Rodney L. Smith
Why did Jesus pray if he is God? Was he praying to himself? Did God pray?
The simplest answer is, yes God prayed. He became a real human being and prayer is a real human necessity, just like eating, drinking, and sleeping. He also limited himself to doing everything as we do, even doing his ministry and miracles by the Holy Spirit, his Father dwelling inside him (Jesus the man). Of himself he did nothing. Although he was God walking around on this earth, opted for a fully human experience prior to the Incarnation. Only in this full humanity could he be tempted, die, arise from death, and be glorified. His glorification is when the risen humanity of Jesus is fused together with the omnipresent, omnipotent Spirit, the man Jesus’ Father, God in all his limitlessness, and the man Jesus becomes a life-giving Spirit, as he always was before he was born. Any distinction between the Father and the Son exists only during his earthly sojourn and voluntary human experience of limitation. Then there’s the distinction of modes of being, the Eternal Spirit is now also a Begotten Son since the Incarnation. These distinctions are exploited by Trinitarians and amplified and morphed into distinctions of person.
So I think we can say that, as Jesus, God prayed. Jesus is 100% God. Everything he did, God did. Jesus was God’s experience as a human person, first limited, then resurrected and ascended, and now glorified together with his ultimate, infinite, transcendent Self.
We can biblically say that God, at the right, preplanned moment in time, made himself a second, limited, and finite self, born of a woman (Romans 9:5; Galatians 4:4). Then, after the baptism of this “second self,” or “exact image of himself” (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3) expressed in a different way (humanity), God as he has always been, the omnipresent Spirit, began working inside of and from within the man that was truly him, yet, at the same time, a real, begotten man, his Son truly and indeed. The Spirit/Father worked in the Son the same way he works in us, yet the Son was fully yielded more than anyone else could ever be. Plus, the Son was entitled to the full power that worked in him in a way that no other human person could ever be, because he himself truly was that power.
So we see that Jesus was the true man through whom the power of God worked freely and uninhibited, but Jesus was not only the man. He was more. He was also that Power that worked within his humanity in a true and very real transcendent identity which exceeded and surpassed his real humanity. These two modes or manners of being shared one identity, and the one identity shared these two distinct modes of being for approximately 33 years (34 including gestation and post resurrection). That one identity is GOD, plain and simple, undivided, and all that is God was manifested in human form as Jesus of Nazareth (“all the fullness of the godhead” Colossians 2:9), and he still shares and possesses these two modes of being and expression today, albeit in a far less distinct sense because the two modes have been fused together into one (the Man of flesh was made eternal Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 15:45; John 14:15-18(19-20 and following); Romans 8:9-10(11); Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27).
So what about the anatomy of Jesus’ prayers? Looking at the matter from a Christocentric context, is one nature praying to another nature? I don’t think it’s helpful to describe natures praying and being prayed to. A nature is an aspect possessed of a person or thing. So it would be akin to saying his mouth prayed to God’s ears, a bit awkward and obscure. In other words you’re saying that his humanity prays to his divinity. Humanity does not pray, and we don’t pray to abstract divinity. We pray to deity, to a Divine Being.
I believe it’s more accurate and helpful to retain the completeness of the person that is characteristic of Hebrew thought, saying that Jesus in his humanity prays to God the Father, the God who beget him.
Jesus prayed to God. This is what the scripture presents. Does this mean that Jesus is not God? Not at all! Jesus is clearly God made human, the man who is God and whom God is. Since Jesus is God, then as Jesus God prayed, as well as ate, drank, slept, breathed, was born, grew, died, resurrected, and was glorified. Yet although Jesus was limited during the time between his conception and his glorification, still God was not limited to Jesus. Jesus was 100% God, but God was not 100% Jesus. Then at Christ’s glorification, he was made a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) and became omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. Hope that makes sense to you.
I would also like to recommend that you check out Jason Dulle’s article “Jesus’ Prayers: It Doesn’t Take Two Persons to Tango” on OnenessPentecostal.com. I’ll link it below.
Jesus’ Prayers: It Doesn’t Take Two Persons to Tango http://www.onenesspentecostal.com/jesusprayerstango.htm