion.

The word proskyneō occurs 60 times in the New Testa­ment, with 24 of the instances (40%) found in Revelation. That is a high percentage for one book, yet none of the 24 instances of proskyneō in Revelation is used of Jesus with the sole except­ion of Rev.5:14 where the 24 elders “worship” God and Jesus. In this verse, the worship (proskyneō) is directed not to Jesus alone but also to God who is seated on His throne.

Here is a crucial observation: In the book of Revelation outside verse 5:14, proskyneō is always used of God and never of Jesus, without except­ion (not counting the worship of the beast or its image). Hence it is clear that when prosky­neō is applied to both God and Jesus in the sole verse Rev.5:14, it is God and not Jesus who is the prin­cipal reason for the use of proskyneō. This aligns with the fact that in the immediate context of Rev.5:14, the central figure is God who is seated on His throne.

We are reminded of the way the people of Israel bowed before God and before King David (note the bolded words):

1 Chronicles 29:20 David then addressed the whole assembly: “Now bless Yahweh your God!” And the whole assembly blessed Yahweh, God of their ancest­ors, bowing down in homage to Yahweh, and to the king. (NJB)

In the Hebrew Bible, YHWH occurs three times in this verse. In the LXX of this verse, “bowing down in homage” corresponds to prosky­neō, the same word used in Revelation 5:14.

The use of proskyneō in 1Chr.29:20 is crucial because it tells us that the LXX does not hes­itate to apply proskyneō to David when it is also applied to Yahweh! The parallel between David in 1Chr.29:20 and Jesus in Rev.5:14 is height­ened by the fact that Jesus is the Messiah who comes from David’s line.

We notice further that in 1Chr.29:20, the main in­tended recipient of the worship is not David but Yahweh, by the fact that David said, “Now bless Yahweh your God.” Yet that does not rule out David (or Jesus in Rev.5:14) participa­ting with Yahweh as the recipient of the proskyneō!

 

In the New Testament, Prayer is Addressed to God, not to Jesus Christ

In the previous chapter, we surveyed the New Testament to see if the doxolo­gies and thanksgivings recorded in the NT are directed to Jesus Christ in the same way they are directed to God the Father. The overwhelm­ing Script­ural evid­ence shows that this is definitely not the case.

What about prayer? Are prayers addressed to Jesus in the same way as they are addressed, or ought to be addressed, to the Father? To answer this question, we now look at the range of Greek words which cover the various aspects of prayer, notably that of making a request to God in prayer.

The Greek words for making requests to God in prayer

The verb erōtaō (ἐρωτάω, ask, request) occurs 63 times in the NT, seven times with the meaning of mak­ing a re­quest to God in prayer. The se­ven instances are all found in John’s writ­ings: six times in John’s Gospel and once in 1 John. The following is a list of the seven instances (two in John 17:9), all quoted from ESV. In each and every case, the request is made to God the Father and not to Jesus Christ:

John 14:16 I will ask the Father

John 16:26 I will ask the Father on your behalf

John 17:9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me.

John 17:15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world

John 17:20 I do not ask for these only

1 John 5:16 I do not say that one should pray for that

Another verb, aiteō (αἰτέω, ask), occurs 70 times in the NT, 29 times with the meaning of making a request to God in prayer. Of the 29 instances, eight are found in John’s Gospel, all in chapters 14 to 16, and five are found in First John. [4] This leaves 16 occur­rences out­side John’s writings.[5] Again, all these have to do with making a request to God, not to Jesus Christ, in prayer.

We mention two more words. The first is deomai (δέομαι, ask, plead for, request, beseech), which occurs 22 times in the NT, most often in Luke–Acts (15 times). It occurs once in Matth­ew and never in the Johannine writ­ings. It occurs six times in Paul (Rom.1:10; 2Cor.5:20; 8:4; 10:2; Gal.4:12; 1Th.3:10), but it is only in Rom.1:10 and 1Th.3:10 that the word refers to praying.

The other word is the noun deēsis (δέησις, entreaty, prayer) which Paul often uses of prayer: of the 18 occur­rences of this word in the New Testa­ment, 12 are found in Paul’s letters.

Regarding the words deomai or deēsis: when either is used of prayer in the New Testament, it always refers to prayer to the Father, without ex­ception. In many cases, it is used of Jesus praying to the Father. For example, in Lk.22:32, deomai is used of Jesus praying to the Father for Peter. In Heb. 5:7, deēsis is used of Jesus who “offered up prayers and suppli­cations, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death”.

Words for prayer

The word parakaleō (παρακαλέω, beseech, urge, exhort, com­fort) occurs 109 times in the New Testament, but only twice in the sense of prayer. It is not the usual word for prayer but is one that carries the sense of “call for help” (BDAG). The first instance of this word with the meaning of prayer is Mt.26:53 in which Jesus, as he was being seized in Gethsemane, rhetoric­ally asked whether or not he could call to the Father for help and He will send him twelve legions of angels.

The only other instance of parakaleō in the sense of prayer is found in 2Cor.12:8 where Paul says that he pleaded with the Lord, either Jesus or God, three times for the removal of the thorn in the flesh. But because para­kaleō is not the usual word for prayer (used only twice in this sense) despite its being a common word in the New Testament (109 times, usually a plea for help), it is not determinative for our under­standing of prayer. However, our overall examina­tion of prayer in the New Testa­ment may require us to note, for the sake of complete­ness, that this lone verse, 2Cor.12:8, does not negate the consist­ent Biblical pattern that prayer is add­ressed to the Father alone.

What then are the predominant words for prayer? In the New Testa­ment, the main words for prayer are the verb proseuchomai (προσεύ­χομαι) and the noun proseuchē (προ­σεύχη). These occur 85 and 36 times, respect­ively, for a total of 121 times in the New Testament.[6]

Given the preponderance of these two words, it is striking that there is no instance, or at most one or two debatable and indirect instances, in the New Testament of proseuchomai or proseuchē being used of prayer add­ressed to Christ. On the other hand, these words are often used of Jesus praying to the Father during his earthly min­istry. Not even after his ascen­sion and exaltation are we exhorted to address our pray­ers to Jesus Christ. On the contrary, he contin­ues to pray or intercede for us:

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (ESV)

Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the utter­most those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make in­tercession for them. (ESV)

In both these verses, the word “intercede” or “intercession” is translated from the verb entynchanō (ἐντυγχάνω, inter­cede, appeal to). In the first verse, the word is used of Christ’s ap­pealing to God on our behalf. It is also used in Romans 8:27 of the Spirit’s inter­cession for us.

Finally, the word enteuxis (ἐντευξις, petition, intercession) is found in 1Timothy 2:1 and 4:5. In 2:1 the word is used with three other words re­lated to prayer (deēsis, proseuchē, eucharis­tia, already exam­ined). As expected, in both these verses, enteuxis refers to prayers addressed to God by disciples or believers.

Conclusion

Our survey of prayer in the New Testament has not shown any specific exhortation to pray to Christ. Rather, in this age Christ continues to pray to, and inter­cede with, the Father for us.

In the post-resurrection, post-Pentecost age, the only instance of a petit­ion addressed to Jesus is Stephen’s commit­ting of his spi­rit to Jesus (“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” Acts 7:59), followed by a plea for forgive­ness for his persecutors (“Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” v.60). But this is a case of a disciple com­mit­ting his spirit to his Lord at death—like a sheep commit­ting itself to its shepherd—and imitating the Lord Jesus who likewise asked that his persecutors be forgiven (Lk.23:34).

Another instance is found in Revelation 22:20 in which we see the wel­com­ing exclamation, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” made in res­ponse to the announcement, “Surely I am com­ing soon.” But this can hardly be classified as a prayer in the usual sense of the word.

These are the only two “prayers” directed to Jesus in the New Testament in the widest possible definition of the word “prayer”. In fact these are more accurately described as exclamations to Jesus, not prayers to Jesus.

Calling on the name of Jesus?

What about calling on the name of Jesus? Let us con­sider the following:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanc­tified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints toget­her with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. (1Cor.1:2, ESV)

We note two things. First, as seen in this verse, for Paul the church is not “the church of Jesus Christ” or “the church of Christ” but “the church of God,” a term which occurs several times in the NT (Acts 20:28; 1Cor.1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2Cor.1:1; Gal.1:13; 1Tim.3:5,15) where­as there is only one instance of a similar term used in relation to Christ, namely, “the churches of Christ” (Rom.16:16), a refer­ence to some regional churches that sent their greetings to Rome. But when Paul refers to the church as a whole, he uses “the church of God” and never “the church of Christ”.

Secondly, the title “Lord” that is used of Jesus in 1Cor.1:2 is hardly appli­cable to the eternal­ly divine “God the Son,” the second person of the Trinity, for it is a title that, in the exalted sense, was con­ferred on Jesus only after he had been raised from the dead. It was God who made Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; cf. 5:31; Rom.14:9). This exalted title “Lord” is not to be confused with “Lord” in the everyday sense as used in the gospel narratives by people who add­ressed Jesus as “Lord” in the sense of Sir or Master or Teacher.

The Greek word kyrios (“Lord”) was routinely used in everyday speech as a res­pectful form of address similar to “Sir” or “Mister” with no attribu­tion of deity. The Pharisees used kyrios of Pontius Pilate (Mt.27:63); the Samarit­an wo­man used it of Jesus before she knew that he was a prophet (Jn.4:11); some Greeks used it of Philip (Jn.12:21); the Philip­pian jailor used it of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:30); John used it of one of the 24 elders in the hea­venly vision (Rev.7:14).

In the Greek Old Testament (LXX), Sarah used kyrios of Abraham (Gen.18:12). She did not of course speak Greek to her hus­band; the point is that the Jewish translators of the LXX (which predates Christ­ianity) unhes­itat­ingly applied kyrios to hu­man beings. In the book of Genesis alone, kyrios is used by Ephron the Hittite (of Abraham, 23:11), Rebekah (of Abra­ham’s ser­vant, 24:18), Rachel (of her father, 31:35), Jacob (of Esau, 33:13), Joseph’s brothers (of Joseph, 42:10), Judah (of Joseph, 44:16), and Joseph (of himself, 45:8).

Because Jesus was obedient to his Father unto death, it pleased God to exalt him to the highest degree such that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:11). This lordship does not amount to any alleged deity. Paul is here speaking of Jesus’ exaltat­ion by God, to the glory of God. To confess that “Jesus is Lord” is to acknowledge that Yahweh glorified him by this title because of his uncon­ditional devo­tion and obedience to his Father (this will be discussed further in chapter 10).

With these NT background points in mind, we can better understand the mean­ing of “call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor.1:2), a phrase which inci­dentally occurs only in this verse in the whole New Testa­ment. In view of the exaltation of Christ in Phil.2:9-11, it is remark­able that this phrase does not occur more often than it does. Even parallels to it are few, and most of them are found in Acts (the following are from ESV):

Acts 9:14 And here (Saul) has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.

Acts 9:21 And all who heard (Saul) were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name?”

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Jesus is the image of God (Col.1:15) and Yahweh’s pleni­po­tent­iary and representative who comes in Yahweh’s name. Call­ing on the exalted and glorified Jesus is to call on Yahweh who sent him and dwells in him. Simi­larly, calling on “the name of the Lord” in Romans 10:13 (a quot­ation of Joel 2:32) could refer to calling on Jesus through whom we call on Yahweh.

 

We Can Pray Directly to God the Father

As trinitarians we worshipped and prayed to Jesus. Oc­casion­ally we would pray to the anonymous “Father” of the Trinity, but then always in Jesus’ name and with the belief that we cannot pray to the Father except through the Son. Our inat­tention to the Father didn’t trouble us because, with Jesus supposedly being God, we didn’t feel that we were being denied access to God. But when God in His great mercy began to open my eyes to see the Script­ures in the wonderful light of Bibli­cal monotheism, I was sur­prised to discover, upon looking anew at the Scrip­tures, that the NT church did not worship or pray to Jesus as we trinita­rians did. The NT records no prayers to Jesus though trinitarians might regard as prayers the exclamations in Acts 7:59 and Rev.22:20, but that is possible only by stretching the defin­it­ion of prayer to include any one-sentence exclamation to Jesus.

After Jesus’ ascen­sion and the outpour­ing of the Spirit on the church at Pentecost, the prayers of the early believers were addressed to God (Yahweh) whereas Jesus was men­tioned as His “servant” (pais, e.g., Acts 3:13,26; 4:27, 30). The rest of the New Testament does not depart from this practice of praying only to God. In spite of Phil.2:10 (“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”), Paul says, “I bow my knees before the Father” (Eph.3.14).

The Psalmists prayed directly to Yahweh

The Psalms are a collection of 150 songs of prayer and praise to Yahweh. Anyone who reads the Psalms would know that the Psalmists would of­ten acknow­ledge that Yahweh has heard and answered their prayers, and for that reason much praise and thanksgiving is offered to Him.

Christians who insist that we cannot pray to God except in Jesus’ name could perhaps explain to us why the Psalms con­tain no refer­ence to Jesus or to the necessity of an inter­med­iary who makes possi­ble such direct and mag­nifi­cent com­munication with Yahweh as is found in the Psalms. This is less an issue of dogma than a matter of erecting spiritual barriers in people’s lives. From the way some Christ­ians ex­plain prayer, one gets the impression that before Jesus came, anyone could pray directly to Yahweh; but after Jesus came, direct prayer to Yahweh was curtailed even for God’s people by the necessity of praying in Jesus’ name.

Why is it that in the Old Testament, anyone could pray directly to Yahweh the Most High God, yet this has sup­posedly become impermissible after Jesus came? In the Old Testament, Yahweh God was even will­ing to answer the pray­ers of foreigners who did not belong to Israel:

When a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your out­stretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do ac­cord­ing to all for which the foreigner calls to you (1Kings 8:41-43, ESV)

This is just one of several hundred passages in the Old Testa­ment that speak of God’s mercy to those who pray directly to Him with­out an inter­med­iary. Anyone who is tangentially familiar with the Bible would know that the one who finds him­self or herself in distress or danger can call upon Yahweh dir­ectly. Will Yahweh our Creator turn a deaf ear to His creatures when they sincerely call to Him for help, even if they haven’t yet known Him as their Savior? Indeed Psalm 36:7 speaks of God’s universal love for mankind: “The child­ren of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings”.

God’s compassion is seen also in the thousands of real-life stories outside the Bible. Many have testified of how God had rescued them from calamity when they called out to Him despite not knowing Him. I have several books on my shelf that recount how God had deliv­ered those who cried out to Him despite having no claim to being Christians.

To close this section, here are a few verses in the Psalms in which the psalmists pray directly to Yahweh without invok­ing the name of Jesus or an intermediary, and quite often Yahweh hears their pray­ers (all verses are from ESV, with “Yahweh” in the original Hebrew restored):

Psalm 6:9 Yahweh has heard my plea; Yahweh accepts my prayer.

Psalm 39:12 Hear my prayer, O Yahweh, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! (cf. 17:1; 84:8; 86:6; 102:1; 143:1)

Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Yahweh. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Psalm 88:13 But I, O Yahweh, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Psalm 116:4 Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “O Yahweh, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Psalm 118:25 Save us, we pray, O Yahweh! O Yahweh, we pray, give us success!

Praying directly to our Father

The New Testament does not abolish direct one-to-one communication between us and God. The “man Christ Jesus” (1Tim.2:5) is in­deed the med­iator bet­ween us and God, but his work of mediat­ion was completed when he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Then the veil in the temple was torn in two (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45). Jesus “has now recon­ciled (aorist) you in his body of flesh by his death” (Col.1:22), for God was in Christ recon­ciling the world to Himself (2Cor.5:19, i.e., reconciled to God the Father, as seen in v.18). And having been recon­ciled to the Father, we can now pray directly to Him! Or do we insist that our reconcilia­tion with God our Father is partial and in­complete? Or comes with condit­ions and restrict­ions that prevent direct com­munica­tion with Him without an intermed­iary?

Anyone who cares about prayer would sympathize with the disciple who said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Lk.11:1). Then Jesus answered: “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name…’” This prayer is so esteemed in Christendom that it is often called the “model prayer” or “the Lord’s prayer,” and is recited regularly in some churches. Here is Matt­hew’s account of the prayer:

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:9-13, ESV).

We note two things from this passage, and these serve to demonstrate the vast gulf between our traditional notions of prayer and what the Bible says about prayer. Firstly, to the question of how we ought to pray, the ans­wer is found in two powerful words, “Our Father”. We pray directly to the Father, not to Jesus. This is also seen in the prelude to the Lord’s prayer, in Mt.6:6, where Jesus directs us to pray to the Father: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

There is not one instance of prayer to Jesus in the whole Bible unless we stretch the definition of prayer to include the exclamations in Acts 7:59-60 and Rev.22:20 which are so brief as to contain a combined total of only 17 words in the Greek, even fewer than in a typical Bible verse (e.g., the well-known John 3:16 has 25 words in the Greek). The absence of prayer to Jesus in the New Testa­ment is hardly surprising to the monotheist, for prayers are by definition addressed to God, whereas Jesus is not God.[7]

Secondly, the Lord’s prayer does not conclude with the tradit­ional closing words, “We pray for this in Jesus’ name, Amen”—a formula which is uni­versal in Christian practice but is found nowhere in the Scriptures!

In teaching us to address God as Father, Jesus graciously consi­ders us to be on the same level as himself in terms of family hierarchy. Jesus speaks of God as “my Father and your Father, my God and your God” (Jn.20:17), which means that Jesus is our brother and shares the same Father with us. In the same sentence, Jesus explicitly refers to his disciples as “my bro­thers”.

Just as Jesus prayed dir­ectly to his God and Father, so we are to pray dir­ectly to our God and Father. In a family, do the young­er siblings need to get author­ization from the eldest bro­ther every time they approach their father? Do they say to the father, “I now come to you in the name of elder brother”? We seem to have forgotten that we have been “born of God” (1Jn.3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18). 1John 5:18 says that we are “born of God” and that Jesus was “born of God”—in the same sen­tence!

Jesus is our mediator and only way to the Father (John 14:6). But after he had completed his work of salvation and reconci­liation, we now have direct access to the Father. After we have been fully recon­ciled with God, are we still under obligation to say “in Jesus’ name” every time we communi­cate with our Abba Father? In fact the exclamation “Abba! Father” (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:6) is said directly to the Father.

But Christians reverse the matter, not realizing that it was God who in the first place sent Jesus to reconcile us to God Himself. Ultimately, the work of recon­ciliation is done not so much by Christ as by God through Christ and in Christ (2Cor.5:18-19).

Direct prayer requests

The hindering of direct communication with the Father by impos­ing the condition of saying “in the name of Jesus” is yet an­other conse­quence of the trinitarian error of side­lining the Father by making Christ the focus of a “Christocen­tric” faith.

Where is the Scriptural evid­ence for saying that we cannot ap­proach the Father except in the name of Jesus? Why does Jesus himself teach us to pray, “Our Father in heaven”? Some trinitarians, in a disturbing effort to seek out ever more restrictions, will point to John 15:16 in which Jesus says, “What­ever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it”. When trinitarians quote this verse, there is often the implica­tion that the Father won’t hear our request un­less it is orally valid­ated with Jesus’ authority. This interpretation flies in the face of what Jesus himself says about how the Father relates to His child­ren: “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?” (Mt.7:11; cf. Lk.11:13). Note the power­ful words “your Father” and “ask him” and “how much more”. Our hea­venly Father is much more willing than our earthly fathers to give us good things! Yet in the trinita­rian scheme of things, a child has more direct access to his earthly father than a child of God has in relation to his heavenly Father!

These two verses on asking the Father directly (Mt.7:11; Lk.11:13) appear just after the Lord’s prayer (Mt.6:9-13; Lk.11:2-4) which is nota­ble for add­ress­ing the Father directly (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,” or in Luke simply, “Father, hallowed be Your name”), but also notable for the ab­sence of the traditional formula, “In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen”.

The two surrounding passages, Mt.7:7-8 and Lk.11:9-10, bring out the threefold prin­ci­ple of asking (in order to receive), seeking (in order to find), and knocking (in order to have the door opened), all in relat­ion­ship to the Father and not Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, “the Father himself loves you” (Jn.16:27)—beau­tiful words echoed in his words to the Father: “You loved them just as you loved me” (17:23). In the light of all that Jesus has said about the Father, how can any­one still in­sist that the believer cannot ap­proach the Father or ask Him for something unless it is orally validated by Jesus?

In any case, who is entitled to act in Jesus’ name? Do most Christ­ians live under his authority? Is the average Christian of such spiritual caliber that he or she can rightly ask for anything or do anything “in the name of Jesus”? Given the mediocre spiritual condit­ion of most Christ­ians today, why do they suppose that they can use Jesus’ name to get whatever they want from the Father, unashamedly quoting the words, “whatever you ask the Father in my name” (Jn.15:16)?

In the first place, those who live mediocre Christian lives would hardly seek spiritual things yet whole­heartedly pursue things that cater to their self-interests. Don’t we hear this kind of selfish prayer all the time? “God, bless me and grant me good grades and a high-paying job”. This way of thinking is breed­ing a selfishness that has crept into the lives of many Christ­ians.

And why do trinitarians think that this lone verse in John is suffi­cient justification for their blanket statement that no prayer is acceptable to God unless it is made in Jesus’ name? If they had looked more closely at the context of this verse, they would have seen that the whole pass­age, John 14 to 16, is about the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:17,26; 15:26; 16:13) which at that time had not yet been given. The disciples had to wait for the day of Pentecost for the arrival of that gift. At Pentecost, the church in Jerusalem asked the Father for the gift of the Spirit as they met toget­her with one heart and one mind in prayer, and they did receive the Spirit (Acts 2:1-21).

As regards asking for the Spirit, let us take Jesus’ state­ment to heart: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Lk.11:13). No one can take the gift of the Spirit for granted; we must ask “the heavenly Father” for this precious gift. The early church prayed toget­her for this gift and waited for it. But once the Spirit had been given to the church at Pentecost, did the church as a whole keep on asking for the Spirit again and again in all the days that followed as if they had never received it? From the scriptural data, clear­ly not. If a believer had prayed for and then received the gift of the Spirit, does he have to keep on asking for the gift of the Spirit “in Jesus’ name” again and again? Evid­ently not, for why would we keep on praying for the Spirit in Jesus’ name again and again as if the prayer has nev­er been answered? In fact the Spirit is meant to be with the believer “forever” (Jn.14:16).

It is of course possible that one’s prayer for the gift of the Spirit has not been heard, for the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God (Acts 5:32). In any case, most Christians say prayers that have nothing to do with the gift of the Spirit. Such Christians should heed what Paul says: If anyone does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ (Rom.8:9). The tragedy of the church today is that it is full of believers who pray in Jesus’ name, yet do not belong to God. Then they wonder why their prayers are not heard despite the use of the formula “in Jesus’ name”.

Learning prayer from the Psalms

We reap much spiritual benefit when we read the Psalms as an instruction guide to prayer. The book of Psalms is the prayer book of God’s people. The psalms come in various types: psalms of supplication, psalms of thanksgiv­ing, and psalms of praise. Some people are dismayed when they read a psalm that prays for God’s severe judgment on slanderers, evildoers, and persecut­ors. This is believed to be contrary to the forgiving spirit of the New Testament. But that impress­ion is incorrect, for the con­cern for jus­tice is not any weaker in the New Testament than in the Old Testament, as can be seen in Revelation, especially in regard to the martyrs (cf. Paul’s concern for retri­butive justice, 2Tim.4:14-16).

The great value of the Psalms lies in the repeated assur­ance that Yahweh answers prayer, a truth that brings forth much thanksgiv­ing from the psalm­ists. This is a much needed cor­rect­ive to the trini­ta­rian notion that for a prayer to be heard, it needs to be concluded in Jesus’ name. No such form­ula is ever uttered in the Psalms, yet that doesn’t stop Yahweh from hearing our prayers.

Proverbs, too, testifies to the fact that “Yahweh is far from the wicked but hears the prayer of the righteous” (15:29). The key to answered prayers is not some kind of trinitarian form­ula but right­eousness. The notion that God hears us because we utter “in Jesus’ name” as a formula is one of the many errors we have inherited from our trinitarian back­ground. Yet in Psalms and other books of the Bible, the pre­requi­site to answered prayer is righteous­ness. And Yahweh in His grace makes that right­eousness available to us in Christ.

“In my name”

In the whole New Testament, the phrase “in my name” in relation to ask­ing for something from God occurs only in John chapters 14 to 16, a sec­t­ion that is about the coming of the Holy Spirit. In these three chapters, “in my name” occurs 7 times (John 14:13,14,26; 15:16; 16:23,24,26). Here is John 16:23:

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

The two occurrences of “ask” in this verse represent two diff­erent Greek words. The first “ask” (erōtaō) usually has to do with asking a question.[8] The second “ask” (aiteō) usually has to do with asking for some­thing.

The disciples may have asked Jesus many questions, but when it comes to asking for some­thing, Jesus would guide them to the Father, not to him­self (with one possible except­ion, discussed later). Likewise, Mt.7:11 teaches us to direct our requests to the Father: “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?”

When Jesus says, “whatever you ask the Father in my name,” he is not re­fer­ring to things like cars and houses that pros­perity preachers like to bring up. The “whatever you ask” is quali­fied by the words “in my name”. And what is his name? His name is not “God” which in any case is not a name but a term of description. His name is Jesus which means “Yah­weh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation” whereas Christ means Yahweh’s anointed Messiah-King, the savior of the world. Here we see the motifs of salvation, suggesting that “whatever you ask” has mainly to do with salvation.

Since the whole section John 14 to 16 is about the coming of the Spirit called the “comfort­er” (14:16), therefore “whatever you ask” has to do with God’s power for salvation in the age following Jesus’ depart­ure at the complet­ion of his earthly ministry, after which every­thing is governed by Yahweh’s Spirit operating in the church. Jesus is telling his disciples that they can receive whatever they need in the spiritual life by asking the Father for the Spirit in his name and authority. And when the gift arrived at Pentecost, the disciples proclaimed the message of salvation to the nations.

The Holy Spirit was well known to the Jews. But in the Old Testa­ment the Spirit of Yahweh did not indwell people, not even the great prophets and servants of God, but was depicted as “coming upon” people (e.g., upon Jahaziel who prophesied before King Jehosha­phat, 2Chr.20:14), empow­ering them to fulfill a task that Yahweh had sent them to do.

The situation changed with the coming of Jesus and the establish­ing of the new covenant in which the Spirit of Yahweh plays a central role. This was prophesied in Joel 2:8-32 (“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” v.28) and fulfilled in Acts 2:16-22. The Spirit is poured out, yet we are still to ask the Father for the Spirit (Lk.11:13). The Spirit won’t be given until Jesus has been glorified in his death, resur­rection, and ascen­sion (Jn.7:39). This fact, in combination with Luke 11:13, clarifies much of what Jesus teaches about the Spirit.

An important theme in these three chapters, John 14 to 16, is the mu­tual indwelling that is so central to John 15 and is the key to life under the new covenant. The mutual indwell­ing is seen in: John 15:4 (“abide in me, and I in you”); 14:20 (“I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”); and 14:10 (“I am in the Father and the Father is in me”); also 17:21.

Is John 14:14 an exception to Jesus’ teaching?

In John’s Gospel, “in my name” occurs only in John 14 to 16, which are pre­cisely the three chapters in which Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit. This indi­cates that asking “in my name” must somehow relate to the Spirit. In these three chapters, “in my name” occurs seven times and al­ways in con­nection with pray­ing to (or asking) the Father, with the possi­ble but uncer­tain except­ion of 14:14: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”.

The crucial difference in this verse is that the asking is directed not to the Father but to Jesus himself. Hence it is hermeneutically difficult to re­concile Jn.14:14 with the other verses in John where “in my name” has to do with asking the Father. Taken at face value, Jn.14:14 does not make obvious sense, not only because the other similar verses speak of ask­ing the Father, but also because if we are asking Jesus directly, what is the point of asking him in his own name? As for the words “I will do it” in 14:14, it ought to be remem­bered that it is ultimately the Father who is doing it through Jesus, as we see four verses earlier: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (Jn.14:10). So when Jesus says “I will do it,” it is the Father who is doing the work through him. Jesus does nothing of his own (Jn.5:19), can do nothing on his own (5:30), and speaks nothing of his own authority (8:28), but does the work of his Father (14:10).

Not surprisingly, John 14:14 has significant textual issues. It is uncer­tain­ if the word “me” in “if you ask me” is in the original Greek of John 14:14. It does not appear in some important ancient uncials such as A D K L Q Ψ (see NA28’s critical apparatus). UBS3 (p.390) classifies its uncertain­ty at level {B}, indica­ting “some degree of doubt”. The degree of doubt re­mains at {B} in UBS4/UBS5.

There is even doubt about the whole verse itself, which is omitted by some important manuscripts, as seen in the UBS5 footnote to John 14:14 (“omit verse 14 ƒ1 157 565 l 761/2l 761/2l 2111/2l 10741/2 itb vgms syrs,pal arm geo”). UBS4’s com­panion volume, A Textual Com­mentary on the Greek NT, says, “Ver.14 is omitted by a scat­tering of wit­nesses, including sev­eral im­port­ant ancient ver­sions,” though the commentary ultim­ately ac­cepts the verse as part of the original text.

For similar reasons, the United Bible Socie­ties NT Hand­books (vol.4, on Jn.14:14) arrives at the conclusion that the asking is directed to the Father:

… this verse [Jn.14:14] is entirely omitted by some Greek manu­scripts, though the evidence favors its inclusion … Some manuscripts do not have me in the phrase if you ask me … The Father could be assumed as the one to whom the prayer is directed.

The uncertainty over the word “me” in “if you ask me” is documented in many Bibles. ESV says in a footnote to Jn.14:14 that “some manu­scripts omit me”. HCSB likewise says, “other mss omit Me”. KJV, NKJV, RSV, REB omit “me” even in the main text, as does the French Louis Segond Bible.

John 14:14 is not otherwise problematic. The insertion of “me” into the Greek text is likely the work of a trinitar­ian or proto-trinitarian. A few late manu­scripts have “the Fa­ther” in­stead of “me” but this could be an interpre­tive addit­ion in the opposite direction, perhaps to harmon­ize this verse with the other similar verses in John chapters 14 to 16.

The Expositor’s Greek Testa­ment (vol.1, p.824) omits “me” in its Greek text. Regarding “in my name” in Jn.14:13, EGT says, “The name of a person can only be used when we seek to enforce his will and further his interests.” Jesus always seeks to do his Father’s will; hence invoking Jesus’ name must always be done in conformity with the Father’s will or else it would be a serious misuse of the name.

Many Christians invoke “in Jesus’ name” as a magic form­ula to be used in prayer to get God to grant them what they ask, reduc­ing Christ­ianity to pious superstition with little con­nection to biblical teach­ing. The guiding principle that Jesus intends for invok­ing “in my name” is seen in the previ­ous verse: “Whatever you ask [the Father] in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (Jn.14:13). Jesus’ desire that the Father be glori­fied in the Son is the guiding prin­ciple of Jesus’ life and ministry, and ought to be ours too.



[1] The Revised English Bible, largely unknown in USA, is a standard Bible in the United Kingdom, being the result of a collaborative effort of the Church of Eng­land, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and others.

[2] When we speak of Jesus’ heavenly “absence,” it is from the perspective of those living on earth, for Jesus is no longer on earth but in heaven. But when prosky­neō is used of Jesus in heaven (Rev.5:14), it is in his physical presence—in heaven.

[3] Revelation 13:4 (2x); 13:8; 13:12; 13:15; 14:9; 14:11; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4.

[4] The eight in John’s Gospel are 14:13,14; 15:7,16; 16:23; 16:24 twice; 16:26. The five in First John are 3:22; 5:14; 5:15 twice; 5:16.

[5] The 16 instances are distributed as follows: Matthew 7 times, Mark once, Luke 5 times, Paul’s letters 3 times (Eph.3:20; Col.1:9; Phil.4:6 as cognate aitēma).

[6] The verb occurs 35 times in Luke–Acts and 19 times in Paul, whereas the noun occurs 9 times in Acts and 14 times in Paul. In the synoptics, the verb is used 19 times and the noun twice of Jesus’ praying to the Father, for a total of 21 times in the synoptics. Neither word is found in John’s Gospel.

[7] Historical note: “Some early theologians objected to [praying to Jesus], among them Origen. He argued that though it is proper to address requests and thanksgiv­ings to saints or even ordinary human beings, pray­er in the proper sense—a re­quest to God for something which only God can grant, combined with praise—may be addressed only to God the Father (On Prayer, 14-16) … Jesus cannot be the object of such prayers because he himself offered them dur­ing his earthly life … Perhaps as a result of criticisms like Origen’s, there is not much evidence from the following cen­turies of early Christianity of prayer dir­ected to Jesus in baptismal and eucharistic liturgies.” (Jesus Now and Then, Burridge and Gould, p.148)

[8] It can occasionally refer to asking for some­thing, as in Jn.14:16; 16:26; 17:9. But in these instances, it is Jesus who is asking the Father.

 

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church