To whom do we pray?
Let's consider the roles that the members of the Trinity play when we pray
Prayer is God’s way of getting man to behold His glory, surrender to His plan, and be filled with His nature. It involves coming to understand the mind of God by spending time in the presence of God until we are so enamored with the nature of God that all we want is the will of God.”— Russell Kelfer —
We all want to become better pray-ers. And we want those we work with to pray more and in a more scriptural way. To encourage prayerfulness among our church members, I have recently begun a time of prayer after the worship service every Sunday. I have started by teaching simple truths about prayer such as that we pray to God the Father (Matt. 6:9) in the name of God the Son (John 16:24) and in the power of God the Spirit (Rom. 8:26).
That has led me to the question: To whom should we be praying? The simple answer is that we can pray to any or all of the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s because they are a tri-unity—three in one. So we can join Paul as he gives “thanks to God, the Father” (Col. 1:3 NASB). Or when he “bow(s) (his) knees before the Father” (Eph. 3:14). We can also join Stephen who prayed to God’s Son, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). Paul also exhorts us to “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2).
But nowhere in the Bible does anyone pray to the Holy Spirit. That is because the Holy Spirit does not “speak on His own initiative” (John 16:13); He does not draw people to Himself. Instead, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “testify about Me” (John 15:26) and “glorify Me” (John 16:14). The role of the Holy Spirit is supportive, to bring us to God through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is very active in our prayers, though. We are exhorted to be “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20), moved and motivated to spend time with God. Even when we don’t know how or what to pray, the “Spirit Himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26).
We also don’t usually pray to Jesus, either. That is because there is “one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). He “intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34). Jesus is our “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). We pray through Him, in His name (as His representative) and because He has redeemed us and given us the confidence to come before the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).
But when we pray to the Father, we are praying to the “Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Isa. 40:28). He is “the Lord our God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:6). We can join the throngs of heaven in saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11). Only He is worthy!
So all three persons of the Godhead are actively involved in a believer’s prayer. But it’s probably best to follow the general pattern of the Bible and pray to the Father through (in the name of) Jesus in the power (in reliance upon the help) of the Spirit.
Photo: Symbols of the Holy Trinity (“hand of God”, ICHTHYS, descending dove) at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Washington, DC (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trinity_Symbole_St._Ann’s_Church_DC.JPG)