If Jesus was God, why did He pray?
Updated: Aug 5
Jesus made many claims about His Divinity and backed these up with amazing displays of power through the miracles He performed. However, the Gospels frequently record Jesus praying to “His Father in Heaven”. Jesus would often spend all night praying alone on mountainsides. If He was God, who was He praying to during these times? Was Heaven empty when He came to Earth? Why did Jesus need to pray? Was it just to set an example for the rest of His followers? Why didn’t He have all the power within Himself to perform these miracles if He was God?
Paul writes that when Jesus came to Earth, He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Another translation states that He “gave up His divine privileges”. To be born as a human was to know your own mortality (Jesus came to die); and to have limited knowledge (Jesus did not know the date for His Second Coming but said only the Father knows the day and the hour). Humans also have limited power (Jesus sacrificed His omnipotence and couldn’t perform miracles in some Israelite towns due to their lack of faith). Jesus felt tired, hungry and thirsty; and wept when He heard of the death of His friend Lazarus. What is quite strange about this account is that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead four days later. Why weep if you know He will be back alive shortly? I think this demonstrates the 'fully human' nature of Jesus when He lived on Earth.
Jesus was also 'fully God'. John writes that Jesus was the Logos, or "The Word" before He was born in the flesh. He has always existed and the world was created through Him and by Him. The pre-incarnate Jesus existed with God before the creation of the world and only limited Himself during His earthly ministry. He now exists eternally in His glorified, resurrected body awaiting the New Creation and interceding for us before the Father while the “time of the Gentiles” draws to an end. If Jesus was 'fully God, fully human' then that explains why He could perform the amazing miracles He did, but also why He had to pray. Humans have weaknesses and troubles; Jesus needed times of refreshment with His Father in Heaven, just like we do today.
There is another intriguing part of the story we have to account for. After Jesus was resurrected, He instructed His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were sent the Advocate from Heaven who would clothe them in power from on High. Christians believe this is the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus at His baptism and was seen in the form of a dove resting upon Him. The Holy Spirit 'filled' Old Testament figures such as Moses, David, Elijah and Elisha to name a few; and believers today can be similarly empowered by the same Spirit. The Holy Spirit fell on the early church and enabled them to speak languages they didn't know beforehand (so they could spread the message of Jesus) and was so powerful a force that it shook the room where they were praying.
Who was this Father in Heaven, and who was the Advocate that Jesus would send? The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit make up the three distinct Persons of the One true God. This is known as the Trinity, which while not a term found in the Bible, has become an apt description of the Oneness and Three-ness of God that exists throughout the Old and New Testaments. During creation God is written in the plural; He states “let us make man in our image”. The “Angel of the Lord” makes many appearances in the Old Testament and is interpreted to be a pre-incarnate form of Jesus. The Holy Spirit materializes regularly in Samson (giving Him superhuman strength); in Elijah (outrunning a chariot over a huge distance); in Elisha (raising a boy back from the dead); and many other occasions.
The Trinity has faced fierce opposition from Jews, Muslims and atheists in particular. It is argued to be heresy of the highest order (interpreted as Polytheism) and simply illogical. But it is worth pointing out that a God that you can understand is no God at all. What makes you assume that if there is a God, our finite human brains would be adequately able to comprehend Him? The idea of God being One is simpler and easier to grasp because it reminds us of our own nature – we are one person as God is one being. In this scenario how do you deflect the charge that you have made God in your own image? Psychologists such as Freud criticised religion claiming that God is a neurosis invented by the human subconscious; God is merely a projection of the human mind. This is harder to argue against when God appears to be merely superhuman, rather than having an incomprehensible nature that human brains couldn’t possibly have invented.
The Christian Trinity is a very strange idea. It's earliest reveal in the Biblical texts was over 3000 years ago and yet today’s mathematicians are able to shed light on the logical possibility of One Being having multiple Persons. Euclidean geometry studies the possibility of higher dimensions than the 3D universe we live in. Indeed, we are currently making progress understanding how time can be seen as the 4th dimension. We are 3D beings who exist in time and are constantly changing as a result; we are not like static, fixed 3D cubes for example; our natures are much more fluid, and real-time events shape our personalities and change us fundamentally. Mathematics has been exploring the logical possibility of 5D, 6D…11D universes, and even Hyper-Dimensions.
Carl Sagan, the astronomer, explained how when drawing a 2D version of a 3D shape, the 2D shape ends up slightly distorted compared to the real object – a 3D cube cannot be perfectly projected onto a 2D plane as that is the cost of ‘losing’ a dimension (the angles that you know are 90° in real life end up looking obtuse or acute in the 2D projection). Carl Sagan then attempts to explain how a 3D cube could be projected upwards to a 4th dimension (called a Hyper-Cube or Tesseract – a cube effected by time). Mathematicians have drawn a 3D ‘shadow’ representation of a 4D cube which is subjected to the same distortions as the 2D-3D example above. Sagan’s version looks like a smaller cube inside the main one; in reality, all the lines would be at 90° angles to each other but we have no way of representing that in 3D (that is the cost of moving down a dimension). Modern versions represent the movement of the cube in time, as demonstrated in the image above. What has this got to do with the Trinity?
Imagine you lived in 2D land. As a 2D person (a stick man) if someone tried to describe a 3D cube to you, you would never be able to comprehend it properly, because your brain is wired to the 2nd dimension. Through the descriptions all you would be able to imagine are six separate, flat square faces. You’d have no concept of the squares all being joined together at different right angles to each other, forwards and backwards across the planes. This could be a good analogy of how God could be three distinct persons and yet one being. For us, everyone is one person, but on a higher plane of existence, a hyper-dimensional being could have more than one person. 3D humans will never be able to fathom a being that has a plurality of distinct persons – they would seem completely separate to each other from our perspective (like the six flat squares that look separate in 2D land, yet are inextricably linked as one 3D shape). Think of a multi-faceted diamond, which has many distinct faces that make up the overall object; God has multi-faceted Persons in One unified Being in a higher dimension than our own. H₂O can exist as steam, water and ice whilst retaining its essence; maybe in higher dimensions one essence could exist in many forms simultaneously?
This certainly isn’t a God we can fully understand, and is a remarkable feat for the biblical writers to have “fabricated” (along Freudian lines) the plurality of God when writing His statements in the Genesis creation account – the mathematics hadn’t even been discovered then to suggest it could be logically possible!
God is love. Many other religions teach this too but stress fiercely that God is one and cannot be split into parts. Then how can he be love in these traditions? Before the universe was created, who was he loving? Did he have to create the world – otherwise he would lack an output for his very being? Only the Christian Trinity can explain how God is love – the three Persons of God’s one Being exist in a perfect loving relationship with each other which needs nothing else to satisfy it. God freely chose to create so that He might have many adopted sons and daughters to share in the bounty of His great love. Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven because they are bound to each in the one being and the Holy Spirit also forms this Triune unity. Maybe we exhibit echoes of this relationship when we engage in internal dialogue. Sometimes the voice of our conscience can seem like a distinct entity and a darker side to our personality fights back as another part, then there is 'you' in the middle deliberating between the two. Three distinct entities and yet one being; one brain which holds them all. Food for thought.
References  John 17:1-26, Matt 11:25-26  Matt 14:23, Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12  Phil 2:7  Mark 13:30-32  Mark 6:5, Matt13:58  John 4:6, Mark 11:12, John 19:28  John 11:35  John 11  John 1  Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:24-25, John 17:1-26  The Gospel is not purely for the Jews and has been opened up to every tribe, nation and tongue to accept Jesus’ offer of eternal life for themselves. This time is limited and the offer will not exist forever so do not hesitate to explore the truth of the offer for yourself! Luke 21:24  John 14:26, Acts 1:8, John 15:26, 16:7  Matt 3:16  Numbers 11:25, Psalm 51:11, 2 Kings 2:9  Joel 2:28, Acts 2:1-13  Acts 2  Deut 6:4, 1 Cor 8:6, Mark 12:29, 1 Tim 2:5,  Isa 9:6, 44:6, John 1:14, 14:16-17, 1 Cor 6:8  Gen 1:26  Rev 22:8-9 (do not worship anyone but God, don’t worship angels) Gen 16:8-14, 22:11-12, 31:13, Exo 3:1-6 (Hagar, Abraham, Jacob and Moses all worship the “Angel of the Lord”)  Judges 13-16  1 Kings 18:46  1 Kings 17:17-24  1 John 4:8  Qur’an 4:147; Jews don’t accept the Trinity and interpret the Old Testament as teaching One God only not split into parts.  Romans 8:14-19, John 1:12, Gal 4:4-5, Eph 1:5, Hebrews 2:10