This is a great question. Who should we address when we pray to God? Should we pray to the Father, the Son, or the Spirit? Does it matter?
Let’s look at what we can learn from God’s Word about praying to each Person of the Trinity.
Jesus Taught Us to Pray to the Father
We find this instruction in Matthew 6:6, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father…” and in Matthew 6:9, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”
Jesus is clearly instructing His disciples to pray to the Father. But we must remember that when Jesus gave this teaching, he was present among them. So it’s not reasonable to think that Jesus would have told them to pray to him. They were able to speak to Him because He was with them. Prayer is speaking to God. God speaks to us through His Word. We speak to Him in prayer.
So, while Jesus taught His disciples to pray to the Father, it does not suggest that we should pray to the Father only.
The Disciples Prayed to Jesus
After the ascension, with Jesus no longer with them, the disciples understood they could still speak to Him, but now they did it through prayer. Many examples of prayers to Jesus are found in the Bible.
- Stephen, while being stoned for his testimony for Jesus, looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7) and he called out (prayed) “… ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” (Acts 7:59)
- Paul prayed to Jesus at his conversion, asking, “what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6) He also pleaded with (prayed to) the Lord three times regarding the thorn in his flesh asking that it be removed (2 Cor 12:8). And, Jesus heard his prayer and responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
- Ananias prayed to Jesus and affirmed that he knew others also “call on [His] name. Acts 9: 10, 14
Acts 9:10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said [prayed], “Here I am, Lord.
Acts 9:13-14 Then Ananias answered [prayed], “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.
- The Apostle John closes the Bible with a prayer to Jesus.
Rev 22:20-21 … Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
- Those who belonged to Christ called (prayed) to Him.
1 Cor 1:2 [Paul] To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
What About Praying to the Holy Spirit?
This is the more difficult question. There are no biblical records of early Christians praying to the Spirit. Plus we know that the Spirit was given to us to help us to pray.
But is it wrong to pray to the third Person of the Trinity? I suggest that it is not wrong, for two reasons.
- The Holy Spirit is co-equal with God the Father, and God the Son. He also is God—God the Spirit. When one prays to the Spirit, one is praying to God. However, it must be understood that that the Spirit’s work is different.
Both the Father and the Son have made many promises to believers. And while the Spirit has not directly made any promises, He moved men to write, and He inspired the record of the promises the Father and Son have made. In that way, He is also a giver of the promises.
Furthermore, The Spirit is given to us, to indwell us, and to work in and through us. His work is to enable us to understand the Bible so we can live as Jesus did doing the work of the Father according to the Father’s will. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Jesus (Rom 8:29). Therefore, we should call upon the Spirit (that’s a type of praying), when we need His guidance and help.
2. God cares more about the intention of our hearts than the accuracy of our words. While some might think it is best to pray to Jesus, and others might think we should only pray to the Father, God desires that we seek Him. Since He is triune, praying to our Father, to Jesus, or to the Spirit is seeking God.
The Holy Spirit — Our Helper in Prayer
One of the great ministries of the Holy Spirit is to help us pray. When you call out to the Lord in despair, turn to him in fright, look to Him for comfort, seek Him for any reason, it is the Holy Spirit who helps you express your laments, your petitions, and even your praise and worship of God. The Spirit not only testifies to us of Jesus (John 15:26), He also helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us in our needs, and prays for us with “groanings too deep for words” when we are unable to find the words (Ro 8:26-27). Since the Holy Spirit knows our hearts, He is able to be our counselor, comforter, teacher, guide, and so much more!
Remember, there is no perfect “formula” for praying. There are many ways to pray (Read: What are the various types of prayer? How should I pray?) What we know for certain is that our Triune God wants to hear from us.
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