Q – Pastor Jim,
Hi! This e-mail has been so long in coming, but I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your church when I was able to visit.
A quick question that should probably be obvious to me, but I’m needing clarification. Who should we pray to? When I pray, I always feel I’m leaving someone out (i.e. the Holy Spirit, Jesus, God). Are we only supposed to address the Father and invoke Jesus’ name somewhere in the prayer? I realize that many people pray to Jesus (myself included) but I keep thinking that I really should be addressing God since he is the Father and Jesus said “When you pray, you ought to pray like this-Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Would you please shed some light on this for me? Thank you so much.
Jim – How good to hear from you. I think of you every so often and keep you in my prayers. Which sort of brings us to the subject, doesn’t it?
Praying to God the Father is the most Biblical approach, although all three members of the Trinity are involved in prayer. They are not all three the object of prayer, but they are all involved. I’ll tell you what I mean (yes, Jim, please clarify!).
When Jesus instructed His disciples He always adjured them to pray to the Father. And, of course, Jesus always prayed to His Father. In fact, there are no examples in Scripture of anyone praying directly to Jesus, even after His resurrection and ascension.
Jesus’ mission on Earth was to bridge the divide between God and man. As Paul said, the ministry of Christianity is one of reconciliation, not that God needed to be reconciled, but that we needed to be reconciled to Him. Jesus propitiated the wrath of God on our behalf, and ushered in the peace that comes from restored fellowship with the Father.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18-19)
So, the broken relationship that sin engendered was made whole by Christ’s intervention on our behalf. God, who could not be satisfied by an endless stream of animal blood, was finally satisfied by the blood of Christ. And, when Christ died, the curtain that kept us shielded from the Holy of Holies was torn in half, from the top to the bottom, showing us that the way into the holiest place of all was made manifest.
What’s that got to do with prayer? Good question.
Israel had reached the point where God no longer valued their sacrifices, nor heard their petitions, nor forgave their trespasses. But, when Jesus opened the way to Heaven, He restored communication between men and their Maker. And, He even sent His Spirit to indwell men and help them – indeed drive them – to pray.
Jesus paid for our sins so that we could approach the Holy God without being killed. And, the Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ’s words, driving us to our knees and teaching us to pray.
But, the object of those prayers is still the Father, the one who instituted the plan whereby He would rescue us from our fallen estate and open the way of shared fellowship.
That all was just a wordy way of saying what I said at the start.
1) God is the object of our prayers.
2) Jesus paved the way and opened the lines of communication so that we could pray, confident that God was hearing us and accepting us. And –
3) The Spirit drives us to pray.
So, when I pray to God, I thank Him for His Son and the atonement that allows me to have access to the Father. And, I thank Him for the Spirit that brings me time and again to my knees.
All that being said, along the way, as I sift through the stuff of life, I often talk to my Savior. And, I thank Him for what He’s done and is continuing to do. He is the object of my praise and worship. And, He is seated at the right hand of God, so He has a place of supreme honor. Praise and thanksgiving to Christ seems only natural. But, let your petitions be made to God, as Jesus instructed.
By the way, the phrase “in His name” means, “by His authority.” It’s like when the cops say, “Open up in the name of the law.” There is no “name,” like Bob or Bill, which you are required to respond to. It is the authority that the cops carry as representatives of the law of the land. It’s not even their personal authority they are invoking. They insist that you open your door because of the authority of the laws of the U.S.
Likewise, as I said, without an advocate with the Father, none of us would have the warrant, permission, or right to encroach on the sanctity of God. But, when Christ satisfied the Father’s justice on our behalf, we became the recipients of that grace, and the way of prayer was secured for us. So, we don’t beckon for God’s attention on the basis of our own authority or perceived “rights.” We “come boldly to the throne of grace,” knowing that we are “accepted in the beloved.” We don’t pray by our own authority, we pray by the authority of Christ, who opened the means to prayer. We pray, “In His name,” by His authority.
I hope that helps and that I haven’t muddied the waters. Remember that God knows your heart and loves you with a love that only an infinitely holy and forgiving Father could whip up. So, don’t worry that you’re praying “wrong.” Pray from your heart as the Spirit leads and know that you are not accepted in His sight on the basis of proper performance, you are accepted because His Son bought you and paid for you.
Then, get on your knees and thank Him for that, too.