This statement communicates something very important, one that contradicts the teachings of many ecclesiastical Christian teachers today that Jesus is God:
Who would Jesus need to pray to if he were God?
Ecclesiastical sectarian teachers get real fuzzy when asked this. They start fumbling about the "trinity," saying that "Jesus was God, but not the Father God - he was the Son God" or something to that extent.
Then we must ask them again: Who is Jesus praying to?
The answer is usually the Father, but then the question is:
Who is the Father?
"Well, the Father is God," they will likely say.
This circles us back to the original problem: If Jesus is God, then who would Jesus need to pray to?
If the conversation goes too far, many will simply contend that the answer is inconceivable. Well, maybe to them it is inconceivable, because they choose not to perceive the real Supreme Being.
And certainly this is what we find among the teachings of many of these sectarian institutions: In their fervor to claim Jesus is God, they ignore the Father - the Person Jesus was praying to.
Let's call it what it is: These sectarian teachers don't like to talk much about the Father personally, because they don't know who He is. They don't know who Jesus was praying to.
As a result, they end up indicating to their followers that God is some kind of vague force - an impersonal force who can form a burning bush, a loud thundering voice, or a man, in Jesus Christ.
Yes, most of these ecclesiastical sectarian teachers believe that God is ultimately an impersonal force that "became man" in Jesus. God became man? How ridiculous is that?
It is almost as ridiculous as teaching that God as Jesus died for my sins. God died?
While some have envisioned God as an old man with a long grey beard (hence the paintings), the official stance of most ecclesiastical sectarian teachers is that this simply represents this vague impersonal force of God. This impersonal force that became man in the form of Jesus.
They will also try to reinforce this impersonal view of God by saying that God's Name is unknowable and/or unspeakable. Yet they ignore Jesus' many references to God as the Father and Abba and Eli. Aren't these Names of God?
This presents again the original problem: If God is an impersonal force, who was Jesus praying to? Who would hear Jesus' prayers? Does an impersonal force hear? And why should someone pray to an impersonal force anyway?
And could an impersonal force have a will?
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)and
"For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matt. 12:50)How about location? Jesus' two statements above indicate that God, Jesus' Father, is "in heaven." Can a vague impersonal force have a place of domicile?
And how about all the conversations that take place in the Bible between God and His various servants, such as Moses, Joshua, Noah, David and others? Does a vague impersonal force have conversations with people?
And how about love? Jesus, Moses and the prophets taught that we should love God:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 23:37-38)
Can we love a vague impersonal force? Can we even know a vague impersonal force? And how could we love someone if we don't know them?
Frankly, it is a ridiculous thesis that a vague impersonal force would have conversations, a will, a place of domicile, and the ability to exchange love. These are all characteristics of a person: A person has a will. A person has conversations. A person exchanges love.
Thus we must come to the conclusion that God is a person. A personal being who is not Jesus.
How do we know that God is not Jesus? Because Jesus is praying to Him. Jesus is not a con artist. He was not pretending to be someone he was not. In fact, he was trying to illustrate precisely who he was via his statement here and elsewhere who he really was. And this is illustrated by what Jesus in fact prayed (as observed by Peter, James and John, whom he asked to come with him):
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matt. 26:39)With his prayer, Jesus clarifies not only that he was not God - in that he could have a different will from God - but that he is God's loving, devoted servant.
Why? Only a person who is devoted to another will ask that person if they can do what the other person wants them to do (their "will").
This also means that God is a personal God; a Person with a will and a Person we can exchange a loving relationship with.
And God isn't an old man with grey hair and a long beard.
The Supreme Being is not only a Person; He is the most beautiful Person. He is ever-youthful, fun, attractive, playful, caring, compassionate, understanding, honest, steadfast, reliable, funny, gregarious, forthright and loving.
He is everything we want in a best friend, companion, master, mentor and beloved.
He is the Perfect Person we all look for throughout our lives, as we look for that "soul mate."
He is the Perfect Person we all expect our spouses or girlfriends or boyfriends to be but aren't.
He is that Person we know deep inside is "out there for us."
So how do we get re-acquainted with the Supreme Being? This has been detailed by many ancient spiritual teachers, including Jesus. We can reach out to God at any time through prayer, as Jesus is showing us here. We can recite, sing and praise God's Holy Names. (See a list of God's Holy Names.)
We can also make offerings to God. Before we eat, we can offer our food to Him.
We can also ask Him like Jesus is doing with his prayer, if we can learn to love Him and serve Him with our lives.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)