A Case for Praying to Our Trinitarian God
A while back, I was challenged to do some theology, by a dear sister in the Lord. The topic was prayer. We agreed that each Person of the Trinity was involved in the Christian’s praying experience. We also acknowledged that Jesus taught His disciples a model for praying, including some crucial elements, to be included in our prayers. For my sister, the model has taken on a certain boundary, which prohibits prayers directed to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. My question to her was, “If we have a personal relationship with someone, should we not talk to them? Especially, if they are living in our house (indwelling Holy Spirit)? Or, if they minister to us, as does Jesus, in the role of advocate and mediator and shepherd?”
Prayer is a grace from God for His elect people. It is the means by which we communicate with God. It is an act of faith. It is also an act of worship. Whether we are praising God, confessing our sins, giving thanks, or making our requests known to God — it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Our prayers find their way to God through the mediatorial work of the God/man, our High Priest, Jesus Christ. In formal prayer, following Jesus’ model in the Sermon on the Mount, our prayers are directed to God the Father.
No one should object to a clarifying statement like, “We pray to God the Father, through God the Son, in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.” It is even good to mention the three Persons of the Trinity, for these very roles, during the formal prayer. Now, we turn our focus to some other prayers of the Bible.
Old Testament saints obviously did not have Jesus’ name to pray in, so were their prayers heard? Even in the New Testament, the model formula my sister purports to be the exclusive method for prayer, is untenable. Take for instance, Stephen’s prayer, as he was being stoned to death, “’Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59b-60).”
First, we note that Stephen’s prayer is directed to the Lord Jesus and not to the Father. If one is trying to claim that only Scripture gives us the regulative principle for worship, then praying to Jesus is clearly acceptable.
Second, we have another case in Revelation 22, where the church and the Holy Spirit are praying to Jesus, “The Spirit and the bride say (to Jesus), ‘Come’ (Rev 22:17),” and again, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).” Again in this second direct address to Jesus, we are missing any allusion to or element of Jesus’ model prayer.
The point here is that prayer can be in spontaneous response to the Word of the Lord, as when a man says “Amen” during the preaching event. It is also evidenced when some grace visits the saint, and the response from the Christian is “Thank God.” This is what was happening, as Paul was writing his 2 Corinthians letter, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15)!”
Praying can be a private or public matter. It is reserved for God’s beloved, in Christ. Those who put a strict limitation on the form of prayer must be corrected. If the Holy Spirit, as we saw in Revelation 22 prays to Jesus, then, we are clearly talking about personal communication from one person/group to God. When Peter cried out, “Lord, save me (Mt 14:30),” was he not praying to Jesus, supplicating for his immediate need? What difference is the visible or invisible presence of the One we are talking to?
On occasion, when we are at a loss for how or what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26). When the Holy Spirit prays, is He also restricted to only address God the Father and not God the Son? This unbiblical restriction is looking more absurd, as we add more examples.
Brethren, let us pray! In fact, we should pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17), giving thanks to God in all things (1 Thess 5:18), especially for the privilege to talking with each member of our Triune God, each, who plays His part in our salvation. As the psalmist wrote, “As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me (Ps 55:16).” Who is God? Who is the Lord Who answers that prayer?
The Christian knows that Yahweh is Lord; Jesus is Lord; and the Holy Spirit is Lord. He also knows that Yahweh is God; Jesus is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. We have one God in three Persons. Each Person communicates with the other Persons, and the three Persons are in communication with us.
Therefore, let every believer know the joy and freedom of addressing each Person in the Trinity that is at work in our Christian life. We have a formal model from Jesus, and we have a plethora of informal examples. May God add wisdom and insight to our continuing growth in the knowledge of God, our communicating God, in three Persons. Thank you, Father. Thank you, Jesus; and thank you Holy Spirit…for all You do for us and for communicating with us.
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 8, 2022