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Question and Answer

I have a friend who says we should pray only to the Father, not Jesus or the Holy Spirit. According to my friend, the Lord’s Prayer is the basis for this. Is it wrong for me to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

The Lord’s Prayer gives us a pattern of approaching the Lord. The pattern begins with acknowledging God as our Father, which for a first- century Jewish person would have meant simply acknowledging the one true God. The Father is the “one God” to the people of Israel who would have acknowledged Him in the daily reciting of The Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–9.

However, believers in the early church commonly cried out to the Lord Jesus. For example, when Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Immediately he again prayed to Jesus, saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (v. 60). In one of his benedictions Paul prayed, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17). This prayer is directed to both God the Father and Jesus. Paul’s inclusion of such language means that the Father approves of Jesus receiving the same prayers as He does.

Most importantly, Jesus said to His disciples: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). Jesus’ expectation was that His followers would pray directly to Him or the Father, for He and the Father are one. We can pray to the Lord Jesus, in His name, and expect that He will hear our prayers. There are no New Testament examples of praying to the Holy Spirit. However, in keeping with the working of the Spirit and His role in redemption, and in conjunction with His full deity, it would not be out of bounds to ask Him to fill you or a group of believers with His power, or to pray that He might bring revival to lost places around the world (see Acts 13:52; Eph. 5:18).

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as an assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Mens’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).

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