I want to show the apologetic value of early prayer to Christ. Unbelievers (and those in groups that deny the full deity of Christ) should reexamine their beliefs when shown the kind of prayers that early Christians prayed directly to Jesus. These prayers demonstrate a strong confidence by early Christians that Jesus had risen from the dead, was worthy of worship, and had the authority and ability to hear and answer the requests that were brought to him. The prayers show that Christians embraced the identity that Jesus claimed with God the Father—that he shared the divine essence with him.
One scholar I will interact with in this paper is Larry Hurtado, who provides much evidence that Christians prayed to Jesus in the first century, and later. Hurtado addresses the sudden burst of “binitarianism” with the worship of Jesus by early Jewish Christ in the backdrop of a strong monotheism. However, Hurtado, approaching the subject as an historian, claimed that it was not his objective “to refute or to validate the religious and theological meaning of early devotion to Jesus” (Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity). In contrast, this paper will take a close look at the relationship between Christ’s claims (and how he understood his relationship to the Father), and his actions (including his miracles and resurrection) and the fact that Jesus was worshiped/prayed to very quickly by early Christians.
Other scholars I will interact with include Richard Bauckham (The Christian World Around the New Testament, and Jesus the God of Israel), James Dunn (Did the First Christians Worship Christ?), Arthur Wainwright (Trinity in the New Testament), and Gordon Fee (Pauline Christology).
I will identify prayers to Christ in the New Testament and in early extra-biblical literature, and then classify them according to their form. Most prayers can be classified as either worship/doxology, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, benediction, or consecration. By examining the text and context of these prayers, we will be able to understand much of what the early Christians believed (or assumed) about the nature of Christ.
Extra-biblical sources of prayers to Christ will include The Apocryphal Acts, early hymns of worship of Christ, The Epistula Apostolorum, and the Apostolic Fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius.