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In a recent Pentecostal prayer meeting I attended, one member, who was a leader in the church, began his prayer with "Holy Spirit, please...", offering up requests for healing, instruction, and gracious distribution of faith.

I was a bit surprised, as I'm familiar with Biblical instruction for (and myself say) prayers directed to "Our Father in Heaven."

What is an overview of the practices of Christian denominations regarding the proper direction of prayer?

  • Near duplicate. I've never heard anyone pray to the Holy Spirit, but I have heard people say in worship "Holy Spirit come." – fredsbend Aug 30 '14 at 4:41
  • @fredsbend no, not near duplicate. "What is 2+5" and "What is the area of a circle with radius 7/(2pi)" are also not near duplicates. – Andrew Aug 30 '14 at 4:48
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    @fredsbend, I think the question "What is an overview of the practices of Christian denominations regarding the proper direction of prayer?" makes this one unique. – david brainerd Aug 30 '14 at 5:14
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    @Bubbles and Andrew - please refrain from discussing things in comments. I'm deleting that conversation. – David Stratton Aug 31 '14 at 5:34
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How does the Bible teach us to direct our prayers?

In Scripture we read in the Lord's Prayer that we should pray in this manner, "Our Father which art in heaven..." (Matthew 6:9) and in John 16 that we should pray in Jesus' name. We can also mention 1st Peter 1:17 in this context, "And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:" which assumes that prayer is offered to the Father. There is nothing else taught on this subject. However, both Stephen and John do make a short exclamatory sort of prayer to Jesus after seeing a vision of Jesus, namely in Acts 7:59 "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." and Revelation 22:20 "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." There are no prayers addressed to the Holy Ghost in scripture that I can see (correct me in the comments if you know of one).

What is an overview of the practices of Christian denominations regarding the proper direction of prayer?

I don't think the difference in practice today breaks down by denomination so much as the different views on the Trinity.

In the church of Christ we pray only to the Father in Jesus' name (although I've heard some in public prayer throw in a "Jesus we love you"). But we aren't credal, so we don't accept or enforce any creed like the Athanasian Creed. We go by that motto "no creed but the Bible." As a result there are different views on the Trinity held among us, but in the mainstream I'd say nobody is an Athanasian Trinitarian but only Subordinationist Trinitarians. That is, rather than holding the Father and Son to be "coequal" (as in the Athanasian Creed) or that "in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another" (again, the Athanasian Creed) we acknowledge that the Father is greater than the Son and higher in order or hierarchy, as we read in 1st Corinthians 11:3 "the head of Christ is God," and as Christ says in John 14:28 "My Father is greater than I." Paul also says "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" in 1 Corinthians 15:24, which shows a sort of hierarchical relationship between the Father and Son. This is one obvious reason why the practice of praying to Jesus or the Holy Spirit has not gained much currency.

Strict Athanasian Trinitarians, however, who hold to that creed, because they believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be "coequal" and that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity, will have a much higher tendency to pray to each Person of the Trinity independently, especially since the creed says "we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord". If you hold to that, you are likely to end up considering it unfair to pray to only one Person of the Trinity, and thus would pray to all three.

Now Oneness Pentecostals, being modalists (that is, believing that God is only one Person, namely Jesus Christ, and that he goes by the names of Father and Holy Ghost sometimes) will not see praying to Jesus or the Holy Ghost as at all different from praying to the Father, since in their mind, all three are one and the same person.

  • I learnt something. Thank you. Nice answer +1. Might not agree but that is not the point. – gideon marx Aug 30 '14 at 10:39
  • @davidbrainerd Is this an overview of the practices of Christian denominations regarding the proper direction of prayer? Please show that this covers say Catholicism, etc. – user13992 Aug 30 '14 at 23:24
  • @FMShyanguya, I think Catholicism is more or less covered under the Strict Athanasian category. But of course Catholicism is more complicated because prayers to saints and angels are allowed, so it goes well beyond just extending prayer from the Father to the whole Trinity, to extending it to those who are not God in any sense, which is why I didn't get into it...it would take this a bit off topic I think. – david brainerd Aug 31 '14 at 1:08
  • @FMShyanguya, I will note I think the missal in use prior to Vatican II had prayers addressed directly to Jesus that have been removed in the new missal where they sought to have all prayer directed to the Father. But still, in the Catholic liturgy, prayer is made not just in Jesus' name but "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" right? – david brainerd Aug 31 '14 at 1:12
  • I think this is the gist of the available positions, but to give a real birds eye view of the territory you should probably include a note about the relative size of each category as far as adherence goes and note where the major branches tend to fit in. – Caleb Aug 31 '14 at 7:51
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well, since the Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father, and Jesus of Nazareth who appeared on this planet some 2000 years ago are all God and there is One God, then i am not so sure what it matters (of which name is used).

since God knows our needs for healing, instruction, and gracious distribution of anything before we even know these needs, it seems to me that what's at least as important as supplication in prayer is listening in prayer. when we pray, we need to listen. God knows what we need without our telling Him (but we should ask anyway, me thinks).

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How does the Bible teach us to direct our prayers?

And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Luke 11:1-2 (KJV)

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
John 14:13 (KJV)

There seems to be a biblical basis for praying either to Jesus or to the Father.

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
John 14:11 (KJV)

The ministry of the Holy Spirit seems unidirectional. It does not seem that there is a biblical basis for praying to the Holy Spirit.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
John 16:13 (KJV)

  • I have edited your post for formatting and made links to BibleGateway.com for the scripture. Though this is not required, I think it makes for a better, more impactful post. Click edit to inspect the markdown and see how this was done. – fredsbend Sep 16 '14 at 20:09
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What is an overview of the practices of Christian denominations regarding the proper direction of prayer? plus How does the Bible teach us to direct our prayers?


Answer

This answer has drawn from what is common among the The United Methodist Church, Calvary Baptist Church, and Lutheran ecclesial communities and the Catholic Church in ascending order, based on the number of members.

An overview of and what is common and biblically based to these Christians regarding the proper direction of prayer is that prayer, which ought to be humble and from the heart, is directed to God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, when the one praying raises their mind and heart to God in conversation or request things from God.

One can pray to the Father (he is primarily the one addressed in prayer e.g. as in the Our Father), to the Father through the Son (cf. through Christ Our Lord), to the Son (e.g. 'Lord help me.'), and to the Holy Spirit (to teach us to pray - it is by him in us that we can say Abba!, Father!).


Please see the sources:

And

The Catholic Perspective

Please see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2663-2682.

2680 Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father; it can also be directed toward Jesus, particularly by the invocation of his holy name: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners."

2681 "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord', except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). The Church invites us to invoke the Holy Spirit as the interior Teacher of Christian prayer.

Please see also Catechism of Church, Part 4 Christian Prayer especially CCC, 2559:

2559 "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God."[St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3,24:PG 94,1089C.] But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or "out of the depths" of a humble and contrite heart?[Ps 130:1.] He who humbles himself will be exalted;[cf. Lk 18:9-14.] humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought,"[Rom 8:26.] are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God."[St. Augustine, Sermo 56,6,9:PL 38,381.]

And

To whom may we pray in Prayer | New Advent.

  • I guess those are the only parts relevant while most of the others aren't really relevant? – Zoe Sep 6 '14 at 1:47

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