Each night, you read a Bible story with your children. Then, you kneel down beside their beds to pray. Sometimes you pray the Lord’s Prayer together. Other times you simply work through a list of things that you’re thankful for. Then, one night, your daughter asks, “If Jesus is God, why did he pray to God?”
Leave it to a first grader to ask a question that pushes you into the theological deep end. Here’s how I’d talk to a first grader about Jesus and prayer.
Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Human
That’s a great question. I’m pleased you believe Jesus is God. Your question also tells me you believe there’s only one God. The Bible is clear about those two truths: there’s only one God, and Jesus Christ is that one God.
Jesus isn’t just God; the Bible says he’s also God’s Son. Think of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus called God his Father, and he had a lot to say about the Holy Spirit as well. So, though Jesus is fully and truly God, he’s the Son of God, and he isn’t God the Father. He’s also not God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is really and truly God, but when he was born in Bethlehem, he also became a human. Jesus isn’t a fake or pretend human. He’s fully human, and he lived his life just as you and I are to live. It was important for the job God the Father gave to his Son that Jesus lived his life like any other human, just like you and me. There were no shortcuts or easy paths.
Jesus lived his life like any other human, just like you and me. There were no shortcuts or easy paths.
When you or I haven’t eaten in a while, we get hungry and weak. If we work hard or go without sleep, we get tired. When someone hits us, it hurts, and sometimes we bleed. Because Jesus is truly human, he too got hungry, tired, and hurt. When he was nailed to the cross, he was hurt so badly and bled so much that he died—just like you or I would.
3 Reasons Jesus Prayed
One thing all people are supposed to do is to pray to God the Father. Nobody was better at praying than Jesus. When Jesus prayed, he didn’t talk to himself. He prayed to God the Father. Here are three reasons why Jesus, though fully God, prayed to God.
1. Jesus prayed because he depended on God his Father.
Jesus came to do only what God the Father wanted him to do (John 6:38). Once, right after he healed a man who had been unable to walk his entire life, Jesus said he wasn’t able to do anything on his own but only what he saw the Father doing (5:19, 30). When Jesus had hard decisions to make, like deciding who his first 12 disciples would be, he went off by himself and prayed (Luke 6:12). He taught that prayer was necessary to do some difficult things, like healing people (Mark 9:29). And on the night he was arrested, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane, and he prayed a lot (Matt. 26:36). Jesus prayed because, as a human, he needed God the Father to help him.
2. Jesus prayed because he enjoyed talking to his Father in heaven.
Sons and daughters should like talking to their fathers, and Jesus was no different. Maybe the greatest prayer in the entire Bible was prayed by Jesus the night before he was crucified (John 17). In that prayer, Jesus prayed for himself, for his first disciples, and then for Christians like you and me who would live later in history. Jesus counted it a privilege to be able to talk to God the Father, and he was excited to pray for people like you and me.
3. Jesus prayed to teach us how to pray.
Jesus was so good at prayer that his disciples once asked him to teach them how to pray. The prayer Jesus taught them is found in Matthew 6:9–13. Since that time, Christians have called this prayer “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Jesus counted it a privilege to be able to talk to God the Father.
More than just giving us the right words to say, Jesus taught us through his life how important prayer is. He liked to pray by himself early in the morning (Mark 1:35). Do you remember how I said that Jesus often went off by himself and prayed? When he did, Jesus’s disciples were watching. They knew that no one has ever had a closer relationship with God the Father than Jesus. They learned that if it was important for Jesus to pray, then it should be important to us as well.
“Kids Ask” is a series where pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians answer common questions young children have about the Bible.