The Bible is clear that God wants us to talk to Him. We are to thank Him for what He has done, praise Him for who He is, ask Him for assistance, and confess our sins to Him.
But how exactly are we supposed to talk to God? Some people feel that they can’t talk to Him because they don’t know how. Some people fear praying in public because they don’t know how to pray. This seems strange since the Lord Jesus gave us a template to follow in Matthew 6:
- We are to pray to God the Father
- We are to glorify God and worship Him
- We are to pray that His will would be done.
- We are to ask Him for the things we need
- We are to ask Him to forgive us for our sins
- We are to ask Him to help us lead a victorious Christian life.
- We are to recognize His sovereignty.
I’ve also noticed lately that many Christians seem to be mixing up the Trinity while praying. I have been taught that when we pray, we are supposed to pray TO God the Father, in the name of God the Son, through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ never prays to Himself or to the Holy Spirit, but only to God the Father. Here are all the times people prayed in the New Testament where different members of the Trinity are mentioned: |
1. Acts 4:24-30 In this passage the apostles are talking TO God ABOUT Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so it’s obvious they’re talking to the Father.
2. Stephen prays “Lord Jesus receive my spirit!” in Acts 7:59
3. Romans 1:8 Paul prays “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul is speaking of two separate persons here.
4. Ephesians 5:20 says “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” That seems pretty clear that we are being directed to pray TO the Father in the name of Christ.
5. Colossians 1:3 says “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,” Again, praying to the Father.
6. Revelation 5:9 the saints in heaven pray directly to Christ in song.
There are two instances where people pray to God the Son and both are when the Son of God is physically visible to the person praying. So we must ask: is it wrong to pray to Christ? Not necessarily, but it is not usual to do so. The problem with praying to Christ instead of God the Father is that we confuse who we are talking to sometimes.
Many times I have heard well-meaning, doctrinally sound believers pray, “Father, we thank you for dying on the cross for our sins.” Do these people believe in patripassianism (Sabellianism/modalism) which teaches that God the Father died on the cross? No. How could the Father die on the cross when He was separated from Jesus for those three hours while Christ took the sins of the world on himself? Another thing I’ve heard is someone praying and they switch back and forth such as “Thank you Father for sending your Son to die on the cross for us and we look forward to your return in the clouds.” The most innocuous of these is when someone prays to the Father, and then ends the prayer with “In Your Name, Amen” (instead of “In the name of Christ/Jesus/the Son/etc”). While I don’t believe it’s sinful to pray this way, I do believe it can confuse new Christians and allow for doctrinal error to creep in.
Now, do I say this to be critical of my fellow Christians? No. I firmly believe that God can and does translate and interpret these prayers correctly. Perhaps this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit when He prays for us as in Romans 8:26-27. I believe God hears and adjusts those prayers for accuracy. God knows what you mean. But does that mean we shouldn’t care that we are praying incorrectly? No. I think it’s important that we as believers not have a cavalier attitude about how we are talking to the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Redeemer of our souls. I think we should follow His example and not thank the Father for being born in Bethlehem, because He wasn’t. God the Father has never been born.
We should think about the words we’re using when we pray. We should think about who we are praying to and about as we pray, and not simply be talking out loud using words when we aren’t thinking about their meaning. Next time you pray, determine to talk to God the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Spirit.