Pastor's Corner

September 2020

To Whom Do We Pray?

I’ve been asked this question more than once: “Do we pray only to the Father, or is it okay to pray to Jesus?” I’ve also been asked if it’s okay to pray to the Holy Spirit. The short answer is, “Yes, it’s okay to pray to the Father, and to the Son (i.e., Jesus), and to the Holy Spirit.” But this answer deserves more of an explanation.

The standard model for Christian prayer is the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–15; Luke 11:1–13). When Jesus instructs His disciples (and us) in how to pray, He directs His prayer to God the Father. He invites us to direct our prayer to His Father together with Him, “so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16). Praying “in Jesus’ name” doesn’t just mean that we conclude our prayer with the formula, “In Jesus’ name.” It means that we are joined to Jesus by faith, and in that faith, united to Christ, we have access to God the Father: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…. You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26, 28b). The chief gift for which we pray is the Holy Spirit: “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). This same Spirit also animates our prayer, stirring us up to ask the Father by faith: “We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

We see this model of prayer in practice throughout the New Testament. The disciples pray thus in Acts 4:24–30. They address God, i.e., the Father, and ask Him to perform for them signs and wonders “through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (v. 30). And what happens after they offer this prayer to the Father in the name of Jesus, i.e., through faith in Him? “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 31). They prayed to the Father through the Son for the Holy Spirit, and their prayer was granted. Consider also the prayer of praise offered by St. Paul at the opening of his Epistle to the Ephesians. There he blesses “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3), referring to Jesus as He “in whom you also, when you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). Paul addresses God the Father through God the Son for the Holy Spirit—and we might add in each case also “from” the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit who wrought the faith by which every Christian prays.

Observe this also in the structure of our “collects,” the prayers we pray right before the Scripture readings in our church services. A collect is typically addressed to the Father, with the conclusion, “through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” The typical structure of Christian prayer is to the Father, through the Son, for (and from) the Holy Spirit.

But remember that the Father is one God with the Son and the Spirit, and since Jesus is the same person as the Son of God, the Father is one God with Jesus: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (twice! John 14:10 & 11), and “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). If you pray to God the Father, you are praying to that God who is one God with the Son and the Holy Spirit. So prayer to God the Father is prayer to Jesus and prayer to the Holy Spirit!

That means you may also, in good conscience, direct prayer to the Son and to the Spirit, as long as you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, your Savior from sin and death. Faithful people directed many prayers to Jesus during His earthly ministry, and their prayer was graciously received. After His ascension, St. Stephen prayed directly to Jesus in his final moments: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). St. Paul pleaded with Jesus for the removal of the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8), receiving a direct answer from Jesus Himself. Though most of our churchly prayers are directly to the Father through the Son for/from the Holy Spirit, we also have prayers in our liturgy directed to the Son (Jesus) and to the Holy Spirit. You may in good conscience pray directly to Jesus, who is one God with the Father, and directly to the Holy Spirit, who is one God with the Father and the Son.

What I personally recommend is that your regular, formal prayers be directed to the Father through faith in His Son, and that your chief prayer be for the Holy Spirit, i.e., for the forgiveness of sins, for growth in faith, for healing, for the coming of the kingdom of God, and for all the gifts the Spirit gives. But as you are moved, cry out also to the Son of God, something like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Be in constant conversation with Jesus, and take a moment here and there to say “Thank you” to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you and assures you of your salvation. Know all along that your faithful prayers are all directed to the one, true, living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


God's Blessings,

Pastor Neuendorf

 
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