Rufus from Liberia asks the following question: Since we as Christians believe in the Trinity, which implies that Jesus is God, to whom was Jesus praying when he prayed during his time on earth? Himself? Or to whom?
As Christians we believe that God is a Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that three Divine Persons who constitute the Trinity share the same divine nature. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God. So, yes, we believe Jesus is God. The Four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – refer to Jesus as the Son of God. The title, “Son of God”, implies that Jesus, as the Son of God the Father has the same nature as God the Father. Thus, Jesus shares his Father’s divine nature – Jesus is God. Jesus affirms this truth when He states in John 10:30 (NIV), “I and the Father are one”. Furthermore, we read in the Gospels that Jesus claimed to be sinless (John 8:46), He claimed the ability to forgive sins (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2:5), He also referred to himself as “I am” (John 8:58), which is the sacred name by which God revealed himself to Moses in the Book of Exodus (cf. Ex. 3:14). These are only some of the reasons why we believe Jesus is God. Yet, as your question implies, if Jesus is God, how could He pray to God? Wouldn’t that be illogical? Wouldn’t that be contradictory?
Well, let me first say this, we need to humbly admit that understanding these things is sometimes extremely difficult and it stretches our intellectual capacities to the limit. However, along with Anselm of Canterbury, I believe all our biblical and theological studies should always be a matter of faith seeking understanding. To get back to your question, Rufus. We need to remember that because of the Incarnation – because of God the Son being born into this world as a human being – Jesus has two natures: He is both fully human and fully divine. What does it mean that God the Son became fully human? What this means, in effect, is that God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, decided take upon himself all the limitations of our human nature. The apostle Paul explains this mystery so powerfully when he states in Philippians 2:6-8 (ESV) that Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”. Thus, from the perspective of his human nature, Jesus experienced all of the challenges and limitations that we have to deal with on a daily basis. There were times when He became tired and needed to rest. Times when He became hungry and thirsty, needing food and drink. Times when He experienced great joy and happiness, but also times of loneliness and sadness. He was subject to the full spectrum of bodily, emotional, and spiritual experiences that we as human beings encounter. Yet, unlike us, He did not sin in the process.
It is within the context of the human dimension of Jesus that we should understand his need for prayer. Yes, Jesus is and always will be fully God, but because of the Incarnation He also became fully human. And as a human being Jesus had the need to pray to God the Father, seeking the Father’s guidance, encouragement and wisdom in his life. So, in summary then, when Jesus prayed during his time on earth, He was not praying to himself. Rather, having become fully human like you and me, He was praying to his Father. In his humanity, Jesus was just as dependent on God the Father as we are. As I said, these things are difficult to understand, yet let’s ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and deepen our understanding.