To Whom Should We Pray?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 1:59pm
I received this question from a FaceBook friend: “To whom should we pray? Jesus says we are to pray, ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (Matt. 6:9). He also says if we ask HIM anything, he will do it (John 14:14). The final prayer of the Bible is made to the Son: Rev. 22:20. Is this a big issue?”
FOR MY ANSWER, I will copy a couple of paragraphs from my book, “God the Redeemer” (p. 171), from the chapter on the Trinity.
The Trinity has an important place in our worship. In addition to the occasional references to “Father, Son and Holy Ghost” in our hymns, our prayers are distinctly trinitarian even if we are not specifically conscious of it. Typically, following Jesus’ example and teaching (Matt. 6:9), we pray TO “our Father who art in heaven,” and we pray THROUGH Jesus’ name (John 16:23-24). At the same time the Holy Spirit strengthens us and clarifies our thoughts when we are struggling in prayer (Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18). Although it has broader applications, Ephesians 2:18 sums up the roles of the Trinity in our prayers: “For through Him [Jesus] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”
This helps to answer the question, to whom should our prayers be addressed? Some advocate praying directly to Jesus, citing as precedents the “maranatha” prayer of I Corinthians 16:22 (“Our Lord, come!”) and Revelation 22:20 (“Come, Lord Jesus”). Robert Crossley suggests that one might begin his prayer time “by asking the Holy Spirit for his help, that you may be enabled to concentrate and to pray effectively in line with God’s will.” But the Biblical examples regarding prayer to Christ are scant and specialized to say the least, and non-existent in reference to the Holy Spirit. In my opinion it is best to follow the almost universal Biblical practice of praying to the Father. This in no way demeans the full deity of the Son and the Spirit. It simply respects the reality of the economic Trinity [i.e., the “division of labor” among the persons of the Trinity, so to speak] as discussed earlier, i.e., the fact that Father, Son and Spirit have different roles in their redemptive relationships with their creatures. When we pray to Jesus instead of through him, it obscures the uniqueness of his glorious role as high priest and mediator between us and the Father (I Tim. 2:5; Heb. 4:14-16). Also, Crossley’s suggestion that we pray directly to the Spirit for strength is contrary to Paul’s command that we pray to the FATHER “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16; cf. 3:14).