And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things.
‘I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things. (Al Quran 5:117-118)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
As Jesus was apparently dying on the cross, he uttered his famous words, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:34) He was addressing God the Father and praying to Him. Jesus was not addressing himself or a Triune God, in that case he did not have to say anything aloud. He could think silently in his own mind.
But, millions of Christians, despite the age of information, continue to pray to a mere mortal, Jesus of Nazareth.
It seems that the news that Jesus never prayed to himself or for that matter, to the Holy Ghost, has not reached a large number of Christians. He only prayed to God the Father, with total sincerity and with the fullest earnest. So, in a manner of speaking, we have to break this news to the Christians, once again.
To give our Christian brothers and sisters a Jewish, a Unitarian Christian or a Muslim perspective, let me simply collect many of the references, from the four canonical Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, when Jesus, may peace be on him, a noble prophet of God, prays to Allah or God the Father, submits to Him or talks about Him, without implying himself (Jesus) or the Holy Ghost or a Triune God.
We will start off with the Gospel of Mark, as it was the earliest of the canonical Gospels to be written, perhaps some thirty years after Jesus was put on the cross.
All the quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.
Gospel of Mark
Jesus, may peace be on him, tells us that he did not come on his own volition, but, had been sent by God the Father. In other words he is a prophet of God:
He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37)
Jesus, humble that he was like all the prophets before and after him, claimed, “No one is good—except God alone.” Read for yourself and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon’s advice, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.” He also alludes to the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, suggesting that salvation lies in following the Commandments and not in vicarious atonement or someone dying on the cross, for the sins of others:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother. (Mark 10:17-19)
Jesus tells his followers the benefits of prayers to God the Father and how would our Father in heaven, forgive our sins:
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:22-25)
As Jesus tells one of the Jewish teacher of law, as to what is the Greatest Commandment of all, he talks about Divinity of God the Father, without any mention of himself being divine.
My dear Christian brothers and sisters, as you read the following verse, please think, how a present day Jew or a Jew of Jesus’ time would understand these words, not what you may perceive from these words:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34)
In the following reference, Jesus yields to the Omniscience of God the Father and humbly submits that he himself, does not know, when exactly would be the hour of judgment:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-37)
In the following reference, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is praying, not once or twice, but three times to God the Father and calling him ‘Abba,’ or Father:
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. (Mark 14:32-39)
Gospel of Matthew
When devil incites Jesus to worship him, Jesus does not tell him, “I am already worshiping myself,” rather he says, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Please read for yourself:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:8-11)
In the Sermon of the Mount, as Jesus applauds the peace makers, he does not call them his children, rather the children of God:
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:8-9)
Jesus tells his followers to try to mimic some of the attributes of the heavenly Father, who is the only being who is perfect:
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)
Jesus encourages charity in secret, as he teaches about All-Knowing God the Father:
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)
And now the most important quotation from the Gospel of Matthew, as Jesus teaches his disciples, how to pray. Please note, no mention of praying to Jesus himself or to the Holy Ghost:
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:7-15)
In the very next chapter, Jesus again encourages his followers to pray to God the Father:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)
Just like in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus pleads ignorance regarding the details of the hour of judgment:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)
Jesus prays to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, in great distress, not once or twice, but three times:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:36-44)
Just like in Gospel of Mark, in Matthew also towards the end, Jesus calls out to God the Father, passionately, in a last ditch stand:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me)? (Matthew 27:43-44)
Gospel of Luke
Jesus tells his followers to try to mimic some of the attributes of the heavenly Father, who is the only being who is the most merciful:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36)
Jesus offers beautiful teachings about prayers and we are supposed to pray to our heavenly Father and not Jesus of Nazareth or the Holy Ghost:
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13)
The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:28-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-16) may not be as commonly known as other parables Jesus told, but it is one of the most eye-opening. It was told to the religious elders who disputed Jesus’ teachings.
- The landowner – represents God the Father
- The vineyard – His Kingdom
- The tenants – specifically Israel’s religious leaders and all who reject Him
- The servants – God’s prophets and faithful believers
- The beloved son – Jesus Christ
Here, I quote it from the Gospel of Luke. Please note that the beloved son does not come on his own accord, but is sent by the landowner, God the Father:
He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
“But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” (Luke 20:9-16)
Please also note in the reading of this parable that the landowner is not happy at all with the killing of his metaphorical son and it is clear from the passage that he has not sent his son on a suicidal mission. This was an aside and now back to our main theme.
Whereas in the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, after the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, to God the Father, according to the Gospel of Luke, he went to the Mount of Olives. This was no ordinary prayer, it was a prayer of last resort, of someone who is in unprecedented distress and does not want to die, “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Read the rest of the context of the prayer, to God the Father:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)
Gospel of John
I think the most dramatic verse for my purposes in the Gospel of John is in chapter 14, where Jesus, may peace be on him, says, “The Father is greater than I.” Here is the rest of the context:
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:28-31)
Incidentally, these verses also negate the opening verses of the Gospel of John, in which Trinitarian Christians grounded, incarnation of Jesus and their understanding of Trinity, around the time of Council of Nicene. in 325 CE.
In the fourth chapter, Jesus explains to a Samaritan Woman, the real essence of worshiping God the Father:
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know;we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24)
Jesus claims to be a prophet of God the Father:
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me.” (John 5:36-37)
The focus should still be on God the Father rather than Jesus and he indirectly claims that he is a continuation of the paradigm created by Moses, a paradigm of prophethood in other words:
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-47)
Jesus came to do the ‘will’ of God the Father:
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:37-39)
Jesus again insists that he is a prophet of God, no more no less:
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:25-29)
I could perhaps continue with my reading of Gospel of John, with special attention to the issue at hand. But, I think after a very clear testimony from Jesus about his prophethood and his complete submission to the ‘will’ of God the Father, let me stop here.
Scores of these verses that I have quoted from the four Canonical Gospels and it is not an exhaustive list, certainly present a strong cumulative case for pure Unitarianism, as understood by the Jews, the Muslims and the Unitarian Christians.
But, a new and a different question remains that if Jesus always prayed to Allah or God the Father, how come, today, millions of Christians continue to pray to Jesus of Nazareth?
Here, I do not have to do any original work, but, would link a recent article and a review of a book: