p.ost

(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Why talking to the exalted Jesus was not prayer

After the death of Judas the disciples decide that a replacement must be chosen to bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Two men are nominated, Barsabbas and Matthias. Luke then writes:

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen (exelexō)… (Acts 1:24)

Since Luke referred earlier to “the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen (exelexato)” (Acts 1:2), we can probably infer that the “Lord” addressed in verse 24 is Jesus. But we note that in this passage the choosing of apostles is closely associated with the moment of the ascension. In fact, it could be argued that the description of the apostles as those “whom he had chosen” before the ascension in verse 2 deliberately anticipates the need to choose a replacement apostle immediately after the ascension. The narrative context will be important.

(In a previous post on this subject I leant more towards the view that “Lord” refers to God, on the grounds that Peter later says that he had been chosen (exelexato) by God to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. Under that interpretation what follows is redundant.)

The grammar of praying to God and speaking to Jesus

Things now get a bit technical. The grammatical form of verse 24 needs to be considered carefully:

And having prayed (proseuxamenoi), they said, “You, Lord…”.

It’s usually assumed that the aorist participle (“having prayed”) and the main verb (“they said”) refer to the same act of speaking—in effect, ‘they prayed, “You, Lord…”’. That is, they prayed to Jesus.

But the grammatical construction doesn’t really support this. We would expect something more like: “they prayed, saying…” (cf. Matt. 26:39, 44). The construction is also different in the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer: ‘When you pray, say, “Our Father…”’ (Lk. 11:2). This obviously demands a more systematic analysis, but it’s enough to highlight the problem.

In any case, there’s a more positive point to make…

Elsewhere in Acts the aorist participle of proseuchomai always refers to prayer that precedes another action in the aorist: having prayed, they laid hands on them, they sent them off, they committed them to the Lord, they said farewell to one another, he healed him (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 14:23; 28:8; 21:5-6).

These two observations combined seem to me to suggest quite strongly that what Luke means in 1:24 is that the disciples first prayed to God and then spoke to the Lord Jesus seated at the right hand of God.

It seems a daft distinction at first sight, but in the context of the ascension narrative it may make very good sense.

The rest of the New Testament

In the rest of the New Testament the person to whom prayer (proseuchē, proseuchomai) is directed is often not specified, but when it is specified, it is always prayer to God. For example, Paul exhorts the church in Rome to be “constant in prayer”, but later appeals to them to “strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Rom. 12:12; 15:30).

Nowhere is the church explicitly instructed to “pray” to Jesus. The assumption must be, I think, that prayer is always to God, but in the name of Jesus—that is, an appeal to God on the strength of Jesus’ death and exaltation. Likewise, the suffering church may call out to the risen Lord, “who is at the right hand of God”, and he intercedes before God on their behalf (Rom. 8:34; cf. Heb. 7:25).

I’ll look at the matter of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus in a follow-up post.

Ah, but this Lord is omniscient!

A final detail needs to be considered. The Lord to whom the disciples speak is described as one who knows the hearts (kardiognōsta) of all. In Acts 15:8 God is said to be kardiognōstēs, so it could be argued that the disciples ascribe to the Lord Jesus the omniscience of God.

Equally, of course, this could be taken as evidence that the “Lord” in question in 1:24 is God rather than Jesus, but my argument here is based on the assumption that the “Lord” is the ascended Jesus—a human person, a “man attested to you by God” (Acts 2:22), elevated to an extraordinary position of authority at the right hand of God, as Lord and Messiah.

There seems to me to be a simple explanation for Luke’s language. First, it needs to be stated that “knowing the hearts of all” does not mean “knowing everything”. Acts 1:7 suggests that Luke was aware of the tradition that the Son did not know the timing of the coming kingdom (cf. Matt. 24:36; Mk. 13:32).

In his Gospel Luke attributes knowledge of the human heart to Jesus (Lk. 5:22; 9:47) and Jesus attributes such knowledge to God (Lk. 16:15). The reason that Jesus knows the heart, however, is likely to be that “hidden things” have been “handed over” (paredothē) by the Father to the Son (Lk. 10:21-22). It is not a direct explanation, but it is the nearest we have to one.

Communicating with the risen Lord

So in this opening chapter, I suggest, we have the disciples first praying to God and then speaking to the recently ascended Jesus about a problem that directly concerns him. They know that he is the “Son of Man… seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; 7:56). They know that he has been given oversight of their mission. They assume, therefore, that he is in a position to hear and answer them, as a direct extension of his earthly ministry.

On other occasions in Acts the risen Jesus communicates with the disciples and apostles through the medium of heavenly visions (Acts 9:10; 10:9-16; 18:9; 26:19). But in this instance the response is conveyed (uniquely) through the casting of lots—perhaps because the Spirit that gives visions to the church has not been poured out yet (Acts 2:17). The “lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26).

The paradigm is simple and consistently applied. Jesus has ascended into heaven and is now in the presence of God. The disciples naturally continue to pray to God as they have always done, but they have the further option of speaking directly to their living master, who communicates with them, notably through visions.

Prayer to God and communication with the ascended Lord Jesus remain fully distinct; they are two quite different activities and should not be confused. There is certainly no basis for the argument at this stage that the disciples prayed to Jesus and therefore must have thought of him as being God.

The later post-Jewish church may have developed strong theological grounds for collapsing the apocalyptic narrative. I keep saying: this is not an anti-Trinitarian argument. But the task of the narrative-historical approach must be to interpret according to the contemporary Jewish or Jewish-Christian worldview.

Comments

Helpful. Thanks.

I see how specific questions and insistence on (needing) absolute truth could frustrate you incredibly. I read something you say constantly: the church right now must determine its purpose and understand its place in the narrative running through and connected with all history. I think it has only recently clicked that I can’t be chasing after definitive answers from you or any single person. I–and all of us together as a church–must come to answers together. The problem I’m so agonizingly stuck on is that I don’t feel like there are enough people I can talk to who can appreciate and apply a narrative-historical hermeneutic enough to even see the necessity of the church determining its purpose and place in the narrative of God’s people, let alone try to do/pursue this (determining) with me. Yes, I have friends who are ready and willing to open up their minds and listen. But I look to you as an expert and academically and critically superb source of accurate information, and I have not found anyone else who is those things and is a narrative-historical-ist (:p)

With my next point I may just be reverting back to clinging onto comfort and habit in my attachment to neat, clear-cut, boxed up schema that I can feel certain of, that I claimed to be getting away from at the beginning of this comment. I want fundamentals and absolute truths so that I can start to apply my faith in life and my life’s work. I don’t know how Christianity cannot have fundamentals and absolute truths. Yet it may be that I simply don’t know how to function or how Christianity can function without them. Yet (yet another yet haha) I feel that all that you–and all well-meaning, dedicated theologians, pastors, etc.–do is try to distill absolute truth from all the material available to you to examine. Perhaps the caveat is that the absolute truth you strive towards is very specific and something that can be settled definitively by best analysis of very tangible history and Scripture. However, because I think that God clearly supports the reality of morality (and immorality), justice (and injustice), etc., I think there must be a right. Would you say it is an absolute truth that the calling of the people of God has always been to worship and honor God, directly, in their conduct with each other, and in their conduct with those outside themselves? If I can hold onto that as an absolute truth, and I think by now I do–

by George, can’t the girl just be happy with that already? But I’m not, because I feel that there is a right way to fulfill that call, an absolute truth of a right and wrong way to do so, even if specific to our current culture and reality. And I’m lost and agonizing because I don’t know how to live my life anymore; I don’t know what’s meaningful; I don’t know what is valuable to God. And I feel like you can provide at least some fundamentals/absolute truths that you have carefully narrative-historically approached the Bible to determine to be consistent throughout the whole of the narrative, even if I must then determine what that means the absolute truth is of right and wrong in our current culture and reality, and then further to my own life.

Emi, I have considerable sympathy for your struggle, but I’m not sure I can do a great deal to help you resolve it. These are rather random thoughts in response.

I want fundamentals and absolute truths so that I can start to apply my faith in life and my life’s work.

Isn’t this nonsensical? Shouldn’t you really be saying something like this?

I want absolute truths so that I can start to apply these absolute truths in life and my life’s work.

We can’t call it “faith” and then demand “absolute truths”. We can stick the “absolute” label on things that we put our trust in if it makes us feel better, but it’s just a label, it doesn’t change anything.

Would you say it is an absolute truth that the calling of the people of God has always been to worship and honor God, directly, in their conduct with each other, and in their conduct with those outside themselves?

That seems to me to be a pretty definition of the vocation of the people of God, give or take. But I’m not sure I would call it an “absolute truth”. What does that add to the sense of vocation? How would you demonstrate or test its absoluteness?

But perhaps that’s not what you mean? Are you asking for epistemological certainty? Or for clarity? To my way of thinking, the narrative-historical method gives us a more plausible or credible or realistic account of Christian origins—-it rings more true (but not absolutely more true) to my view of the world. But that’s not the primary benefit. The primary benefit is clarity, coherence. It gives a better idea of how everything fits together. It removes much of the cognitive dissonance generated by a theologically narrow evangelicalism.

I think that the church in the west will find it very difficult to maintain a credible witness to the “truth” of scripture if we do not recover—and adapt ourselves to—its historical orientation.

It’s enough, at least, to make me think that it is worth believing in and working for the future of the people of God in the western context. But that, as you are already painfully aware, is not going to be an easy undertaking, a carefree commitment. It is bound to be an intense struggle.

I’ve said it before, I think that this is where the rubber of the doctrine of justification-by-faith hits the road of historical experience. We believe despite the lack of certainty, despite the collapse of absolutes, despite the antipathy of modern secular culture. That is our faith, and we believe that we will eventually be justified for persevering in the biblical storyline.

And I feel like you can provide at least some fundamentals/absolute truths that you have carefully narrative-historically approached the Bible to determine to be consistent throughout the whole of the narrative, even if I must then determine what that means the absolute truth is of right and wrong in our current culture and reality, and then further to my own life.

This is very well said. it sums up my dilemma perfectly! But maybe if we keep working at it faithfully, things will begin to fall into place.

You’re a bit off-topic, by the way. :)

I commented unrelated content/questions on a post of yours because I have found that commenting on the most recent post rather than emailing and/or commenting on an old post gets me a response. :) (This sounds slightly self-centered now that I have typed it out…) I’d rather not post irrelevant comment(s), but I do not know what other way to communicate with you that receives response(s).

“But perhaps that’s not what you mean? Are you asking for epistemological certainty? Or for clarity?” I’m not sure what epistemological certainty is in comparison to (as for what I am asking). The way I used the term “absolute truth” unclearly communicated my thoughts. I don’t mean “universal” and “permanent” by “absolute”. Hopefully an example clarifies what I mean by the term: I want to convince a friend that the crucifixion and resurrection were neither for nor about personal salvation of individuals. How can I convince them of this without the premise that some things are true and accurate and some things are simply not? I have run myself in circles thinking about the unavoidable limitation and bias of the human mind. Would you say that for humans, absolute truths do not and cannot truly exist?

It’s not so much that I want absolute truth(s). It would be worth it to completely change my life and my life’s work if I found out what was right and that I wasn’t doing it. It’s just that I don’t know how in the world I could ever start doing anything in my life if I don’t have basic principles and main beliefs. Before encountering your website, I would’ve said, “My basic principles are love, grace, compassion, selflessness, and empathy. My main beliefs are that people need to know Jesus and believe in him. What I will do with my life is balance social justice with evangelism, as both are Christlike occupations.” Now, I say, “My basic principles are love and justice. My main beliefs are that Christians are supposed to be the people of God who glorify, worship, and honor God in all that they do. What I will do with my life is I don’t know because now I don’t have the clear direction that comes from feeling the clear conviction that any general project working towards greater justice, inclusion, and giving of love is a godly pursuit.”

This all gets me wondering how much (you believe) God directly communicates to us today. What does the Holy Spirit do today? Why do we not have as much direct guidance from God as people seemed to have in the Old Testament? And finally, is it a basic Biblical tenet that God wants good, and that can be the good and goodness of many people? But even then, bring that about (being the mission) feels at odds with the praising and honoring God to the world being the mission. Are kindness and selflessness also up there with witness to the sovereignty of God? At the heart of it all: Why praise God? It feels really circular right now. Praise God so that good happens so that humans praise God. I’m just thinking, why is it not that witnessing to the sovereignty of God is how we bring a good portion of Creation into connection with the Creator? Why is our ultimate purpose to witness to the sovereignty of God?

Fascinating, but it seems to me to be finessing things to the point of absurdity. If Jesus can be addressed in the place of his exaltation, and if in all other respects he bears the attributes of deity, then it’s hard to see actually what sliver of difference there is between him and God. The church has been operating on that assumption ever since (with some notable exceptions, of course). Your penultimate paragraph asserts what is unproven.

The ‘omniscience’ question is irrelevant, as the word is a deduction about God, but in itself is not a biblical concept, and not surprisingly as it is meaningless. God can only know what is possible to be known. There are many things which it is impossible to know - even by God - despite the assertions of hard-line Calvinists.

On another subject: can I recommend Brueggemann and ‘A Pathway of Interpretation’ in particular to illustrate why historical criticism is advocacy (promoting the view of an interest group rather than objective scrutiny), and limited as a tool for unlocking biblical meaning. Further, B. advocates rhetorical criticism, as a return to the richness of a multi-vocal text. I’m reading it at the moment from the 5th floor my daughter’s flat at Dagoretti Corner in Nairobi prior to her wedding on Saturday. After this, to your blessed relief, I will be incommunicado (for a while).

On another subject: can I recommend Brueggemann and ‘A Pathway of Interpretation’ in particular to illustrate why historical criticism is advocacy (promoting the view of an interest group rather than objective scrutiny), and limited as a tool for unlocking biblical meaning.

Agreed, up to a point. The narrative-historical approach is not the same as historical-criticism, but it is certainly an advocacy hermeneutic: it advocates for the perspective and interests of the Jewish-Christian community that produced and originally used the New Testament texts.

That’s exactly what this method is all about—putting the interests of Jesus, the apostle and the New Testament churches before our own, asking what story they were telling about themselves. Brilliant!

Unlike the later church, this community did not operate on the assumption that Jesus was indistinguishable from God, as is clear, for example, from the language of prayer in Acts. Nor did it feel the need, by and large, to deploy “rhetorical criticism, as a return to the richness of a multi-vocal text”—that is a very modern literary-critical perspective.

Great to hear about the wedding! I hope all goes well. Enjoy your time there. Blessings!

Narrative historical criticism advocates for the perspective and interests of the Jewish Christian community as you interpret it - so the advocacy is you as much as the community. (Which interests,perhaps unexamined, are you bringing to the text which determine or limit its meaning?).

N.H.C. as well as H.C. look for meaning behind the text. Rhetorical criticism, as Brueggeman describes it, seeks to look in-depth within the text (examples helpfully given in ‘A Pathway’).

Brueggemann also advocates (that’s what he admits he is doing) for a text which seeks to create an alternative vision of reality from the visions of reality presented by the powers of the day - O.T. and N.T. He contends for artistry in the scriptural authors, to which an imaginative response is called for. The prophets employed such an imaginative artistry (according to Brueggemann). Jesus likewise in his teaching and parables, which encourage not the imposition of absolute or singular meaning, but an invitation to a different vision of reality. Meaning then is not singular, nor dependant on discovering a single authorial intent, but multiple, according to the reader. B. isn’t dismissing H.C. (and therefore N.H.C.), but is asking questions of meaning which go beyond historical information.

This is an abbreviated account, as I’m sitting in a room full of people making table T-light holders, from which I’ve taken a brief time-out. Such is my commitment to Postost. Or maybe it’s a displacement activity. Thanks very much for your wishes.

Hello Andrew,

1. You asserted, “Nowhere is the church explicitly instructed to “pray” to Jesus.”
This is simply false.
1 Peter 3:15 (cf. Isaiah 8:13)
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (NASB)
The Greek word for “sanctify” is hagiazō and in Matthew 6:9 it is used in reference to the Father’s name being “hallowed” in prayer.
Matthew 6:9
Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (NASB)
Just as the Father’s name is to be hallowed/sanctified in prayer so too is the Lord Jesus - this Peter did in Acts 1:24.
Peter H. Davids: The point of the text is clear. The heart is the seat of volition and emotion for Peter, the core self of the person. The call is for more than intellectual commitment to truth about Jesus, but for a deep commitment to him (cf. 1:22). Christ is to be sanctified as Lord. This does not mean to make Christ more holy, but to treat him as holy, to set him apart above all human authority. This sense is clearly seen in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be thy name.” “To ‘hallow’ the name means not only to reverence and honor God, but also to glorify him by obedience to his commands, and thus prepare the coming of the Kingdom.” Peter, then, asserts that Jesus is to be honored, reverenced, and obeyed as Lord. This quotation also reveals more about Peter’s Christology, for he takes a passage definitely speaking about God in the OT and refers it to Christ, making clear by his addition that that is the sense in which he is taking “Lord.” This way of expressing his high Christology is typical for Peter (1 Peter, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, page 131).

Not only that but the apostle Paul “thanked” the Lord Jesus (cf. 1 Timothy 1:12) which demonstrates that he prayed to Him - as ought we. It reads,
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service (NASB)
Thanking the Lord Jesus denotes praying to Him in the same way that thanking God also meant praying to Him.
2 Timothy 1:3
I thank (charin) God, whom I serve (latreuō) with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers (deēsesin) night and day (NASB)
Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude (charin), by which we may offer to God an acceptable service (latreuōmen) with reverence and awe (NASB)
a. Daniel Doriani: Thanksgiving is a motive for Christian life and conduct, a general attitude toward both the blessings and trials of life, a central component of prayer, and the context for the proper use of material things (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Thankfulness, Thanksgiving).
http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed/view.cgi?n=689
b. It is quite informative what the BDAG (3rd Edition) has to say concerning charis as found in 1 Timothy 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:3 and Hebrews 12:28:
“charis in our literature as a whole, in the sense gratitude, refers to appropriate response to the Deity for benefits conferred” (page 1080).
This is how “the Deity” is defined when capitalized:
the Deity, God; Supreme Being.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Deity?s=t

2. The Heart-Knower of all
As properly defined kardiognōstēs means to be omniscient.
a. T. Sorg: The fact that God sees, tests and searches the hidden depths of the human heart is commonly stated in both the OT and the NT (1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 11:20; 17:9f.; Lk. 16:15; Rom. 8:27; 1 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 2:23). This belief in the omniscience of God is expressed succinctly by the adj. kardiognōstēs (NIDNTT 2:183, Heart).
b. J. Behm: The designation of God as ho kardiognōstēs , “the One who knows the heart,” expresses in a single term (Ac. 1:24; 15:8) something which is familiar to both the NT and OT piety…namely that the omniscient God knows the innermost being of every man where the decision is made either for Him or against Him (TDNT 3:613, kardiognōstēs).
In Acts 1:7 the Lord Jesus doesn’t affirm or deny to know so your point is unsupportable.
If the Father gave the knowledge of fully knowing all the hearts to the Son then that means the omniscient God created another omniscient God.

3. Your wrote, “I’ll look at the matter of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus in a follow-up post.”
I look forward to this article.

Marc, I have to say that this appeal to hagiazō is one of the most bizarre pieces of biblical argumentation I have seen in a long time. “Sanctify” the Lord Jesus does not mean “pray” to the Lord Jesus, and Peter does not say, “Sanctify the Lord Jesus by praying to him…” or “Pray to the Lord Jesus that his name will be sanctified”. Do you honestly think that supports your case?

I agree that the apostles communicated with Jesus, and said so clearly in the post. 1 Timothy 1:12-13 is perhaps an example of that. Here Paul is thinking of Jesus as the risen Lord who was revealed to him and who commissioned him (“he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”). He does not “pray” to Jesus as though he were God.

The proseuchē, proseuchomai word group is never used with reference to speaking to the ascended Lord Jesus apart from Acts 1:24, and as I pointed out, there are strong grammatical grounds, which you ignored, for questioning the standard reading.

In fact, the thanksgiving concludes with a doxology that emphasises the uniqueness of Israel’s God: “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).

More significant still, Paul then urges that prayers (proseuchas), etc., be made to God, stressing that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). This is fully in keeping with my argument. The early church prayed to the one God (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8; 5:5), whereas the man Jesus mediated between his people and God—and is now seated at the right hand of God. Paul is thankful to this risen Messiah for having had mercy on him and for having appointed him “a preacher and an apostle”, but he prays to God.

Andrew,
One “of the most bizarre pieces of biblical argumentation I have seen in a long time” is that you would affirm that the words which I have placed below in brackets refer to the Father but the rest of the words of this prayer (yes, it is a prayer) refers to the Lord Jesus.
[And they prayed and said, “You, Lord,] who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” (NASB - the brackets are mine)
Can you cite anyone else that agrees with you on this? This is the first time I ever heard this view.
That lots are cast to the Lord Jesus (which you affirm) demonstrates His Supreme Deity.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: The use of the lot as a means of ascertaining the will of Deity…Ac 1:26. (T. Witton Davies, Divination)
http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/D/divination.html
This is how “Deity” is properly defined when capitalized:
God; Supreme Being.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/deity?s=t

See Peter Davids on 1 Peter 3:15 in my previous post.
See the BDAG (3rd Edition) on 1 Timothy 1:12 in my previous post.

You wrote, “The proseuchē, proseuchomai word group is never used with reference to speaking to the ascended Lord Jesus apart from Acts 1:24…”
You can not prove that they didn’t pray (proseuchomai) to the Lord Jesus in:
Acts 13:3
Acts 14:23
James 5:13, 14
In regards to proseuchē it is used in reference to the Lord Jesus in Revelation 5:8
When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (NASB)

Doxology - 1 Timothy 1:17
2 Timothy 4:18 is a doxology (a form of prayer) to the Lord Jesus - Peter does the same (2 Peter 3:18) as would John (Revelation 1:5-6).
a. J. H. Bernard: That the doxology should be addressed to our Lord, rather than to God the Father (as e.g. at Philippians 4:20), will not surprise the attentive student of St Paul’s theology (Pastoral Epistles, Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges)
http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/view.cgi?bk=54&ch=4
It is worth noting that the doxology addressed to the Father in Galatians 1:5 reads the same way as the doxology addressed to the Lord Jesus in 2 Timothy 4:18 thereby proving that the Lord Jesus receives prayer in equality with the Father.
ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν (Galatians 1:5)
ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν (2 Timothy 4:18)

Andrew you wrote, “Prayer to God and communication with the ascended Lord Jesus remain fully distinct; they are two quite different activities and should not be confused.” If you express thanks to the ascended Lord Jesus, isn’t that by definition “prayer”?

If you express thanks to the ascended Lord Jesus, isn’t that by definition “prayer”?

The basic language of “prayer” (proseuchē, proseuchomai) in the New Testament is directed—probably exclusively—to God, not to Jesus.

So then, what do we mean by “prayer”? Do we mean talking to God? Talking to a heavenly person?

My argument is that the communication with the risen Lord is really an extension of communication with the earthly Lord. When the disciples talked to Jesus on earth, it wasn’t prayer. If they had expressed thanks to him—eg., for having saved them from drowning in the storm—it wouldn’t have counted as prayer.

When Paul got in a conversation with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, it wasn’t prayer. It was a conversation with someone who used to be on earth but has since ascended into heaven.

Likewise when they engaged with the risen Lord in visions. When Ananias talks with Jesus about Saul, it is not prayer. It is a conversation with the risen Lord through the medium of the vision, since clearly they cannot converse directly.

The New Testament might have merged this conversation with prayer to God, but it appears to have been careful not to do so.

This is why I don’t think theologians can use talking to Jesus as proof of his divine identity. The language points consistently to the fact that they are thinking of him as their head, their leader, their lord, their king, who used to be on earth but who now operates from heaven. The conceptuality is controlled by the narrative of resurrection, ascension and enthronement for the duration of the ages to come.