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.

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.

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.

Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer

Throughout these past few months, we have looked at various terms and definitions that are pertinent to knowing about the Trinity, its development through the years, the trustworthiness, and its foundation to faith. Over the next few posts, all these things will come together as we look at what it means to delight in the Trinity and what Trinitarian prayer looks like. Many times, our prayers may not reflect a Trinitarian model.

So what to expect? More information will be put forth on each member of the Trinity taking many of the terms we looked at and putting it all together. After that, a model of prayer will be set forth that will hopefully be helpful for all of us in talking to the Triune God. Finally, I will show how this relates to my own life and how I intend to apply it.

Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer

The path into the kingdom is open. All the barriers have been removed and the King himself eagerly awaits your presence. He knows that you have something to say. He has heard your cries and wants to hear your petitions. Then you realize how inadequate you are and think, “Who am I to talk to the King?” How does one even begin to talk to the powerful King about requests that are important to a few, but are very small when compared to the business of the kingdom? Do you talk directly to Him? Are you supposed to talk to the royal publicist who will then talk to the King? Are you to talk at all? You then realize that you are before the great throne of the King and have no idea what to do with this honor.

In many cases, Christians will take the great honor of praying to the Almighty Father and truly not know or understand how to pray to the Triune God. How are Christians to pray? Do we talk directly to the Father? Or do we pray to the Son, Jesus Christ? What about the Holy Spirit? Do we pray to Him? Is it wrong to pray to the Spirit? For many, including myself, the privilege of praying to God is often taken for granted; and many times, our prayers to God do not follow a Trinitarian model. We will pray to the Father thanking Him for dying on a cross, or we pray to Jesus calling Him “Abba.” The writer intends to answer these questions and provide the reader with a model of Trinitarian prayer. Prayer is to step into the great throne room of the King of kings, who eagerly desires to have a conversation with all of us, and for us to humbly kneel in awe of the Triune God and talk to our heavenly Father through the Son and in the Spirit.