Misdirected Prayer
by Alex D. Ogden

Someone once said, "Every door may be shut about us, but He never shuts the door above us!" As God's children we are comforted to know we always have the avenue of prayer opened to us. In times of trial and temptations or just when we become discouraged we know we can speak with our Heavenly Father through prayer. But prayer is much more than just a pick-me-up when things aren't going well. We should communicate with our Father daily through prayer to praise Him and thank Him for what He has given us and done for us through His Son Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 6:0; Eph. 5:20). Prayer should play an important part in the life of every Christian.

Quite often prayer is abused. In a sense I think we could say we abuse the avenue of prayer when we fail to make regular use of it. And certainly many of us who are Christians have had periods of time where we failed to pray as we should. We may also abuse prayer by asking amiss. James 4 and verse 3 says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures." If we try to use prayer as a means of satisfying our pleasures, the Lord will not be pleased. But another problem with prayers today, and the subject of this article, is misdirected prayers. Many, I believe, pray to the wrong person when they bow in prayer. In this article we want to first examine the scriptures to see who we are to pray to and then notice some examples of those directing prayers in the wrong direction.

There are three persons in the Godhead: God the Father (Gal. 1:1), God the Son (Heb. 1:8), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3,4). "Each person of the Godhead has a distinct function in the entire scheme of redemption. They have a separate work that complements the work of each other in all that is revealed to us from creation to the last day when the resurrection and judgment take place. To assign to one person a work that another is said to have done or will do is to misunderstand the revealed function of the three persons of deity. For example, Christ was made flesh that He might die for the sins of the world. Neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit died for the sins of the world. The second person of the Godhead did what the other two persons did not do."1 So if we find where one particular person of the Godhead is to be prayed to, we should not pray to another.

In Matt. 6:6 Jesus said, "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee." When Jesus says to pray to thy Father, does He mean to our father in the flesh? Certainly not. He has reference to God the Father. He directs them to go and pray to the Heavenly Father. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name" (John 16:23). The words of Jesus Himself shows prayer is to be directed to the Father. The apostle Paul also made this clear in Ephesians 5:20 and Colossians 3:17. When we go to God in prayer we are actually to be praying to God the Father.

God the Son, Jesus Christ, has a separate distinct function with regards to prayer. Paul said, "For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). The role Jesus plays in our prayers to the Father is that of mediator. He intercedes between God and ourselves making it possible for us to draw near unto God (cf. Heb. 7:25).

There are those who direct their prayers to someone other than the Father. The Roman Catholic Church is surely the largest organization to do this. In Mary-Help of Christians, a publication of the Catholic church, prayer to Mary the mother of Jesus is advocated. In fact, not only do Catholics pray to Mary, but they also pray to "saints". In their 1903 publication, Cabinet of Catholic Information, on page 250 they speak about showing reverence and honor to Mary and the 'saints'. Then they write, "But we go a step further in praying to them..." We have seen how Jesus and the apostle Paul, one of the Catholic "saints", taught we were to pray to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Yet Catholics have for years offered their prayers to Mary, to Jesus, or to one of their "saints". Occasionally they do offer prayers to the Father but it seems most often they pray to others.

When we teach about the subject of prayer, we need to see we teach the truth about the subject. We should show we are to pray to God the Father: not to Jesus or the Holy Spirit or to Mary or to the "saints", but the Father. We should also show the place of Jesus in prayer. He intercedes for us--He is our mediator.

In Col. 3:16 Paul writes, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God." Note Paul says we are to teach and admonish one another in our singing. We should, then, make certain what is being taught in our songs is true to the word of God.

With regard to the subject of prayer, are those songs we sing which talk about prayer teaching truth? Certainly a large number of them do well in teaching prayer to the Father through Jesus, as taught in the N.T. However, I have noticed some teach we should pray to someone other than the Father. The songs in question teach Jesus is the one prayed to, rather than the one prayed through. In our song books, Sacred Selections for the Church, are several songs teaching prayer to Jesus rather than the Father. "Tis The Blessed Hour of Prayer"-#24; "Take Time to Be Holy"-#55; "What a Friend We have in Jesus"-#63; "Tell it to Jesus"-#240; "I Must Tell Jesus"-#241; and "Just a Little Talk with Jesus"-#646 are a few of the songs we often sing which teach something different from what we have seen taught in the New Testament. If it would be wrong to teach from the pulpit we are to pray unto Jesus, then how could it be right to teach prayer unto Jesus in our songs from our pews? If it is wrong it must not be taught through any means.

If you would be interested in further study of prayer unto Jesus, I would refer you to a series of articles which appeared in Searching The Scriptures in 1981. The February, July, August and November issues of the paper has the articles. If you would like I would be most happy to copy them for you.

From this article my plea is for prayer to God the Father through God the Son, Jesus Christ. Let us also be certain we don't teach something else by ways of our songs.


(1) Praying and Singing to Jesus (No. 1), Searching the Scriptures, by H.E. Phillips, July, 1981.

This page is Copyright 1998 by Alex Ogden, All Rights Reserved.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 04, 1998.

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