December 17, 2022

Unitarian Questions Regarding our "Relationship with Jesus"


Someone in the Biblical Unitarian Alliance Facebook group postulated the following questions: 

  • What is the nature of your relationship with Jesus now?
  • If we are to pray to Father alone as God, what role does Jesus have in your daily life?
  • Is he just a name you tack on to the end of your prayers or do you actually have an intimate, personal fellowship with him?
  • If you are not supposed to pray to him or worship him as God, “what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”

The person who raised these concerns followed up by stating:

"Biblical unitarians need to be able to clearly express not only who Jesus was and is, but also what role he now plays in our worship services, our prayer lives, in our daily walk. It's not enough to be able to explain that the Father alone is God and that Jesus is His human Messiah...  biblical unitarians struggle with what to do with Jesus now that we freely acknowledge that he is the Son of God, the human Messiah, but not God himself."

Overview of Apostolic Testimony

We are to model our life after Jesus. addresses many ways that Jesus is a model for us. Most especially, we are to mirror the spiritual walk of Jesus as affirmed by the most reliable Gospel witness of Luke-Acts. ( The emphasis of Jesus' ministry is the importance of prayer, and he demonstrated a dependence on prayer ( Jesus would continue all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12) At times he took disciples with him to the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28) When Jesus was under great distress, he prayed to the Father, not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:39-46) Jesus gave his disciples instructions on how to pray to the Father in Luke 11:1-4 To Jesus, prayer was a process of humbling yourself before God, being under the influence and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, receiving revelation and empowerment from God, remaining in a state of forgiveness, and averting temptation.

Jesus implied that we should seek from prayer the Holy Spirit and that it is the Father's will to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to them that ask him. (Luke 11:13)  What happens when one receives and prays in the Holy Spirit? The answer is that when one utters mysteries in the Spirit, one speaks not to men but to God. (1 Cor 14:1) The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Rom 8:26) The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom 8:28) Thus, praying in the Holy Spirit, corresponds to praying how we ought, according to the will of God, and this involves speaking “not to men but to God.”

Paul was clear that we shouldn't be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God. (Phil 4:6). Paul prayed to God. (1Cor 13:7) When he wanted others to be saved, it was his heart's desire and prayer to God. (Rom 10:1) When Paul prayed for others, he always thanked God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Col 1:3) Thus, we should bring our needs before the one God and Father, Just as Jesus and Paul did and Paul instructed.

When Peter was kept in prison, prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him (Acts 12:5) When Paul and Silas were in jail they were “praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25)  When the apostles were persecuted, they prayed for boldness. This is recorded in Acts 4:23-30.

Acts 4:23-30 (ESV)

24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,1 said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
We can see from the above passages that prayers were directed to the one God and Father who created all things. In Acts 4:23-30, Jesus is referenced in the second person. Clearly, prayer should be directed toward the one God and Father.

What about John?

To justify doctrines involving prayer to Jesus or prayer to saints, one has to go outside the New Testament or read things into a verse in the Gospel of John where Jesus is claimed to have said to his disciples “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,” in reference to Jesus's going to the Father. (John 14:14) We know that John is highly metaphorical, and many things are not intended to be understood literally. Later in John 15:16 and John 16:23, Jesus speaks of asking the Father in Jesus' name, that the Father may do it. Jesus also speaks of the day when his disciples will ask nothing of him:

John 15:16 (ESV) 
  16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 16:23 (ESV) 
  23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus helped the disciples by praying for them, but there would be a day when Jesus would not need to ask of the Father on their behalf because the Father himself loves them. The implication of John 16:25-27 is that they would no longer be in need of an intercessor, that is, relying on Jesus to ask or pray on their behalf: 
 John 16:25-27 (ESV) 
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Furthermore, in Jesus' prayer of John 17 to the Father, he requested that those who would believe in him through the word of his disciples would have the same oneness with the Father that Jesus had with the Father. Again, the implication of John, is that believers would have direct access to the father as Jesus did: 

John 17:20-23 (ESV) 

  20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Although the Fourth Gospel reflects a later tradition that is not historically reliable and is also the cause of much misunderstanding, it still indicates that prayer to Jesus would not be necessary. This is considering our status with the Father of being one with the Father and loved by the Father as he was. Some try to use the esoteric language in John to suggest certain notions about Jesus. John, however, has been the source of much confusion and misunderstanding through the centuries. It is best to not depart from the clear and straightforward apostolic testimony of Luke-Acts + Paul. 

Of the few things in John that are explicit, it is that Jesus prays to the one God and Father and confesses the Father as the only True God after Jesus told his disciples that “I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:28)

 John 17:1-3 (ESV) 
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Few other verses in John are as explicit as this. Another one is at the end, where the author expresses his motivation. 

John 20:31 (ESV) 

31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thus, salvation comes down to believing in Jesus being God's chosen Messiah. There is no indication here of maintaining a personal relationship with Jesus as if he were, himself, God. 

What about Stephen?

After preaching the Gospel in Acts 7, Steven gazed into heaven and “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” and he said “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56) After this those in the council he was speaking to rushed at him and cast him out of the city and stoned him. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 2:59) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60). 

Some claim that Stephen addressed the Lord Jesus asking him to receive his spirit. That this is akin to praying to Jesus and identifying Jesus as God (the one who receives spirits). In this case, however, Stephen has an open vision in which he sees Jesus. In this vision, there is a distinction between Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and the Glory of God. Thus, Jesus is distinguished from God in the vision. “Receive my spirit” is another way of saying “receive my life” in the context of Stephen showing allegiance and dying for the Lord Jesus. It is not an indication that Jesus is God in any ontological sense. 

The reason this is not a normative case of prayer is that it is in the context of an open vision of Jesus being within view. Paul also had a direct encounter with Jesus on his road to Damascus experience. Despite encountering Jesus, and receiving instruction from him, he continued to pray to God and did not give any indications in his many letters that others are to pray to Jesus. Paul's instructions on prayer being what we have covered in the Overview of Apostolic Testimony section above. 

Specific Answers

  • What is the nature of your relationship with Jesus now?
We acknowledge him as Messiah (Christ) and confess him as Lord. This includes acknowledging him as King of Kings and maintaining our allegiance toward him as God's chosen one. We acknowledge Jesus and confess him as the blessed one, the most favored over all creation, the Son of God.

  • If we are to pray to Father alone as God, what role does Jesus have in your daily life?
We constantly affix our hope on the coming kingdom of Christ's reign. We bring to remembrance Jesus' example and his sacrifice. Furthermore, we model our lives after him, following his example and teachings. We abide in the same love he abided in. Our hearts and attitudes are aligned with his.
  • Is he just a name you tack on to the end of your prayers or do you actually have an intimate, personal fellowship with him?
Does one have an intimate, personal fellowship with a king? People are to love and revere their king, devoting themselves to his service. However, not everyone interacts with the king on a daily basis, although they may constantly bring themselves to the remembrance of their sovereign by saying such things as “God save the King” and affirming their allegiance. So, there is to be an emotional attachment and affinity toward Messiah, but our prayer life should be directed toward God, as was the prayer life of Jesus and the Apostles. 
  • If you are not supposed to pray to him or worship him as God, “what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”
We pray to the Father and worship him alone as the only true God. We worship as Jesus the servant of God, “The Lamb” who is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing:

Revelation 5:12 (ESV) 
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”

He was slain and by his blood, he ransomed people for God, from every tribe and language and people and nations, and made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Rev 5:9-10)  Amen!


Luke-Acts + Paul provides a clear answer to this question as to what is normative in Apostolic Christianity with regard to prayer being directed to the Father. Even according to John, Jesus indicates that we can pray to the Father directly, having the same oneness with God that he had, without needing Jesus to ask for us. (John 16;26-27) Although it is apparent that many today would prefer to pray to Jesus, this is a different approach than Jesus and his Apostles of praying to God. Jesus is the model for us! (

For more on Prayer, see

For more on issues with John, see,

For more on Luke-Acts Primacy, see

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