When we pray, should we pray to God the Father or to Jesus, His Son and our Mediator? Does it matter either way? Some Christians pray addressing the Holy Spirit too. Is that okay?
To answer this question effectively, we must keep a few essential truths about the Trinity in mind:
First, each Person of the Godhead completely possesses divine attributes (Matthew 28:18-20). They are co-equal — being one in essence — and co-eternal. Also, each of the three Persons has a common will and at no point do they contradict each other.
Second, each Person, being fully God, does everything divine in nature. All three of them are equally involved in the creation, salvation, sustenance, sanctification and judgment of mankind (John 5:19-30). In other words, there is no division of realms within the Trinity, where the Father alone does some things and the Son does some other things.
Each of the three Persons has a common will and at no point do they contradict each other
Thus, the Trinity is in contrast with polytheistic religions, where you have a large number of gods who are in charge of various facets of nature and culture. People of polytheistic religions can offer their prayers to one of those many gods as per their wishes.
Based on these two truths, we can conclude that all three Persons of the Trinity can be prayed to, because each person is fully God.
We find instances in the New Testament where prayer is made to Jesus. Peter prays to Jesus in Acts 1:24 by calling him Lord in verse 21. We also see the prayer that Stephen makes to Jesus in Acts 7:59-60. This is because Jesus claims to answer prayers made in His name and encourages them to pray to Him (John 14:13,14).
Along with this, we find instances in Acts where prayer is made to the Father (Acts 4:23-30). This happens because the disciples are encouraged to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name (John 16:24).
Although we don’t see any instance of anyone praying to the Holy Spirit, there is no sin involved if one does so. In Isaiah 6, we see the Holy Spirit, who is Yahweh, speaking to the prophet (Acts 28:26-28 cf. Isaiah 6:1-8). The Holy Spirit is the Yahweh who is worthy of worship and does receive it (Hebrews 3:7-11 cf. Psalm 95:7-11)
We must keep in mind that there is an eternal authority-submission pattern that exists within the Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct in the roles they have and in how they relate to each other.
The Father is the chief planner and initiator of everything concerning creation, salvation, and judgment. The Father, out of His love, does all that He wills through His Son. All that the Father does through the Son is completed through the Spirit. The Son and the Holy Spirit are in eternal, loving, joyful submission to the Father.
This truth is reflected in the fact that while Jesus was on the earth, in His humanity, He prayed to the Father in the Holy Spirit (John 17; Luke 10:21; Matthew 11:26). As a man, He taught His disciples to pray to the Father (Mathew 6:9-13). This is why Paul prays to the Father through Jesus (Romans 1:8; Ephesians 3:14-19; Philippians 1:1-3; Colossians 1:3).
We must keep in mind that there is an eternal authority-submission pattern that exists within the Trinity
In summary, our prayers must be directed to all three members of the Godhead, who is equal in essence. As we pray to the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Scriptures, He helps us so that we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and that is the will of the Father. As we pray to the Son, we act on the promise that He will answer prayers so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).
At the same time, we need to acknowledge the functional supremacy of the Father by directing our prayers to Him through His Son by the Holy Spirit who indwells in us. We would do well to give emphasis on this functional hierarchy in our prayers, whether in private or at our church meetings.
As we pray to the Father, we imitate what Jesus did while He was on the earth. We imitate the first-century believers in the way they prayed.
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