Do we pray to Jesus or the Father?                                                

Monday Musings for February 15, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

We Christians have some “problems” that aren’t truly problems; they are benefits. For instance, although we only have one God, he exists as a Trinity. The problem-side-of-this-problem is that such a notion confounds us. We are made in God’s image… but we don’t have a sense of what it would be like to be a trinity of persons. The not-a-problem-side-of-this-problem is that, in God, we have three persons to address, not just one. That's three times the fun!

When I pray publicly, I usually pray to the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit — and there is no problem with that. But like most formulas, this is limiting. There is no reason we cannot pray to them all… and that’s the gist of today’s question. Is there a right or wrong way to do this?

As a person who answers Bible questions for a living, let me affirm that the doctrine of the Trinity is confusing where the ontological rubber meets the metaphysical road. We humans have enough trouble getting our heads around the idea of the One True God. But insisting that he exists in three persons is more difficult yet. This is what the Bible reveals, however, so we are responsible to understand it the best we can and teach it.

The Trinity is the perfect example of a doctrine that we could not have developed through Natural Theology. In Natural Theology, we think about God philosophically — as if there were no Scripture. But the Trinity is the province of Biblical Theology — the place we explore what the Bible says about God. So, if there were no New Testament, we’d all be Unitarians! … sort of.

The problem with that notion is, without the doctrine of the Trinity, we wouldn’t know that there were unitarians to be! The term exists to differentiate between those who believe in a single (non-trinitarian) God from one that exists as a Trinity of persons… and where there is no Trinity, there is no reason to differentiate your beliefs from such a thing.

Now, Muslims and Jews are monotheistic… but that’s different from being unitarian. Unitarians are “Christians” by category. This is ironic because they reject the deity of biblically revealed Christ… one of the defining doctrines of Christianity.

Think of where we’d be without the New Testament. We’d probably be in synagogues (… and the Jews would be thinking, “There goes the neighborhood!”) But unless the Holy Spirit stepped up his game, without the New Testament, we would not know Jesus in enough detail to see that the Trinity existed — or that Jesus was one of its persons.

But thank God that we do have the New Testament, and the New Testament teaches that the Son and the Holy Spirit are God… but they are God in a way that they are distinct from the Father. Each person has their own personality and ministry emphases, but they are equal, and they are a Unity, so we can pray to any or all of them!

I often pray directly to the Holy Spirit. Now, Jesus or the Father could certainly meet any of my needs, but there’s an argument to be made for seeing a specialist — and the Holy Spirit is in charge of how we deal with God’s word. But he’s also in charge of helping you understand what you are reading right now — and this is good! I want you to figure out the truth for yourself rather than just swallow what I say. This is why I ask him to go before me. So, how’s he doing?

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