Thinking Cap #51 - Prayer: Return to Sender, Address Unknown?

When you write a letter to a friend or business, you had better get the address right, or it won’t be delivered. Like that old Elvis Presley song, it’ll come back to you marked, “Return to sender, address unknown.” Do we have to worry about that when we pray? I remember an incident in a former church in which I served. A dear Godly lady made the mistake of starting one of her prayers in an AWANA club with “Dear Jesus.” A pharisaical senior saint, reported this lady to me with an expectation that I put a stop to this heresy and wrongful modeling of prayer before the children.

That got me to thinking. Who do we pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Does it matter? Does the prayer still get through?

I happen to hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible? (I love the old M. R. DeHaan quote, “if the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense, lest it result in nonsense.” I also believe in the Trinity. And if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the one God, then is it not possible that we can pray to each of the members of the Trinity? Or, should we only pray to the Father, or only pray to "God"? Jesus told us to pray to the Father in Matt. 6:9 when, in the model prayer, He said, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father [pater in the Greek, meaning father or parent] which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” What is the proper method of addressing our prayer?

We can gain insight into this question when we realize 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 and expect the prayer to get through to the intended recipient.

Jesus said in John 14:14, "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." While that has caused me to “close” my prayers “In Jesus’ name” for years, it would also indicate that it is safe to say that we can pray “to” Jesus and ask Him to answer our prayers. In addition, looking at the phrase “call upon the name of the LORD” gives us further confirmation. As best I can tell, in the Old Testament that phrase is used only of God and it includes the meaning of worship, adoration, and prayer. Psalm 116:4 says, “Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.” What is interesting is that this phrase is applied to Jesus in 1 Cor. 1:2, “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” Now, I realize that the Old Testament word is the Hebrew for Jehovah and the New Testament Greek word is kurios. But, kurios is the more powerful of the Greek words translated “Lord” and implies supremacy. Paul obviously knew the significance of the phrase, which included prayerful appeal, and applied it to Jesus.

In 1 Cor. 1:9 we read, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” The word “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia which is also translated as the word “communicate” and “communion.” 1 Cor. 1:9 says that we are to have an intimate fellowship with Jesus. That is fine. But, how can we have fellowship with someone we never talk to? We are to “communicate” with Jesus. As a result, this verse can also be used to support the idea of praying to Jesus.

If it is okay to pray to the Father, and the Son, is it just as acceptable to pray to the Holy Spirit? I believe that we could also answer “yes” because the Holy Spirit is also God. Yet, we never see an instance in the Bible where anyone prays to the Holy Spirit? Why is that? I think that John 15:26 tells us why. The Holy Spirit does not bear witness of Himself. He bears witness of the Son. But still, we can pray to the Spirit because we are also called into fellowship with the Spirit. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Cor 13:14) The use of the word “Ghost” is significant here (see Thinking Cap #2) in that it indicates the inward working of the 3rd person of the Trinity. And, it is also this same Spirit that is instrumental in interpreting our feeble attempts at prayer before the Godhead. Rom 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Frequently, we are called to come to “God” as “little children” (the second of seven levels of Spiritual maturity). Little children don’t always know the big fancy theological words, but in sincerity, they approach their father and he always hears them. We can simply pray to God. We can address God, the Lord, in our prayers and as you feel led, address the members of the Trinity.

Pleasant Thinking,
Kent Haralson

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