To Whom Shall We Pray?

‘And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:26).’

While participating with my friends on Twitter, someone asked the question, “To whom does a Christian pray?” It seems pretty obvious it is to God, but there was some confusion. They were asking if one should pray directly to God the Father or to Jesus His Son or to the Holy Spirit. Some said you never pray to the Spirit, but always to the Father, through or by the Spirit. Others said you pray to Jesus who is the Advocate who presents your prayers and petitions to the Father. He is the One who makes them acceptable to His Father, and pleads to Him on your behalf. You pray in His name for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3; 1 John 2:12), and ultimately every prayer is said *to the glory of God.

If we examine prayers that have been said by the saints of the Old and the New Testaments we should come up with a positive answer to the question, “To whom does a Christian pray?”

Prayers in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament the first instance of the mention of prayer is in Genesis 4:26, which says, ‘ …. men began to call upon the name of the LORD. This is Jehovah, the self-existent, eternal God; the God to whom Moses prayed these words: ‘“LORD why does Your wrath burn against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand (Exodus 32:11)?”’ It’s straightforward; he prayed to the LORD who is Jehovah, the self-existent eternal God.

Daniel prayed in Aramaic to the same God who was the God of his fathers. He said,“I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For you have made known to us the king’s demand (Daniel 2:23).”’  He prayed this prayer to the Almighty God, his ‘elahh.

In Old Testament times God gave the Holy Spirit on a temporary basis to certain individuals to enable them to carry out special tasks. He would anoint them with the Holy Spirit (Cf. Samuel 16:14) for their empowerment. King Saul was one such person, and he prophesied as a result (1 Samuel:10:6, 11), but there is no record or him praying ‘in the Spirit (Cf. Ephesians 6:18)’; Jude 1:20). He did, however, pray to God, enquiring of Him, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hands of Israel?” ……. (1 Samuel 14:37).’

Many other Old Testament characters such as Moses and Aaron prayed to the LORD. One of the more famous prayers is that of King Solomon, when he stood before the altar of the LORD at the dedication of the temple. He said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts (1 Kings 8:23).” This long prayer of praise and supplication continues until verse 53 where Solomon concludes by asking His LORD to listen to his prayer because it was for His people whom He had brought out of Egypt, according to the promise He made to Moses.

Prayers in the New Testament

When instructing the Disciples as to how to pray, Jesus told them to pray to His Father, just as He did (Luke 22:42; 23:34; John 17:1). He said,“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come (Matthew 6:9, f.f.).”’

A revealing insight into New Testament prayer can be found in 1 Corinthians 14:15, where Paul instructs the church that it is more profitable to pray with the spirit and with understanding, than with a **tongue which cannot be understood, unless there is an interpreter. He notes that speaking in a tongue is a spiritual gift (V.V. 1, 2). The one praying normally prays, ’with the spirit,’ and, ‘with the understanding.’ Spirit’ with a small ’s’, as in this instance, means a person’s ‘rational soul’ – not the Holy Spirit. Praying with ‘the understanding’ means ‘with the intellect.’ So the one praying to God (V. 2) speaks intelligibly as he normally does. In this way he can be understood by those who have gathered with him in prayer, thus enabling them to add their ‘amens’ if they so wish.

Interestingly, Stephen when he was being stoned to death, prayed to ‘Lord Jesus’, i.e., his Master Jesus. Here are his words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59, 60).’

Paul also prayed to the Lord. He explained to the Corinthians, ‘Concerning this thing [a thorn in the flesh] I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9).”

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church advocating they should pray ‘in the Spirit’ with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).’ Unlike the Corinthian passage mentioned above (1 Corinthians 14:15), where Paul spoke of praying ‘with the spirit’, in this instance the praying is under the influence of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the words are given to the speaker from the Spirit. The one praying ‘breathes’ them out. This is Holy Spirit generated prayer from one who has received the Spirit (Cf. John 20:22).

Paul and Silas prayed directly to God, as recorded in Acts 16:25: ‘But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.’ This is a demonstration of Spirit generated prayer. It was done in faith (Mark 11:23, 24; James 1:6) and God acted accordingly.


God hears our prayers (1 John 5:14), and in post-Pentecostal times, we Christians have the Holy Spirit who indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19); therefore we can pray ‘in the Spirit’ or ‘with our spirit’. And we are free to pray directly to our Father, just as Jesus has taught us. Because we have a personal ***relationship with our Lord, we can also pray directly to Him (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:8).

The Holy Spirit gives life to those who are spiritually dead (John 3:3-8). He empowers (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 2:4) and He leads (Romans 8:14). He also sends (Acts 13:4), but I cannot find an instance in the Bible where ii is mentioned that He he has been prayed to. He lives within us and He is our Helper (John 16:7) who helps us pray.

Paul exhorts us to: ‘take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints- (Ephesians 6:18).’

Please take note that ‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16b).’

*Do All to the Glory of God

**Speaking Tongues

***God/Man Relationships

About thebiblicalway

I am a Christian by the grace of God. Ephesians 2:8, 9 Jesus loves me and I love Him. I love my wife, my family and my larger family, the true Church of God.
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