Here at WRC, we’re beginning a series in the Lord’s Prayer. Each week in our “Catechism Service” (sort of like a Sunday School class), we will consider a different part of it. Not only did Jesus command us to pray this prayer (“When you pray, say, ‘Father…’” Luke 11:2), He also commanded us to use it as a basic template for our prayers (“Pray then like this, ‘Our Father…’” Matt. 6:9). This Sunday, we will learn how the preface, i.e., Our Father, who art in Heaven, informs our prayers.
But this brings us back to the original question – are we allowed to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit if Jesus only tells us to address the Father? In short, yes. You are allowed to pray to the Son or to the Spirit. There are some biblical examples of this, and there is a good, doctrinal reason for doing so.
In Heb. 4:14-16, believers are encouraged to “draw near to [Christ’s] throne of grace” in order to obtain His assistance. Surely, “drawing near” requires prayer. At the end of Revelation, in 22:20, John directs a simple prayer to Jesus, crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus”.
I am unaware of equally clear examples of praying to the Holy Spirit, but there is still biblical precedent for doing so. In a vision in Ezekiel, God required that the prophet speak to a field of dry bones. This speech formed the bones into skeletons, but his words alone did not bring those bones to life. Then, God commanded Ezekiel to “prophesy to the breath” (37:9) in order that the skeletons would come to life. In my opinion, “breath” is better-translated “Spirit”. The same Hebrew word can be taken either way, and it’s the Spirit that grants spiritual life. Flesh covered those bones, and they came to life. Ezekiel’s address to the Spirit is, quite simply, prayer, since prayer is nothing more than addressing God. Another example of praying to the Spirit may be found in Old Testament worship. The saints of old directed their prayers and worship toward the temple, where God was manifest in glory in the Holy of Holies. I concur with a number of scholars that God was manifesting Himself there by the Person of the Spirit, meaning that prayer was (in a sense) addressed to the Spirit. May we pray to the Son and Spirit? Yes. There are examples of this practice, and, doctrinally, these two Persons are equal to the Father in glory and honor, so they are worthy of all reverence and petition.
But it must be quickly added that the ordinary way of praying should be to address the Person of the Father. He is the origin and fountainhead of the Godhead. This is not the case with the Son or the Spirit. The Son is eternally-begotten of the Father, and the Spirit eternally-proceeds from the Father through the Son. Even the Son directs His petitions to the Father, and the Scriptures tell us in many places to do likewise. The Spirit has joined us to the Son, making us adopted sons (males and females all obtain “a son’s” standing and inheritance). Therefore, we now appeal to our heavenly Father “in the Son, by the power of the Spirit”, which is why we close our prayers “in Jesus’s name”. An earthly father gives good gifts to his children. How much more will our perfect, powerful, and prodigal Father give His grace to His adopted sons. Let us allow the Lord’s Prayer to form the ordinary pattern for our prayers, addressing most of them to the Father, but never being afraid to petition the Son or the Spirit.