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Unitarians pray to a false Jesus

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 The Bible teaches that since the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer this demonstrates that He is God.[*1] There are some Unitarians who affirm that He is the proper recipient of prayer, but demand this is not something reserved for only God.[*2] They are in error because:


1. After affirming that there is only one YHWH (Deuteronomy 6:4), the Shema also goes on to teach that He alone is the proper recipient of prayer (Deuteronomy 6:5). Thus to pray to any other but God alone is a violation of the Shema.[*3]

     a. Judaism 101: The Shema can also be translated as "The L-rd is our G-d, The L-rd alone," meaning that no other is our G-d, and we should not pray to any other.


     b. Richard N. Longenecker: There is no commandment in the Jewish Scriptures that says simply "Thou shalt pray!" Rather, what one finds is a verse like Deut 11:13, which calls on Israel "to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." The rabbis of the Talmud asked about this verse: "What kind of service is it that takes place in the heart"? And they answered their own question: "It is prayer!" (b. Ta' anith 2a) (Studies in Paul, Exegetical and Theological, page 33).


2. One of the reasons that God alone is to be prayed to is because He alone fully knows the hearts of all people at all times.[*4]

1 Kings 8:38-39 (cf. Romans 8:26-27)

whatever prayer...is made...then hear in heaven...for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men. (NASB) 

     a. The fact that the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer demonstrates that the "aloneness" of God encompasses Him. 


3. Since God is referred to as the Hearer of prayer it follows that only God is the proper recipient of prayer.[*5] 

Psalm 65:2 
O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. (KJV)

     a. Daniel Whedon: Thou that hearest prayer—A recognition of deity which gratitude dictates and experience attests. 
     b. Allen Ross: the verse begins by addressing God as one who hears prayer, meaning one who answers prayer (s.v. Ps. 45:10). The use of the participle stresses that this is a characteristic of God - he is a prayer-answering God (A Commentary on the Psalms, volume 2, page 413). 

     c. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski: The Old Testament everywhere assumes that the Lord God is the only proper object of prayer. He is the one who answers prayer (Ps. 65:2)...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: The Case for the Deity of Christ, page 47).  
      d. The Pulpit Commentaries: O thou that hearest prayer. A necessary and inalienable attribute of God. Calvin rightly observes on the passage: "God can no more divest himself of his attribute of hearing prayer than of being"...By hearing prayer is meant in Scripture taking account of our requests and answering them (1 John 5:14,1 John 5:15). This involves all that is most glorious in God's revealed attributes. His infinite knowledge, which not the most timid or rapid desire, or speechless lifting up of any heart, escapes. His wisdom to discern whether, when, how, to grant our requests. Foreknowledge—for long preparation may have been needful, though the prayer be uttered and granted in a moment. Righteousness, to grant no petition, however fervent, which it would not be right to grant. Love—to take fatherly interest in our childish ways, small needs, and often ignorant and impatient desires; and to care for our best welfare. And almighty power—to carry out all that wisdom, righteousness, and love direct, and to make "all things work together," etc. (Romans 8:28).



4. The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901) links prayer to God with His omnipotence and with His omniscience.

     a. Prayers should not be considered as a set task, but as petitions to Omnipotence for mercy (Abot 2:18) (Prayer, see "Prayer Substituted for Sacrifice"). Immediately following this it reads (in opposition to the Cabalistic View): 

 The Jewish monotheistic theory would not permit of any intermediary between God and the prayers of devotees. R. Judah said, "An appeal to a mortal patron for relief depends on his servant's willingness to permit the applicant to enter but appeals to the Almighty in time of trouble do not depend on the angel Michael or Gabriel one need only call upon God." "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered" (Joel 3:5 [A. V. 2:32] Yer. Ber. 9:1). 

 - My comment: And yet 'to call upon the name of the Lord' is used in reference to the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:13; 1 Corinthians 1:2; etc), which demonstrates that the Almighty applies unto Him.

     b. God is not less omniscient because we are taught to pray to Him... (Leeser, "Discourses," 10:30 in "Significance of Prayer"). 



5. In agreement with the above, the following list of passages (although not an exhaustive one) affirm that since the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer this demonstrates that He is God. For the sake of brevity I did not write out the passages.

John 14:14

     a. Robert Reymond: Jesus declared that he will answer the prayers of his disciples (John 14:13), but equally significant for our purpose, he represents himself as One to whom prayers may properly be addressed. In verse 14, Jesus stated again that he himself will answer his disciples' prayers - surely an implicit claim to deity since one would have to be divine to hear, in all the languages of the world, the myriads of prayers being offered up to him at any one moment and then wisely to answer each prayer (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, pages 232-233). 


Acts 1:24-26

     a. William Mounce: The fact that people pray to both God (Mt. 6:9) and Jesus (Acts 1:24) is part of the proof of Jesus' deity (Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, Pray, page 531).      

     b. Seyoon Kim (Concerning the Lord Jesus): He is addressed in prayer, a clear indication of His deity (Acts 1:24-25) (The Origin of Paul's Gospel, page 105). 

     c. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: The use of the lot as a means of ascertaining the will of Deity...Ac 1:26. (Divination, See 6b1, T. Witton Davies) 


Acts 7:59-60

     a. J. R. Lumby: It is to be observed that both prayers of Stephen are addressed to Jesus as God (The Acts of the Apostles, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges).



Romans 1:7

    a. Charles Hodge: This association of the Father and Christ as equally the object of prayer, and the source of spiritual blessings, is a conclusive proof that Paul regarded Christ as truly God. 

     b. John Lange: This frequent coordination of Christ with the Father, as equally the object of prayer and the source of spiritual blessing, implies the recognition of the divinity of Christ. No Hebrew monotheist could thus associate, without blasphemy, the eternal Jehovah with a mere man. 


Romans 10:13

     a. Daniel Whedon: By call upon, is meant, praying to. So Stephen, in Acts 7:59; and so Acts 9:14, and Romans 10:13. This last text, in particular, shows that the phrase means prayer in its highest sense as to God, and is a very conclusive proof that the very mark of a Christian, in Paul’s view, was truly praying to Christ, as that of a Jew was blaspheming him, and that of a Gentile was worshipping idols. 



Romans 15:12

     a. Matthew Henry: In him shall the Gentiles trust. Faith is the soul's confidence in Christ and dependence on him. The prophet has it, to him shall the Gentiles seek. The method of faith is first to seek unto Christ, as to one proposed to us for a Saviour and, finding him able and willing to save, then to trust in him. Those that know him will trust in him. Or, this seeking to him is the effect of a trust in him seeking him by prayer, and pursuant endeavours.  



1 Corinthians 1:2

     a. Richard Watson: In both the Old and New Testament, to call upon the name of the Lord, imports invoking the true God in prayer, with a confession that he is Jehovah, that is, with an acknowledgment of his essential and incommunicable attributes. In this view the phrase is applied to the worship of Christ (Watson's Biblical and Theological Dictionary, Call). 


     b. J. C. O'Neill: To call on the name of the Lord Jesus was to worship the God of Israel (The Use of KYRIOS in the Book of Acts, Scottish Journal of Theology, Volume 8, Issue 2, c. June, 1955, page 172).


1 Corinthians 4:19

     a. Charles Hodge: Thus constantly did Paul live in communion with Christ as his God, submitting to him and trusting to him at all times. 


2 Corinthians 1:2

     a. Matthew Henry: The salutation or apostolical benediction, which is the same as in his former epistle; and therein the apostle desires the two great and comprehensive blessings, grace and peace, for those Corinthians. These two benefits are fitly joined together, because there is no good and lasting peace without true grace; and both of them come from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the procurer and dispenser of those benefits to fallen man, and is prayed to as God. 



Ephesians 5:19

     a. A. T. Robertson (Ephesians 5:19): To the Lord (τωι Κυριωι — tōi Kuriōi). The Lord Jesus. In Colossians 3:16 we have τωι τεωι — tōi theōi (to God) with all these varieties of praise, another proof of the deity of Christ. 

     b. John Eadie: the early church, in obedience to the apostle's mandate, acknowledged His Divinity, and sang praise to Him as its God. The hymnology of the primitive church leaves not a doubt of its belief in Christ's supreme Divinity. 


Philippians 2:11

     a. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament: "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 (2:350, kyrios, Ceslas Spicq). 


Philippians 2:19

     a. Justin Edwards (Philippians 2:19): I trust in the Lord Jesus; Paul trusted in him as the God of providence as well as of grace.


1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

     a. Gordon Fee: Here is a strict monotheist praying with ease to both the Father and the Son, focusing first on the one and then the other, and without a sense that his monotheism is being stretched or is in some kind of danger (The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, page 130-131). 


2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 

     a. Leon Morris: Ever since he got on to the subject of the Man of Lawlessness Paul has used every opportunity to insist on the superlative worth and might of the Savior. He is linked with the Father, and, what is unusual, he is placed before the Father. This sometimes happens elsewhere (Gal. 1:1; 2 Cor. 13:14), but the more usual practice is to place the Father first. Although the subject is in this way a double one, the two verbs "encourage" and "strengthen" are singular. All this combines to give the highest place imaginable to Christ. Paul is not giving a formal account of his understanding of the nature of deity, but this incidental allusion in an informal act of prayer is all the more revealing for that reason (The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, pages 242-243). 


 2 Thessalonians 3:16

 Just as Ruth 2:4 is a prayer to the Father to bless others, so too is 2 Thessalonians 3:16 a prayer to the Lord Jesus to do the same. This affirms His Deity.

     a. William Mounce: the OT does not portray a blessing as magical, but as a prayer offered to a sovereign God (Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Bless, page 67). 


1 Timothy 1:12

     a. BDAG (3rd Edition): charis in our literature as a whole, in the sense gratitude, refers to appropriate response to the Deity for benefits conferred" (page 1080). 

 This is how "Deity" is defined when capitalized: the Deity, God; Supreme Being. 


2 Timothy 4:18

     a. Tony Costa: The κύριος here in terms of Pauline style would be a reference to the risen Jesus as κύριος and is the principal Pauline title for Jesus. A. M. Stibbs comments regarding this text that "the doxology is addressed to Christ as God." A. M. Stibbs, "2 Timothy," in Guthrie, Motyer, Stibbs and Wiseman, New Bible Commentary Revised, 1183 (Worship and the Risen Jesus in the Pauline Letters, page 323, footnote 71). 

     b. It is worth noting that the doxology addressed to the Father in Galatians 1:5 reads the same way as the doxology addressed to the Lord Jesus in 2 Timothy 4:18.

ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν (Galatians 1:5) 
ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν (2 Timothy 4:18) 
 Concerning the doxology in Galatians 1:5 Richard Longenecker affirms that it constitutes "the praise and worship of God by his creatures, of which he alone is worthy (cf. Pss 29:2; 96:8)" (Word Biblical Commentary, Galatians, page 9, volume 41). 


2 Peter 3:18

     a. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson: Doxologies, by their very nature, were addressed to the one God who alone is worthy of eternal glory and worship. Bauckham draws the only possible conclusion: "There could be no clearer way of ascribing to Jesus the worship due to God" (The Deity of Christ, page 163). 

     b. Daniel Whedon: To him be glory—That is, to Christ; an attribute never ascribed in doxology to any creature in scripture. 
      c. Charles Ellicott: there can be no doubt that in this doxology homage is paid to Jesus Christ as true God. 


Revelation 22:21

     a. Steven Tsoukalas: The Son is God, and accordingly the Book of Revelation ends with the prayer that His grace be with all (22:21) (Knowing Christ in the Challenge of Heresy, page 158).  


[*1] The fact that the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer demonstrates that He is the living God and the Almighty omniscient Creator.

     a. NIDNTT (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology): In prayer we are never to forget whom we are addressing: the living God, the almighty one with whom nothing is impossible, and from whom therefore all things may be expected (2:857, Prayer, H. Schonweiss). 

      b. NIDOTTE (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis): To pray is an act of faith in the almighty and gracious God who responds to the prayers of his people (4:1062, Prayer, P. A. Verhoef).  
      c. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible: In sum, both the OT and the NT portray prayer as a principal means by which Creator and creature are bound together in an ongoing, vital, and mutually important partnership (Prayer, page 1079, Samuel E. Balentine). 

      d. Wayne Grudem: We are to pray only to God, who alone is omnipotent and thus able to answer prayer and who alone is omniscient and therefore able to hear the prayers of all his people at once. By virtue of omnipotence and omniscience, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also worthy of being prayed to, but this is not true of any other being (Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, page 407).  
      e. James Dunn: at the time of Jesus...prayers of adoration, of penitence and confession, of petition and intercession, all indicating the dependence of the inferior (creature) upon the all-powerful Creator, Saviour and Lord (Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, page 30).


[*2] Below is a sample that take this position:

     a. From "biblical unitarian": It seems clear that we can pray to Jesus for things we need. 


     b. Spirit & Truth International Fellowship: There is a debate among some Christian groups as to whether or not people can pray to Jesus. As we will see from the evidence below, Scripture testifies that it is permissible to pray to Jesus. 

     c. Alan Fowler (Christadelphian):  Since Jesus has been given full authority, and has ‘the keys of death and Hades’ (Rev. 1:18), then surely it is appropriate that we would be ever conscious of his control in our lives and speak to him who is our guide and ‘wonderful counsellor.’ 



[*3] https://www.christforums.com/forums/topic/7792-the-shema-yhwh-encompasses-the-lord-jesus-deuteronomy-64-cf-mark-1229/


[*4] This demonstrates the omniscience of the Lord Jesus.



[*5] In His omniscience the Hearer of Prayer already fully understands the heart from which the words ascend even before one prays (Psalm 139:4; cf. Genesis 24:45; Isaiah 65:24). 

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