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Christology, Reformed Worship, Trinity, Worship

>Worship, Prayer and Trinity?

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“Dear Heavenly Father…”

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

Our prayers to God often address God the Father, and rightly so, as Christ taught us to pray in such a way. We are also told in John 4:23, that the Father is seeking worshippers. Yet, a question has developed in thinking about this reality:

Can we pray to and worship the other Persons of the Trinity?
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WORSHIP

Should our praise be centered on the Father as Jesus told the woman at the well that “the Father is seeking worshippers?” (John 4:23) I will concede that while the Father is often the object of our worship, both tradition and Scripture reveal that the other members of the Godhead also can, and are to be worshipped. The Nicene Creed tells us the “Holy Spirit…with the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.” And in the book of Revelation 22:3, of Jesus it is said: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship Him.” Many of the hymns in [good] hymnbooks reflect this concern, with verses dedicated to the Father, then to the Son, then to the Spirit. If your hymnal does not do this, consider this one that does:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity_Hymnal
http://www.gcp.org/products_b.asp?id=987663333&cat=A

PRAYER

I think this principle can also be extended to our prayer life. We often pray to the Father, ending with an appeal to the Son (“in Jesus’ name”). The Father is traditionally the object of our prayers in worship, often with us thanking the Father for His only-begotten Son and for the Spirit He sent. This formula originates in the very earliest liturgies of the church:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.html

While the Father may be object of the Lord’s Prayer, this should not restrict us to prayer only to the Father. It is true that there is no verse that says “pray to Christ.” But I see a close connection between prayer and worship. If worship is addressed to each member, then I think prayer should be as well, as our worship should be prayer. We should worship Christ, so why not pray to Him? I think this is appropriate too, as the last words addressed to God in Scripture are addressed to the Person of the Son in Revelation: “Come Lord Jesus. Amen.” However, we should be conscious of which Person we are praying to, not thanking The Father or dying for us, or the Son for converting us. Certain traditions have developed liturgical prayers with this very concern in mind. Puritans often had Trinitarian petitions in their prayers beginning with “O Father” or “O Son” depending on the object of that prayer or petition. For examples see: the Valley of Vision.

I cannot say my thoughts on this are fully developed, so I welcome suggestions, nuances and constructive compliments of my CRM crew!
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Discussion

23 thoughts on “>Worship, Prayer and Trinity?

  1. >I think consciously avoiding directing our prayers to the Spirit could actually be seen as a way of honoring the Spirit since the Spirit does not speak of himself but glorifies the Father and Son. We are following the Spirit in doing the same.Excellent point. The best rationale that I’ve seen for not addressing prayers to the Holy Spirit.

    Posted by Dwight Watson | April 8, 2008, 5:34 am
  2. >”I think consciously avoiding directing our prayers to the Spirit could actually be seen as a way of honoring the Spirit since the Spirit does not speak of himself but glorifies the Father and Son. We are following the Spirit in doing the same.”I think Jeff is correct. Each member of the Trinity appears to have particular roles that are found in Scripture. The Spirit is consistently referred to as speaking about the Son. That is, He is always pointing to the Son. The Son, on the other hand, if one looks, say in John’s gospel, is always pointing to the Father. Jesus says it is better for Him to go away and for the Spirit to come. While it is popular among evangelicals to wish they could see Jesus, walk with Jesus, or have Jesus present in some physical way, He said it is better that He goes away and sends the Spirit. Thus it appears that Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Spirit is the great finale of the Gospel story. If Jesus had only died and resurrected, where would we be? What if He had not ascended? This is often left out in most Easter messages. We tend to capitalize on “He is Risen” while leaving out the other half of the story. We should conclude, “He has Ascended” and “He is Enthroned.”Paul, in Romans 8, also seems to imply that the Spirit plays the vital role in our prayers by interceding for us ‘according to God’s will.’ One could assume in these texts that Paul indicates that as mere humans we are unable to pray according to God’s will. While I’m not sure he would go that far, I do see the Spirit’s intercession as vital for our prayer life.Thus, there does seem to be some assignation of roles with regard to intercession. I would certainly go along with the idea of praying to the Son and/or the Father. I’m just not sure about praying ‘to’ the Holy Spirit. This makes for a good question I suppose. The only thing I know to do is default to Scripture and say I really can’t find any biblical basis for praying to the Spirit. I think recognizing the Spirit’s role as intercessor in prayer is just as glorifying to God as praying to Him because we don’t want to leave Him out. Moreover, I really don’t think that not praying to the Spirit could be equated to denying His deity.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | April 8, 2008, 12:02 am
  3. >”It seems to me that it would be inconsistent, and perhaps even a denial of the deity of the Holy Spirit, to address prayers to the Father and Son but not to Him, would it not?”I think consciously avoiding directing our prayers to the Spirit could actually be seen as a way of honoring the Spirit since the Spirit does not speak of himself but glorifies the Father and Son. We are following the Spirit in doing the same.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | April 7, 2008, 11:13 pm
  4. >I certainly don’t have it figured out either, and did not intend to convey that the Son makes intercession to the Spirit, which would be unsupported by Scripture at the very least. You bring out a very good point. Since we see clearly that both the Son and the Spirit intercede on our behalf, and the Father is never pictured in that ministry (for to whom would He intercede), all of our prayers, ultimately, are directed to the Father. I think anyone in this discussion would agree. The question that I have is whether it is helpful and/or proper to address our prayers to the Son or Spirit. As Jeff has pointed out, Jesus speaks of his followers praying to Him. It seems to me that it would be inconsistent, and perhaps even a denial of the deity of the Holy Spirit, to address prayers to the Father and Son but not to Him, would it not?

    Posted by Dwight Watson | April 7, 2008, 10:43 pm
  5. >That clears everything up! Thanks!

    Posted by Mark Mathews | April 7, 2008, 9:10 pm
  6. >You seem to be exibiting a common misunderstanding, you see all prayers actually go through Mary (The Blessed Theotokos ever-Virgin full of grace) and she sorts it out. Moms are good like that (mine occasionally used to clean my room for me if it was unordered – same thing.)

    Posted by Jared Nelson | April 7, 2008, 7:39 pm
  7. >”That would be the Son . . .”Interesting, the Son making intercession to the Spirit and not the Father. I am a Trinitarian for sure but like many others, don’t claim to have all this nailed down. But this statement makes me wonder if the “order” is important regarding intercession and/or other functions of the persons of the Trinity. I definitely would agree that the Son is always making intercession for us, but to the Spirit? This raises questions that I don’t know the answer to. What do you think?

    Posted by Mark Mathews | April 7, 2008, 6:19 pm
  8. >That would be the Son, who “died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34) and “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).”

    Posted by Dwight Watson | April 7, 2008, 5:31 pm
  9. >One wonders, if Paul says the Spirit intercedes for us in prayer because we do not know what to pray for, who, then, would intercede for us when we pray to the Spirit?

    Posted by Mark Mathews | April 5, 2008, 4:14 pm
  10. >”Not only does Jared pray to the Father, Son, and Spirit but I hear he also refers to the Spirit as “she.” Not sure what’s up with that.”All doubt is gone … Jared has left the reservation.I will pray to the Father, though the Son, in the power of the Spirit for the state of His soul, with a hope that the Father has elected him, the Son has died for him, and the Spirit has regenerated him.

    Posted by GUNNY | April 4, 2008, 3:05 am
  11. >I have thought about this in the past, mostly in reference to having heard prayers (by pastors in church servies, of all places!) addressed to one Memebr of the GodHead, thanking Him for something He didn’t do: God the Father for dying, God the Son for saving or quickening, God the Spirit for creating, etc. Just as I would not thank my husband for carrying and giving birth to our six-month old son–that would warrant a look of incredulity from him, I’m sure)–I don’t think it’s advisable or even right and okay to thank God the Father for suffering for me. That is an obvious and oft-made mistake in identity. I wish so many Christians would pray with their brains turned on! How refreshing it would be if they actually realized Who they were praying to, no?As for praying specifically to the Spirit, there is no Scriptural precedent for it. But I have always thought that He (she or it) gets left out a lot. 🙂 Seriously, we pray to God the Father in the “Or Father, Who art in Heaven” tradition. And we teach our children to pray to Jesus (“Dear Jesus…”), whatever the Biblical precedent may or may not be. But we never pray to the Spirit. My sense of fairness feels violated somehow! And, of course, in the Indy Fundy Baptist tradition I grew up in, the Spirit isn’t a focal point at all, even to the point of exclusion. It’s like an entire group of Christians is scared of what might happen if they acknowledge that there is a powerful, mystical Being out there, with the power to make them speak in tongues or heal others if they give in! It’s almost laughable, their fear. And now, years later, even after I’ve graduated on to much larger Christian circles, I still find myself uneducated and unknowedgeable in the ways of the Holy Spirit. It shouldn’t be so.

    Posted by mhgood | April 4, 2008, 2:29 am
  12. >Not only does Jared pray to the Father, Son, and Spirit but I hear he also refers to the Spirit as “she.” Not sure what’s up with that.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | April 4, 2008, 1:27 am
  13. >Interesting topic, and also one I haven’t really thought about very much. Since I was little I’ve almost always prayed to God the Son. I never really gave it much thought and definitely never meant disrespect to God the Father. After reading this, I think that the majority of my prayers should be addressed to God the Father…although like others have said I don’t think it is wrong to pray to the other Persons of the Trinity.

    Posted by J.Wizzle | April 4, 2008, 1:21 am
  14. >The WCF chapter 11 “Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day” section 3 reads:Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of His Spirit, according to His will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | April 4, 2008, 12:41 am
  15. >Just kidding!Here is where I’m at on this issue: I think prayer offered as request should be directed to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.I think prayers of adoration could be either according to the “to-through-by” formula or could address each member according to his own special role in redemption.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | April 4, 2008, 12:34 am
  16. >To pray to the Son is to deny the Father.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | April 4, 2008, 12:32 am
  17. >By no means Gunny did I take offense. I just enjoy seeing your reasons. My brother takes your side, as does a professor I greatly respect. I enjoy fleshing out arguments on theology on the non-essentials…

    Posted by Jared Nelson | April 3, 2008, 11:30 pm
  18. >I do not see a problem with addressing each of the members of the Godhead in prayer in the sense that I think prayers to God the Son and God the Spirit should be forbidden. That being said, we really don’t see instances of prayers to the Holy Spirit in Scripture. To speculate, perhaps that is related to His roles in relation to the Father and Son (glorifying them, receiving from them, etc.). I think the instances when we would pray to the Spirit are certainly less numerous than prayers to the Father and Son. In John 14 we have Jesus saying if you ask Me in my name…so we have merit for praying to God the Son. Historically, I believe the church has had prayers to the Son and Spirit. But I think the majority of our prayers should be directed to the Father in accordance with standing within the Trinity and the Son’s own testimony on this subject. To the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit.Powerful little prepositions.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | April 3, 2008, 11:26 pm
  19. >P.S. I went back and read my comment and I wanted to say that it’s not my intention to come off as some goon who has this question fully answered.On the contrary, what I know is that I have every confidence to pray to the Father, though the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.Conversely, I would have no biblical confidence praying otherwise.I hope that makes sense and apologize up front if my comments came across as arrogant.

    Posted by GUNNY | April 3, 2008, 10:47 pm
  20. >Again, I’m on board with trinitarian worship and we use the apostles creed in our liturgy and I love the hymns that address each member of the trinity.The demarcation line of prayer & worship is tough question, but a good one. It would be tough to articulate in the comments section a theology of prayer and one of worship, but I would just say that they are different.Perhaps it’s the supplicational & intercessional aspects of prayer that are most in view with our understanding/usage of “prayer.”I guess I would not really categorize Rev 22:20 as a prayer. It seems more an expression of hope & anticipation of the greatness of the groom coming for His bride, bringing forth redemption in its fullness.In the context, it’s actually a verbal response to the vocalization of Christ about His coming.In that sense, it’s no more a prayer than when the disciples said, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”

    Posted by GUNNY | April 3, 2008, 10:44 pm
  21. >I am curious, where is the dividing line between worship and prayer? Is our worship not directed towards God as our audience? Can we not sing something like “You are my King”?What about the prayer at the end of Revelation? “Come Lord Jesus”? I don’t know how much of your services are liturgical/prayer in nature – but wouldn’t we be able to address Christ as in: “We worship you o Father, Creator. And we worship you o Christ, our Savior”? Just curious…

    Posted by Jared Nelson | April 3, 2008, 10:34 pm
  22. >I love my brothers, but I have to offer a dissenting perspective.I’ve developed this a bit on my blog, but will quote G. Campbell Morgan and reference the regulative principle.What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.“Prayer is only possible to the revealed Father through the mediating Son by the inspiring Spirit.” – G. Campbell MorganI agree. We have no biblical warrant regarding prayer other than to the Father.Jared wrote: “I think this principle can also be extended to our prayer life.”I think that’s where I got off the bus.;-) I agree wholeheartedly with trinitarian worship, but the “connection” between prayer and worship seems to have limitations.

    Posted by GUNNY | April 3, 2008, 9:59 pm
  23. >I had a discussion on this very topic with some folks from my church last week. As I shared with them, I commonly address prayers to all three Persons of the Trinity. Like you, I haven’t fully developed my thinking on this. However, I find that, at the very least, addressing a specific Member of the Trinity according to His work (such as asking the Holy Spirit to reveal truth) helps me to keep in mind how God works among us. I don’t think it affects the efficacy of my prayer to address it to one Person of the Trinity or another, but it reinforces and enriches my understanding of the triune God.

    Posted by Dwight Watson | April 3, 2008, 8:35 pm

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