Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.
The Trinity and Prayer
In our previous articles, we established that the members of Trinity are all Divine. The classic phrase used by the Church to describe the Trinity is "One God. Three persons. Co-equal. Co-eternal." We saw that in salvation, the members of the Trinity, while all equal in person and in purpose, play different roles. The Father elects, the Son redeems and the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life (regenerates).
If there are unique roles of the Trinity in salvation, are there other areas of the Christian life where the Trinity is operative? Of course, whenever one member of the Trinity is at work, they are united. However, a particular action originating in the God-head is expressed or activated through one of the members of the God-head. We can also see this in the area of prayer.
Matthew chapter 5 records a long discourse of Jesus where He is teaching and giving instructions on many topics. The chapter opens with what some call the beatitudes. The series of teachings continues on to the end of chapter 7. In chapter 6, we have instructions on prayer and even an example of how to pray. Jesus tells his disciples in verse 9 "Pray, then, this way, Our Father..." In John chapter 17, we again see Jesus addressing His prayer to the Father.
We can see numerous times in the Gospels where Jesus instructs His disciples to pray to the Father.
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you."
This seems to be the normative model that we have for prayer. There are pleas in the Bible made to the other members of the God-head. For example, in Revelation 22:20 the writer says “Come, Lord Jesus.” It must be noted that this is not so much a prayer but rather a plea. This is not a structured petition to the God-head or an offering of praise. Rather, the writer is simply crying out in agreement with the word he has heard and as an appeal.
The Holy Spirit
John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever”
At conversion, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life and forever is with us. He enables us to mortify sin and assists us in all acts of the Christian life. This includes our life of prayer.
Ephesians 6:18 “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints”
We have many commands in the New Testament that speak about the relationship between the Christian and the Holy Spirit. We are told to “walk in the Spirit” and to “worship in the Spirit.” Now the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray in the Spirit.” The emphasis here is not upon some mystical or magical operation that we have no control over. To be in the Spirit is not to be in an ecstatic state. Neither is praying in the Spirit an emotional state. There are some who will confuse a loud voice or a passionate plea as evidence of being in the Spirit. Granted, there are times when our emotions are expressed in our prayers. This is right and good. But the point is that emotions alone are not the measure of being in the Spirit.
Rather, the reference to being in the Spirit emphasis our unity with the God-head and our submission to God. So then to pray in the Spirit is to pray in submission to God and in agreement with His revealed will. Being born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we should be in agreement with and submissive to what God has said in His Word.
Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”
This should be very encouraging to all Christians. There are times in our lives when we are overwhelmed, perplexed and confused. There are even times in our prayers when we are selfish and pray wrongly. As the Apostle James says, we sometimes as “amiss” or with wrong motives (James 4:3). But the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to say or how to say it. The Holy Spirit is acceptable to God even when our prayers are wrong. God hears us because the Holy Spirit is acting on our behalf.
Hebrews 7:25 "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them."
It is by the work of Christ that we have access to the Father. The Scripture is clear that Jesus is the only way and the only mediator between God and man. We are accepted before the God-head because of the work of Christ. Jesus dies for our sins. Jesus removes the guilt and satisfies the justice of God. And we are clothed in His righteousness. When the Father sees us, there is a sense in which He sees the completed work of Christ to adopt us into a relationship with Him.
Even in our failures and sins, Christ continues to plead our case before the Judge. Because of the work of Christ to save us and to plead for us, we can now come boldly before the throne of grace.
The Father receives our request, the Holy Spirit assists us and Jesus Christ is the means by which our prayers come before the Father