Is Jesus God? And if so, to whom is Jesus praying when the Bible speaks of him praying? Is he praying to himself?
To the first question, “Is Jesus God,” I answer, “Yes, he is.” But having said this, I must be careful to explain exactly what I mean.
When we say that Jesus is God, we are talking about his nature, not his identity. In other words, we are not saying Jesus is the Father. Rather, we are saying that with respect to his nature, Jesus is what the Father is.
Sometimes when we use the word God we specifically mean God the Father. When we speak about praying to God, for instance, we are identifying the one to whom we are praying.
But sometimes we use the word God in a different way. For instance, when we say Jesus is God, we are saying he is God as opposed to human or angelic. We’re talking about his nature. We are talking about what he is.
The Scriptures are very plain on this point. John makes it quite clear when he says at the very beginning of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In this verse, “the Word” is a reference to Jesus in his pre-incarnate state, that is, before he came to earth as a human being. And John says very clearly, “the Word was God.” But notice how he also makes it clear that he does not mean that Jesus was the Father. He says, “The Word was with God [the Father], and the Word was God [that is, with respect to his nature—meaning that he was what the Father was].”
This is not the only place where the Scriptures speak of the deity of Christ. In his letter to the Romans Paul says that “Christ…is God over all” (Rom. 9:5). In Philippians he speaks of Jesus being in the form of God and being equal with God (Phil. 2:6-7). In Colossians he says that the “fullness of deity dwells bodily” in him (Col. 2:9).
In addition to these explicit statements regarding the nature of Christ, we find that divine works are attributed to him. Chief among these is his work of creation.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (Jn. 1:3)
The world was made by him, yet the world did not know him. (Jn. 1:10)
There is…one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Cor. 8:6)
By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col. 1:16)
Who can create except God alone? And yet several times over Jesus is said to have been the Creator of all things.
Clearly, Jesus is God. He is not God the Father, but with respect to his nature, he is what the Father is.
And since Jesus is distinct from the Father in terms of his person, we can see how the Bible can speak of him as both being God (in his nature) and praying to God (the Father).