Sincere Christians may struggle in prayer when it comes to this question: To whom should we pray? To the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?
Does it matter? Perhaps not. The thief on the cross addressed Jesus: "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). And Stephen, among the first seven deacons and the church's first martyr, addressed our Lord Jesus just before he died: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59b).
What about praying to the Holy Spirit? There is nothing wrong with this; after all, the Holy Spirit is God as much as the Father and the Son.
These things said, I want to make the case for praying—generally speaking—to God the Father. There is no rivalry in the Trinity; the persons of the Trinity heap praise on each other. The Father doesn't mind that we pray to His Son or to the Spirit; the Holy Spirit doesn't mind that we pray to the Father or to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why then pray to the Father? Consider these reasons:
First, Jesus directed us to do so—at least twice—as in the Lord's prayer. "Therefore pray in this manner: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name'" (Matt. 6:9). "When you pray, say: 'Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name'" (Luke 11:2).
Second, Jesus always directed His own prayers to the Father. For example, "'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise'" (Matt. 11:25a).
The only time Jesus called His Father "God" was on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46b). This was the moment when all our sins were transferred to Jesus. It is called propitiation—when Jesus turned away the Father's wrath.
Third, the apostle Paul prayed to the Father:
"I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Eph. 3:14b-15).
Fourth, the Father is omniscient—that is, He knows the future as perfectly as He knows the past and present. When He lived among us, Jesus admitted He did not know the day of His Second Coming (Matt. 24:36). Whether He—along with the Holy Spirit—knows the future as perfectly as the Father is an understandable question (see Matt. 28:18), one not directly addressed in the Scriptures.
Fifth, to affirm the God of the Bible—the Father, to show we are not ashamed of Him. Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28b). Was this statement merely an act of humility? I don't think so. I believe it is true—for more reasons than I will attempt to unravel here. At the same time, we must never forget that the Word—logos—was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God, and nothing was made without the Lord Jesus (John 1:1-2, Col. 1:16-17).
Jesus is God asthough He were not man, and yet He was man as thoughHe were not God; He was and is the God-man. But there must be a reason Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I." And Paul makes this eschatological statement: "When all things are subjected to Him [Jesus], then the Son himself will also be subject to Him [the Father] who put all things under him, that God [the Father] may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
I am not able to explain all that this means. But I have felt for a long time that the least mentioned and the least honored and most neglected person of the Godhead among some Christians in our generation is God the Father. Many books are written about our Lord Jesus Christ, and an incalculable number of books are written about the Holy Spirit (I myself have written at least three). It is my opinion that Jesus Himself would applaud books written about His Father—the least understood and most hated person of the Trinity. The world does not generally send vicious attacks upon Jesus but rather God the Father for allowing suffering.
Sixth, only a Christian can refer to God as "Father." No Muslim considers Allah as Father—ever! Even the liberals who refer to God as "Father of all" because of their universalism bring no glory to God for doing this.
Seventh, when you get to know God as He is in Himself, you will be overwhelmed with worship. Moses requested, "Teach me your ways" (Ex. 33:13b, NIV). Too many of us pray to get something from God. Try this: getting to know Him as He is in Himself. You may find yourself saying, "I am so grateful to have a God like this." You will also find yourself saying, "God, I love You for being just the way You are. I would not change You even if I could." Yes. What a mighty God we have!
Finally, if it is not of great consequence whether to pray to the Father, to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit, why make a case for praying to the Father? My answer: I want to be asbiblical as I can be. I want to be God-centered and Christ-centered in my theology and in my preaching.
R.T. Kendall is an author, teacher and preacher. He now has a number of books in print, including the latest, Whatever Happened to the Gospel? (Charisma House). He was the senior minister at London's Westminster Chapel from 1977 to 2002. He has earned multiple degrees, including a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University and a Doctor of Divinity from Trevecca Nazarene University.
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