You don’t have to be a Christian for long before you hear people praying to different persons of the Trinity. “O God” or “Father God,” “Jesus, You have said in Your Word,” “Holy Spirit, come upon us now,” and similar phrases are common across denominational lines.
But perhaps the question lingers: To whom should I pray? Is it possible to pray to the wrong Person of the Trinity and thus have my prayers go unanswered? Are there rules to follow?
Relax! You cannot get it wrong. Remember that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same—they are God. When you pray to the Holy Spirit, you are praying to God. When you pray to Jesus, you are praying to God. When you pray to the Father, you are praying to God.
Now while that is true, you may still be thinking, Are there principles I need to follow? Does Scripture teach anything about this topic?
In the Old Testament, God was the only Person of the Trinity known to the Israelites. In the Psalms, David mostly prayed, “O God.” He also addressed Him as “Lord,” but even then he obviously was still referring to God in the nontrinitarian sense.
In the New Testament, Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). We refer to this passage as “the Lord’s Prayer.” It is Jesus’ most direct teaching on prayer. On numerous other occasions, Jesus prayed to the Father. Again, there was no real background yet, no teaching on the other members of the Trinity. Most people did not yet understand Jesus to be God, and He hadn’t taught yet on the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who was to come. And when Jesus was on earth, He wasn’t going to pray to Himself! So we have no incidents of Jesus praying to anyone other than God the Father.
Because Jesus prayed to the Father, most often people address God or the Father when they pray. Many churches of various denominations teach that you ought to pray to the Father through the Son—or in other words, in Jesus’ name.
And that method is correct. But it is also appropriate to pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit since they are fully God as well.
For me, while I usually address the Father, I often address Jesus or the Holy Spirit in my prayers as well. I do this when what I am asking, is in line with what their roles are. For example, if I or the person I am praying for needs peace or comfort, I address the Holy Spirit—The Comforter. If I am praying for a person’s salvation, I often address Jesus, the one with the power to save.
The point is, you are not right or wrong to pray to any member of the Trinity since they are all God. So do not sweat this! I encourage you if you only pray to Father, God, to branch out and try addressing another Person of the Trinity from time to time. If you always pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, I would start including Father God in your prayers to bring balance. It does not have to be complicated.
If you want to read in more depth about this principle, I encourage you to get a copy of my book The Power of Personal Prayer. It has a whole chapter on this subject. To whet your appetite, did you know the Apostle Paul often addresses his prayers to Jesus? Check it out.
–Jonathan Graf is the president of the Church Prayer Leaders Network and the author of 5 books on prayer, including The Power of Personal Prayer and Praying Like Paul. As a special bonus, if you purchase either of these books at prayershop.org, use code love2pray at checkout and save $2.00 off each copy purchased.
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