Prayer: A weapon in this spiritual war

I wrote this paper for a Trinitarian class as a final project for the semester. It was written as Christmas approached and our new baby girl was less than a month old. Having a child causes a person to do much reflection, as well as much praying. I prayed a lot for grace and help to be a new dad. I prayed so often just to know what to do with this child. A child we had waited so long for, yet as she cried, we were left scratching our heads many times trying to figure out what to do. A child is a beautiful gift that we were blessed to have, but just as marriage reveals our own selfishness, adding a child to the mix increases that to another degree.

Prayer is one of the most beautiful, special and powerful gifts a Christian has. There are many distractions and things that take us from this act. It doesn’t have to be done in a certain place or in a certain way, God just asks us to talk with Him. We get the chance to have a discussion with the Almighty. We can thank Him and offer up requests. We can give our anxieties away. Through it all, He is there. He is listening. Waiting. Wanting to talk with His children.


 

It is the Christmas season at the time of this writing and as this writer thinks of what all this means, images of the Father sending His only Son to this fallen world for the purpose of redeeming the lost keep coming to mind. This world was blessed in the form of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, when God became man and walked this earth. The Father at times may seem distant and seem uninvolved, but the Christians great Father gave this world exactly what they needed in the form of Christ. To quote John Owen in talking about the Father, we must “remember he is our most loving Father.”[1] In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus compares the fathers of this world with His good and perfect Father. As the worldly fathers that are full of evil can give their children good gifts, then how much more will the Father in heaven give good gifts to those that ask Him. As this world spends so many billions on that perfect Christmas gift, I am reminded of the perfect gift the Father gave in His Son. Our Father in heaven is never distant or far away, but always with us, especially in the form of the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

As a new father, I realize I will not always be there for my child or be able to provide them the right gifts. I will try to give her what she needs, but what is provided may not be the right gift, action or whatever else. I may say yes to something that should be a no or vice versa. In comparison, each member of the Trinity knows exactly what we need at the appropriate time. As we come before the Father in prayer and our two mediators, the Messiah and the Spirit, intercede for us to the Father, I and all of us can be confident that the Almighty Father is working everything out for good. We may not see it or even know it, and might even question it. But as this exercise has displayed, we have the beautiful gift of prayer to come before the throne of grace and ask, seek, and knock (Matt 7:7-8). We have a loving Father that has given us this gift of prayer to not only communicate with Him, but also with our Savior and the Comforter.

Prayer is one of those foundational tools that can be easily neglected. We get in a rush to get to work that we either do not pray or just say a quick prayer to check off a mental box to make ourselves feel better. We know that we should, but we do not pray like we should. In this regard, prayer becomes a thing to do before a meal or another religious, legalistic instrument that really does nothing else but take up time and make us feel guilty. But, prayer is truly a way to build intimacy with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It is a way to admit our inadequacy and discuss our great need for God’s help throughout the day. It is a way to bring our urgent cares to request God’s intervention, but we can also bring our Father the normal, everyday concerns that may be small, but matter to us.

The application of this paper is simply to pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. It is this writer’s intention to remember the separate roles of the Trinity, not only in prayer but in the everyday life, and the harmony that each Person has with the other. It is to remember that while each is different and has a distinct role, everything that one Person does, the other two are also involved in. The application is to pray, all the while enhancing my relationship with the Triune God. Why would we not want to talk to the Almighty? He is our help, our strength, our refuge and our everything.


[1] John Owen, “Communion with God,” in The Works of John Owen, ed William H. Goold, 24 vols, (1850-1855; republished, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965-1991),  2:36.


Bibliography

Anselm. Proslogium. LaSalle, Ill: Open Court Publishing, 1903.

Barth, Karl. Prayer. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Bloesch, Donald. God the Almighty. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Bloesch, Donald G. The Struggle of Prayer. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980.

Bunyan, John “A Discourse Touching Prayer.” Internet. Accessed 2 December 2014, http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.John.Bunyan/Sermons.Allegories/Discourse.Touching.Prayer/2.html.

Cole, Graham. Engaging with the Holy Spirit. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.

Hamman, Gauthier Adalbert. Prayer – The New Testament. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971.

Heiler, Friedrich. Prayer. Trans. and Ed. Samuel McComb and J. Edgar Park. New York: Oxford University Press, 1958.

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001.

Owen, John “Communion with God,” in The Works of John Owen. Ed William H. Goold. 24 vols, 1850-1855; Republished, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965-1991.

Perman, Matt. “What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?” Desiring God. 2014. Accessed 30 November 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity.

Piper, John. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2012.

Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Sanders, Fred. The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Ware, Bruce A.  Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles & Relevance. Wheaton: Crossway, 2005.

Wright, Tom “The Prayer of the Trinity.” Internet. Accessed 1 December 2014, http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Prayer_Trinity.htm.

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Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer – A Personal Application

Before moving away from this topic of prayer, I want to take a moment to recognize how this has impacted me and what I need to do to personally apply this. It is one thing to talk about it, but another to live it out and apply it. Now, from all the learning and studying on this topic, I must put this into practice. It is not enough to say or write these things, they must be applied. They must be lived out. A wise man told me when you are going through seminary or any type of deep spiritual journey there are two things that must be focused on. One is to make sure that the material is grasped and learned. If not, your theology may be off. We must keep studying the unlimited well that is the Father, Son, and Spirit. Two, we must ask, “How does this apply to me?” What am I to grasp from all this knowledge and how do I apply it. Another way to say this is: “With this knowledge, how do I live it out to glorify the Father?”

What lays ahead in the next two posts is a personal reflection that I don’t normally share  but one that I will. It is a moment to show you my own struggles with this Christian life and I need so much help and prayer. I hope and pray that we all do better about spending time with our Lord. May we all thirst for more of Him and delight in Him.


 

Christian prayer is offered under this basis: “Not by my authority or according to my fitness or anything I have done to be deserving, but on the pure basis of the finished work of Christ am I able to even approach God. Even when I pray to Jesus, I am still approaching God the Son on that same basis: not by my own authority but on the basis of the finished work of Christ.[1]

In applying what mature Christian prayer is to look like, the application is that when I address the Son, it is to include thanksgiving for what He has done (Rev 5:11-14). I can thank Him for interceding for me and praise Him for His return and what that will mean. In doing so, He will be honored by paying him homage as Lord of all. In addressing the Spirit, it is to offer Him praise and thanksgiving. While I may petition Him to work in me and areas of this world, I will need to do better by properly petitioning the Father to send the Holy Spirit to engage in such work.[2]

Petitioning the correct Person of the Trinity has been difficult for me until I was able to understand more about the separate roles. Following the principles laid out in this writing, I should direct to Jesus request that pertain to His ongoing work. I may request Him to be my advocate in a situation, or groan for His return. However, I need to cultivate the practice of directing my petitions to the Father who is the source of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17), just as Jesus Himself instructed us in the Lord’s Prayer.

There will be times in my hurriedness or busyness that I will pray to wrong member something that is not part of their distinct function, and while that is not a damnable sin and may not even be sin at all, through this exercise I believe it is about creating a proper understanding in my prayer life. This exercise has helped me understand each Persons different functions and roles specifically in my prayer life, but also how I should properly worship and praise them. In living life, we are to display Christ and His love to all, live for the glory of the Father all made possible by the power and strength of the Holy Spirit in dependence upon Him.


 

[1] Ibid, 213.

[2] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 75.

Summary of Praying to the Father Through the Son in the Spirit

In an effort to recap what has been talked about over the last few posts, I want to provide a summary of what it looks like for praying to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Also, we will bring our discussion about prayer, its benefits, the reasons to pray, and what prayer looks like following the instructions of Christ.

Summary of Praying to the Father Through the Son in the Spirit

By borrowing the sonhood of the true Son, the believer can approach the throne of grace and call on God as Father, who will receive them because they pray in the style that was taught by the Jesus, the Son of God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9).[1] Jesus and the Spirit are divine Persons who occupy the offices of intercessor and mediator to bring us before the Father. There are few prayers to Jesus in the New Testament and no recorded prayers to the Spirit.[2] “As John 14 makes clear, the closer we come to understanding the threeness of God, the more we are summoned to fully Christian prayer.”[3] “The Holy Spirit may be prayed to. He is God. But the Holy Spirit is not to be prayed to in such a way as to mask the mediatorship of Christ and our location in Christ as members of his body.”[4] Christian prayer has double intercession, the Son and the Spirit, built into it. “The Father not only welcomes prayers, but he has provided mediation and perhaps even mediation of the mediation. Your prayer life is secure in the two hands of the Father. That built-in logic of mediation is the grain of prayer.”[5]

Conclusion

“One’s understanding of prayer is indeed correlative with one’s doctrine of God.”[6] Prayer is an act of worship, in that it is an act of worshipping the Persons of the Godhead in a dependent and powerful way by seeking the kingdom of God, praising His name, and being still in awe of the glorious God that has called us His children by the work and authority of Christ. To pray in a Trinitarian way is to remember that the doctrine of the Trinity is vitally important. The doctrine of the Trinity helps us know and understand more about this unfathomable, incomprehensible, and infinite God. We should allow this doctrine to deepen our love and appreciation for God. We exist to worship God and He wants us to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Christians must always seek to go deeper in their worship of God. One of the greatest writings on Trinitarian prayer comes from C.S. Lewis in his acclaimed Mere Christianity where he discusses God as the goal of an ordinary man being caught up in something extraordinary:

An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life…he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself.[7]

 The goodness of the Father is shown in that He loves, hears and honors our prayers even when they are not addressed correctly. The Triune God invites us into fellowship with Him and has provided a way for us to talk with Him. The amazing part of it all is that the Creator God wants to talk with us. He eagerly awaits our conversation. But in the fast paced world of today, one of the most important tools we have to fight evil, face the daily battles, and be strengthened for each day is prayer. Many take this wonderful opportunity for granted and do not seek out the help and strength of the Triune God. But, as Christians we find an infinite well of courage, faith, strength and help in a prayerful conversation with God. “If we are truly speaking of the true God, then the truest form of that speech can never be abstract discussion about God.  It must be speech addressed to God. It must be worship. It must be prayer.”[8] It can be daunting and difficult to think of a finite being reaching out to an infinite and holy God. When one truly thinks about the distance and dissimilarity between us and God, it is easy to wonder whether we have the ability to pray and whether coming into God’s presence is a good idea anyway.[9] Our fellowship with God should only be enhanced by consciously knowing that we are relating to and seeking a tri-personal God. We must echo what St. Anselm said, “Let me seek Thee in longing, let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding.”[10]

We have an opportunity to bring our experience and our awareness into alignment with the structure of the economy of salvation. As the economy of salvation has revealed God’s tri-unity, we come before God the Father in a way that retraces the path of His sending the Son and Spirit to reveal Himself and redeem us.[11] God is inviting us into a conversation that is occurring between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we pray, we are joining that conversation. An advantage of Trinitarian prayer “is that it aligns your prayer life in particular with your spiritual life in general.”[12]


[1] Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 217.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Tom Wright, The Prayer of the Trinity, Internet, accessed 1 December 2014, http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Prayer_Trinity.htm.

[4] Graham Cole, Engaging with the Holy Spirit, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 64.

[5] Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 213.

[6] Friedrich Heiler, Prayer, trans. and ed. Samuel McComb and J. Edgar Park, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958), 353.

[7] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001), 163.

[8] Wright, The Prayer of the Trinity.

[9] Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 212-13.

[10] Anselm, Proslogium, (LaSalle, Ill: Open Court Publishing, 1903), 6.

[11] Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 215.

[12] Ibid.

How to Pray Through the Holy Spirit

Living in the Spirit and our dependence upon Him is one of the most important concepts a Christian can learn to do. Often times, we try to do things in our power and by our own strength. We are taught from an early age in the West to be independent people, that we should not rely on anyone else. I think of the old saying about getting out of hard times, to just “pick yourself up by the bootstraps.” 

Christian life calls us to boast in our weakness and live a life of complete dependence on God. In the same way, when we are praying to the Father it is through the Spirit. The Spirit is often called the Counselor. He lifts our requests up to God in a way that aligns with God’s will, otherwise, we will pray and be out of align with the will of God. The Spirit intercedes for us and will pray for us through wordless groans. The Spirit is a tool that we often forget, but He enables the believer to have true communion with God and pray to the Father as we should.

Praying through the Holy Spirit

Christians should be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:18). “Prayer is to be incited, as it were, by the Spirit. The Spirit moves within our hearts and assists us in bringing our prayers and petitions to the Father, in the name of the Son. Prayer is in the power of the Spirit, as He empowers all else that we do to the glory of Christ in our lives.”[1] Romans 8 verse 26 is a reminder of the help the Spirit offers us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

“For without a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart to God, it is but lip-labour; and if it be not through Christ, it falleth far short of ever sounding well in the ears of God. So also, if it be not in the strength and assistance of the Spirit…it is not possible that it should be ‘according to the will of God’ (Rom 8:26, 27).”[2] Praying in the Spirit keeps the believer centered in the love of God as he awaits the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ to bring them into eternal life (Jude 1:20-21). Praying in the power of the Spirit is doing so in reliance upon His help and intercession. The Spirit comforts us and makes communion with the Father and the Son both real and delightful.[3] The Spirit enables the believer to truly worship and enjoy it. He enables and works in the believer to express honor, majesty, greatness, and glory of Christ in their worship and prayer.[4] We must keep in mind that the Spirit acts as the “silent” member of the Trinity. Rather than drawing attention to Himself, He manifests His presence by exalting the Son and the Father. Spirit-filled prayer, therefore, moves from the Spirit through the Son to the Father, for generally the Spirit prompts and empowers us to address our heavenly Father through the name of Jesus.[5]

[1] Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, 152-53.

[2] Bunyan, A Discourse Touching Prayer.

[3] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 97.

[4] Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, 154.

[5] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 498.

Praying by the power and authority of the Son

The Delighting in the Trinity series continues in this post by looking at praying to the Father in the Son. The next post will add the final piece to the equation of praying through the Spirit. This post focuses on what it means to pray in the Son, mainly, is there something Christians must do or is it done by the power and work of the Son and we come in submission. This posts reminds us of what Christ did and how that translates to all areas of a Christians life. This will help believers to pray God’s will.

A gift of the Son

“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:18). As seen in Matthew 6:9, we are to direct our prayers to the Father, who is the supreme authority over all, even the exalted Son. Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20), and who the Father put all things under (Eph 1:21-22; 1 Cor 15:27-28), has given us “access to the Father.” Our prayers are to be extended to the Father through Jesus Christ, because it is through Jesus Christ that we are saved and have access to the Father. Thus Christians are to direct their prayers to the Father but come “in the name” of the Son. Christians are to recognize that the only way to come into the presence of God is to come in Christ’s authority, clothed in Him.[1] “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,” (Heb 10:19-21) we can draw near to God with a sincere heart and a confident assurance that only faith in Christ can bring. Jesus Christ, then, is our only access to the Father, and by His name and atoning work, we can enter the throne room of grace with confidence where the Father sits awaiting those clothed in the righteousness of Christ.[2]

Therefore, Christians are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, but because Jesus died, was raised to life, and now sits at the right hand of God, He is “also interceding for us” (Rom 8:34). There are times we may feel separated from God, or there are those who say there is no God, but God is never without humankind. Humanity is in the presence of God and He knows humanity, sees everything and judges it, and does it all through the person of Jesus Christ, who was obedient and the object of the Father’s delight.[3] “God looks at Christ, and it is through him that he looks at us. We have, therefore, a representative before God.”[4] Calvin even says that “we pray through the mouth of Jesus Christ, who speaks for us because of what he has been, because of what he has suffered in obedience and faithfulness to his Father. And we ourselves pray as though with his mouth, inasmuch as he gives us access and audience, and intercedes for us.”[5] John 14 displays the power of Jesus as a Christian’s intercessor. Jesus promises that we can ask for anything in His name and He will do it so that the Father may be glorified (in accordance to the Father’s will). In addition, Jesus “will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (John 14:13-14, 16-17).

[1] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 356.

[2] Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, 152.

[3] Karl Barth, Prayer, 14.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Trinitarian Prayer – Praying to the Father

This post will look at what it means to pray to the Father following a Trinitarian model. Depending on our past and our experiences, seeing God as Father can be tough and extremely difficult. What is amazing is that the Father invites us before Him to truly have a conversation with us. He knows our requests, yet He still wants to talk with us. He truly is our Source and Sustainer, yet all too often we look to ourselves, others, or things to provide for us or comfort us. Today, we all need to turn to our wonderful Father, myself included and more than anyone. He is listening and there to help us in our struggles, battles, and the daily grind.

Praying to the Father

So why should we not just pray to God or the Father? The Triune God has chosen to relate to humankind in different ways. If we were to pray just to God the Father, we might lapse into a patriarchal monotheism. In the same way, if we just prayed to Jesus, we may not see Him as Lord or would possibly follow egalitarianism.[1] The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that the Father is the Source and foundation of all things, both of creation and salvation. Consequently, prayer is properly addressed to the Father as this glorious basis and source (Rev 4:8-11). “For this reason, in prayer, we come before the Father. We praise him for who he is, thank him for what he has done, and petition him in the face of need, because he is the good and wise supplier of all that we lack.”[2] “The Father, then, as supreme authority over even His own Son and the Spirit, is the One to who we gladly, but humbly address our prayers.”[3] A final reason to approach the Father is to confess our sins since it is always against God the Father. Sin destroys the fellowship that the Christian enjoys with the Father, and the Father is the One that forgives, we are to confess our sins to Him.[4]

[1] Ibid.

[2] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 75.

[3] Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, 151-52.

[4] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 356.

The Power of Praying Like Christ

In our continued series, “Delighting in the Trinity,” we have been looking at what it means to delight in God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Previously, we have looked at prayer and why to pray, including praying like Jesus. In this post, we take a deeper look at how Christ prayed and how that can relate to us as His followers.


 

“We can enjoy renewed meaning and power in our prayer life as we grow in our understanding of the nature of the triune God who calls us to pray and who responds to prayer. Cognizance of the doctrine of the Trinity will facilitate a consciousness of whom we address in prayer.”[1] Because God is Triune – Father, Son, and Spirit – our prayers should reflect a more theologically mature manner of praying and should be addressed to the three Trinitarian Persons in accordance with both the purpose of the specific prayer being voiced and the function of each Trinitarian Person.[2]

As humans who try to get their own way, we often move toward tritheism as opposed to Trinitarianism and have the temptation to individually address each member of the Trinity to answer our prayers. In the past ages, prayers were directed to Jesus instead of the Father because the Father was associated with judgment and wrath, rather than mercy and grace. Some have even prayed, and continue to do so today, to Mary because the Father and Son seem too intimidating.[3] In this respect, the Holy Spirit is then usurped of His divine role and forgotten altogether. Christians do not pray to the Father over the Son or to the Son and Spirit apart from the Father, for this again is to verge toward tritheism.[4] Christians pray to the Father in the Son and through the power of the Spirit. We pray to Christ who proceeds from the Father and who is made available to us by the Spirit. Christians pray to the Spirit through the intercession of Christ and by the grace given to us by the Father. Because of the perichoresis, each member of the Trinity is fully present in the being and acts of others. A prayer to Christ is also a prayer to the Father and vice versa.[5]


 

[1] Ibid, 74-75.

[2] Ibid, 75.

[3] Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty, 193.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Praying as Jesus Prayed

Continuing our series on prayer and how to delight in it and God, today we look at the model that Christ laid forth. Next time, we will look a little closer at the how He prayed. Then look at how that relates to the believer of praying to the Father and what it means to pray in the Spirit.


 

As Jesus instructed the disciple to address the Father in prayer, “Our heavenly Father,” (Matt 6:9-15) so we should do the same.[1] In Jesus, we see an example of a prosperous prayer life, but also how we should pray to the Father. The examples of Jesus’ prayers in the Bible display a deep love that the Son has for His Father, the importance, benefit and necessity of prayer, and the distinct Personhood of the Father and Son. While some object to Jesus’ prayers and say He was praying to Himself, it is in fact through His dialogue with the Father (Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 5:19; 11:41–42; 17:1ff) that we see the best evidence that they are separate individuals with distinct “centers of consciousness.”[2]

“Every situation, every petition always brought Jesus back to the object of his mission, the divine will, the work his Father had entrusted to him. Jesus desired nothing else. Prayer enabled him to discern and bless the plan of his Father whom he had come to serve.”[3] Everything Jesus did was motivated by His submission and trust of the Father. Jesus knew the importance of talking with His Father in prayer. He is repeatedly pictured as withdrawing from the crowds and ministering to the people in order that he might be refreshed through a period of solitude and prayer.[4] In Jesus, who was given by the Father to this world as an inexpressible gift (John 3:16, 2 Cor 9:15) and has revealed the Father to us (Matt 11:27), Christians are the beneficiaries of the great honor to call God, “Father.” Because Jesus has come and taken our place, we can dare to come before God the Father as His children and address Him as “Father” in the same way that Jesus, the true Son of God, called Him “Father”.


 

[1] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 75.

[2] Matt Perman, “What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?” Desiring God, 2014, accessed 30 November 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity.

[3] Gauthier Adalbert Hamman, Prayer – The New Testament, (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971), 182.

[4] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 276.

What does Trinitarian Prayer look like?

In continuing our series on Delighting in the Trinity: A Look at Trinitarian Prayer, today we focus on what is a Trinitarian prayer, what does it look like and start laying the groundwork for how to do it.

Trinitarian Prayer

A solid prayer life is instrumental in the life of a thriving Christian. As believers submit to God and bring their requests, petitions, concerns and thanksgivings to the Father, they notice that the fellowship and intimacy with the Triune God grows exponentially. They desire to talk with the Father, Son, and Spirit in all things about every aspect of their life. With the background on prayer and why it is good to pray, a Trinitarian model of prayer is to be presented. That is, a model of prayer that identifies and understands the distinct characteristics of each member of the Trinity and prays accordingly to each following the example of Christ.

The traditional theologically correct way of Trinitarian prayer is to pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This answers the question, “Who should I pray to?” As a piece of wood or slab of meat that has a distinct grain to it, so does prayer. “Praying to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit is not just the ‘theologically correct’ way to pray but a way of praying that draws real spiritual power from being aligned with reality. The reality is that Christian prayer is already tacitly Trinitarian, whether we recognize it or not. Aligning with it means praying with the grain instead of against it.”[1] The “grain” that Sanders mentions runs from the Spirit through the Son to the Father. Prayer designed by God has the built-in structure of mediation and directionality that has been there and more than likely we have been missing.

Prayer follows a standard that reflects the order of the Trinity.[2] It is important to know what those roles are and how the roles of each Person of the Trinity are distinguished. We pray to the Father because He has absolute and uncontested supremacy, including authority over the Son and the Spirit. Yet, as finite creatures, the only way we can come to the Father is on the basis of Christ, who alone is the Mediator between God and men. We come in His name by His authority because of His grace. The words “In Jesus’ name, Amen,” are not empty words we tack on at the end of prayer, but are the difference between a prayer that reaches the Father and just mere words. The only way we come to the Father, in the name of Jesus, is by the power of the Spirit inside of us conforming us into the likeness of Christ helping us honor Christ by praying the will of Christ for His kingdom.[3] That is why we must pray at all times “in the Spirit.” Thus, Christian prayer recognizes the eternal order reflected in the Trinitarian relations among the Persons of the Godhead.[4]

[1] Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 212.

[2] Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles & Relevance, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 153.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Prayer: Why it is good

Our series, “Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer” continues today as we look more at prayer and why it is good to pray. As we discussed in the previous post, prayer is what helps us connect with the Almighty. It allows us to talk things over with Him and discuss life, including our trials, hardships and joys. Prayer is one of the most useful and greatest tools a Christian has, yet it often times goes unused. Hopefully, this will help us to see the importance of prayer and remember that prayer is a two way conversation, not just a one way. 

Why Pray

God is our inexhaustible reservoir of hope and help. We admit our poverty and desperate need for God and His abundance. “Prayer highly exalts and glorifies God precisely by pursuing everything we long for in Him, and not in ourselves.”[1] Prayer is one of the main ways a Christian can stay in fellowship with God and it allows the Christian to ask God the Father for anything they think they might need (John 15:7, 16). Jesus promises that those prayers will be answered if offered in Jesus’ name and in accordance to the will of God. Prayer is a way to “call upon me [God] in that day of trouble” (Psalm 50:15) and “cast all our anxieties” (1 Pet 5:7) on God as we seek His help.

Although acts of kindness and service are a necessary part of Christian life, they must always be informed by prayer, which is the highest form of Christian action. Donald Bloesch writes, “It can be said that the glory of God is the goal of prayer; social service is the fruit or consequence of prayer.”[2] Prayer is a crucial means God uses to bring us to understand the church’s task. Through prayer bathed in the Scriptures, we discern God’s will in the situations we face….as we petition the coming of God’s rule, the Spirit illumines our minds to see what the will of God might mean for the social structures of our world.”[3]

Prayer helps the believer to pursue God’s glory in service and submission, pursue the joy only found in God, and empowers the believer to love. But prayer is more than just those key ideas or concepts; it also provides resources for battle against spiritual warfare.[4]  “Prayer is a walkie-talkie for warfare, not a domestic intercom for increasing our conveniences. The point of prayer is empowering” for a believers mission (Col 4:3; Rom 15:30-31; 2 Thes 3:1; Matt 9:38).[5] Paul declares that life is a battle not against flesh and blood but against the dark world and the evil spiritual forces (Eph 6:12). He encourages the believer to put on the “full armor of God” to fight and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph 6:18). A key result of prayer is invoking the Spirit’s presence into the life of a Christian to fight the daily battles, empowering them in their ministry.

[1] Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 231.

[2] Donald G Bloesch, The Struggle of Prayer, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980), 131-32.

[3] Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 509.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Piper, Desiring God, 178.