Q: When do we address our prayers to God, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit?

A: On the matter of prayer, St John Damascene said that “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God”. Drawing from the words of Christ, the writings of Scripture and the saints, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are gifted with prayers grounded in Christian tradition.

Through prayer, God invites His chosen ones into a relationship with Him that is both personal and communal. He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh, and He inspires us through the Holy Spirit.

Thus prayer is our response to God who is already speaking or, better yet, revealing Himself to us. Therefore, prayer is not merely an exchange of words, but it engages the whole person in a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

It is this realisation that God Himself is worthy of prayer and God is a Trinity of persons. Therefore, it would seem fair to say that we can pray to each member of the Godhead.

The Bible teaches that we can pray to one or all three, because all three are one. To the Father we pray with the psalmist, “Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray”

(Psalm 5: 2). Christ, when asked by the disciples about how to pray, starts his prayer with “Our Father…” (Matthew 6: 9).
To the Lord Jesus, we pray as to the Father because they are equal. Prayer to one member of the Trinity is prayer to all.

Stephen, as he was being martyred, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). We are also to pray in the name of Christ. Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5: 20).

Jesus assured His disciples that whatever they asked in His name – meaning in His will – would be granted (John 15:16; 16: 23).

We are told to pray in the Spirit and in His power. The Spirit helps us to pray even when we do not know how or what to ask for (Romans 8:26; Jude 20). The Holy Spirit does not bear witness of Himself. He bears witness of the Son (John 15:26).

Still, we can pray to the Spirit because we are also called into fellowship with the Spirit, i.e. 2 Cor. 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

The Holy Spirit is the interior Master of Christian prayer. He is the artisan of the living tradition of prayer. To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray, but it is the same Spirit acting in all and with all. It is in the communion of the Holy Spirit that Christian prayer is prayer in the Church.

Perhaps the best way to understand the role of the Trinity in prayer is that we pray to the Father, through (or in the name of) the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. All three are active participants in the believer’s prayer. As such, you may address your prayer to the Son, the Father or the Holy Spirit with confidence depending on how you feel led at that moment.

Ultimately, however, when we consider whom we pray to, the answer is God. Praying to God, and God alone is far more important than to which Person of the Trinity we address our prayers.

Fr Ignatius Yeo

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