Monday, June 09, 2008

Protestants (Trinitarians) Who Forbid Prayer to the Holy Spirit and/or to Jesus (Sola Scriptura Reductio ad Absurdum)



In the previous paper posted on this blog: The Lack of Prayer to the Holy Spirit in the NT as an Analogy to the Invocation and Intercession of the Saints and Angels ("Adomnan"), I wrote:
Protestants will argue that they see nothing explicit or direct in the New Testament about asking saints to pray for us (I've compiled much indirect argumentation, and some arguably direct, but unreasonably rejected as such by Protestants). "Adomnan": a Catholic commenter on my blog, made the argument in one of my comboxes that this is also true of prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, by analogy, if direct biblical proof is required for invoking saints and asking them to pray for us, then by analogy, it is required for prayer to the Holy Spirit as well. But it is lacking there, too. Therefore (taking this Protestant reasoning to its logical conclusion), prayer to the Holy Spirit should also be forbidden. Ergo: one can't forbid intercession of the saints without also prohibiting prayer to the Holy Spirit.

As this "proves too much" and is what is called a reductio ad absurdum in classical logic, the Protestant must then abandon his undue demand that express biblical proofs are required for the notion of asking saints to pray for us. In fact, both cases are perfectly permissible, and both are based on an abundance of indirect or deductive biblical data. . . . See my related paper, Prayer to Jesus in the NT / Prayer to All Three Persons in the Trinity (Perichoresis / Circumincession).
Adomnan noted also:

I would not be surprised if there were in fact some Puritan sola scripturists who refused to pray to the Holy Spirit and who "invoked Jesus's name" but did not otherwise pray to him.
This intriguing sub-theme theme was then resumed in the combox for the post:
Yes, there are some Evangelicals who say that one should not pray to the Holy Spirit - only to the Father in Jesus' Name. An online search would probably produce a few examples.

We know a Messianic Jew who told us, more than a decade ago, that there was something "irregular" about prayer to the Holy Spirit. Even though he certainly believed (and still believes) that the Holy Spirit is God.

(Rosemarie: 6-8-08)

I had a hunch that some sola scriptura evangelicals would reject prayer to the Holy Spirit (and even prayer directly to Jesus Christ) as unbiblical. Your research shows that such opinions are in fact held.

(Adomnan: 6-8-08)

In the Bible Church/Plymouth Brethren assembly I grew up in, we didn't pray to the Holy Spirit and we didn't Worship Him either, removing verses from songs that did so. The Elders of course believed these things to be unbiblical.

And this is the main reason I requested conditional baptism when entering the Church.

(Chad Toney: 6-9-08)

Very interesting, Chad. Now, I'm very curious as to how many Protestant groups take this line. Church of Christ might be another because they pride themselves on believing only explicitly "biblical" things.

How, then, do any such groups have a Bible, since the books of the NT are never listed in the Bible itself?

(Me: 6-9-08)
Rosemarie and Nick then started to provide actual (linked) examples of Protestants who believe in this fashion, which formed the genesis for this paper. I looked up some more examples to add to the growing list. I heartily thank all those who have contributed to this topic!

[1] Should we pray to the Holy Spirit?� No, we are told to pray to God, and we are also told we can pray to Jesus. But we are never told to pray to the Holy Spirit. This is because it is His work to move on our hearts to repent, pray to God, and seek guidance, help, and answers to specific needs and emergencies.

(Seventh-Day Adventist Page: "Praying for the Holy Spirit," May 2007)

[2] Should we pray to God? The answer is yes, because Jesus encourages us to pray to God the Father (see below). We can also pray to Jesus, because the early church prayed to Jesus. But we are never encouraged to pray to the Holy Spirit nor are there any examples of people praying to the Holy Spirit?

("Never Thirsty" Protestant ministry: "Bible Questions and Answers")

[3] Jesus Himself prayed to the Father, and consistently instructed His disciples to ask the Father in His name (Mt. 6:6,9, John 14:13-14; John 16:16,23,26).1 John 2: 6 says, Anyone who says he abides in [Jesus] ought to walk just as Jesus walked. If "walking" here is meant to include "praying", then we also ought to pray to the Father just as Jesus did.

Many of the disciples' prayers in the book of Acts are addressed to the Lord (Acts 1:24, 4:24,29, 8:24, 10:14, 13:2,47, 15:17,17:24-27). But ‘Lord" is an honorific title which can refer either to Jesus or His Father. In many of these instances, it is clear from the context that ‘Lord’ refers to the Father. Still, there are a few places in Acts where Jesus is seen in a vision and addressed directly (Acts 7:55-59; 9:4-5, 10-17; 22:18-19). However, these are clearly exceptional cases, and not to be taken as the norm for our daily prayer.

The Apostle Paul’s prayers in the book of Ephesians are addressed specifically to the Father (Eph. 1:17, 3:14, 5:20). Elsewhere Paul’s prayers are addressed to God (2 Cor. 13:7) -- and Paul consistently refers to the Father as God, and to Christ as Lord (1 Cor. 8:6, Col 1:3, 2 Thess. 1:11).

The weight of Scripture thus appears to favor praying to God the Father. Then why do so many Christians pray to Jesus? Quite likely they feel more comfortable speaking to Jesus because they feel closer to Him. The Gospels acquaint us personally with Jesus, and we can visualize Him much more readily than His Father. A Christian may reason: "Shouldn’t we speak to Jesus, just as His disciples did while He was on the earth? For Jesus Himself said, ‘I am with you always’". Though this reasoning certainly makes sense, I can find no direct Biblical validation of this viewpoint.

In any event, I don’t imagine that God snubs our prayers when we address them to Jesus. Probably Jesus just smiles and passes the word on to His Father, just as we smile and excuse a child or foreigner when (s)he makes a faux pas at a social gathering. However, we should learn the correct social graces as we become more familiar with His society in prayer. For our address influences our relationships: and the more we address the Father directly, the more we shall grow in appreciation, understanding, intimacy, and love of Him.

("Cross Pollen" ministry: "Prayer Etiquette," 1998)

[4] We are to pray to God the Father in Jesus' name because Jesus is the Advocate and Intercessor between Spirit-filled believers and God the Father. . . .

Many pastors and churches use the excuse that prayer to Jesus is OK because He is one in the Godhead. They claim this is the same as praying to the Father. This doctrine is false for reasons stated above. Others use the excuse that grace gives a license to pray to Jesus alone, but this excuse is false doctrine also. . . .

Prayer in the modern Christian church is in a state of severe apostasy. Christian in centuries past did not address prayer directly to Jesus as many do today because it is contrary to Scripture. Pastors and people have drifted away from a proper prayer format against all clear instructions given in Scripture. . . .

We are not to pray to Jesus but are to pray to God in Jesus' name. Jesus told us to pray to God the Father in heaven. Jesus never asked his followers or disciples to pray to Him. There are no example in the Bible of any prayer being directed to Jesus. The Apostles never prayed to Jesus. . . .

We certainly can direct praise and thanksgiving to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit during a prayer to God in Jesus' name, but the focus of our prayer should be toward God in the name of the Son as stated in Scripture.

("Bible Life Ministries," "What is a Proper Style or Format For Biblical Prayer? . . . Is Prayer Addressed to Jesus Proper?")
[5] I do not know of any Scripture that tells us to worship or "pray to" the Holy Spirit. Nor, for that matter, do we pray TO "Jesus." We pray to the Father, in "Jesus' name." (Mt6:6, Jn16:26, 2Cor13:7, Acts12:5, Rom10:1) Specifically, we are told to make our supplications "to God." (Phil4:6) The word "God" means, the "Father."
Now, just one other argument from logic for not praying to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who helps us pray. "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom8:26) If it is the Spirit who helps us pray...why would we pray "to" the One who helps us pray? The Spirit is obviously not going to pray "to" Himself.
("A Voice in the Wilderness" ministry, ""Holy Spirit")

[6] Are prayers addressed to the saints?

No. God the Father is considered the only one to whom the prayers may be addressed. It is further understood that Christ stands in a mediatorial position between God and man (Hebrews 7:25). All prayers are therefore offered through Christ, or in the name of Christ (John 16:23-26).


("Who Are the Churches of Christ and What Do They Believe In?," Batsell Barrett Baxter)

[7] Principles of Prayer

Prayer is for Christian believers only. One can address God as Father only as a member of the family of God. John 1:12; Gal. 3:26

Prayer should be directed to God the Father. Eph. 5:20; Matt. 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17

Prayer should be made in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:13: 15:16

The power for prayer is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Eph. 6:18 Prayer is never made to the Holy Spirit.

("Grace Notes," Warren Doud, "Prayer")

[8] All prayer should be addressed to the Father.

1. There is no example in the Bible of one praying to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit.

[Dave: Not so; I found six in my paper on this very topic]

2. Christ in the God Head is the Son. The Father is the head and is to receive all honor.

[That's not true, either. Jesus expressly states that "all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." (John 5:23: RSV). Also, Jesus is given "honor" (Gk. time) equally with the Father in the book of Revelation: cf. 5:12-13 with 4:9-11 ans 7:12]

3. The Bible says that Jesus stands between us and God and intercedes for us.

4. The Holy Spirit aids us in prayer. Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

5. To pray to Christ or to the Holy Spirit is to misunderstand the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Christ prayed not my will, but thine be done oh Lord and the Holy Spirit is the "Paraclete" meaning "one called along side" to help in prayer.

Jesus prayed to the Father and He told us to do likewise. "Our Father who art in Heaven."

a. It was the Father who sent His son into the world, that the world might be saved.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

b. It was the Father who sent the Holy Spirit to minister and indwell man.

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16)

[Evidence of the Trinity: John 16:7 says "I will send Him to you."]

It is disrespectful to pray to Christ or the Holy Spirit. I am sure that the Lord understands because often people are not taught the truth and many do not study the Bible for themselves.

[That's quite odd, since Jesus Himself, Stephen, and Paul did not know this, as they either alluded to prayer to Jesus or did it themselves]

("The Model Prayer: Part One: Matthew 6:9," Cooper P. Abrams III)

[9] The hierarchy of Father-Son-Spirit is clearly illustrated by the process that God has ordained for hearing and answering the prayers of His children. Namely...

* Jesus commanded that all prayers should be addressed to the Father

* Prayers to the Father are to be made in Jesus' name

* As we pray, Jesus serves as Advocate and Mediator of our prayers to the Father

* As we pray, the Holy Spirit prays along with us, so that even our "bad" prayers are righteous before God

(Aloha Bible.Net: Bible Bell Chronicles: "Mailbag, Page 10")

[10] It is common to find praying to Jesus being practiced in the denominational world. One even observes prayer to the Holy Spirit, Mary, and to various "saints," in some circles. There is no doubt about the efficacy of prayer (Phili. 4: 6, 7, I Jn. 3: 20-22). However, does it matter to whom prayer is addressed and is there any relevant teaching to guide the Christian in the matter of how to direct prayer? (We must have Bible authority for all practiced, I Pet. 4: 11, 2 Jn. 9-11.) It is an incontrovertible Bible fact that the Godhead is actively involved in prayer. God the Father is seen as being addressed; God the Son is presented as the advocate for the praying Christian; and God the Holy Spirit is observed as making intercession for the Christian and assisting in the articulation of prayer (Matt. 6: 9-15, Eph. 3: 14; I Jn. 2: 1, 1: 9; Rom. 8: 26). To be plain, prayer to Mary, Peter, or certain saints is not even hinted at in the scriptures. Hence, such practices are without Bible authority and should be rejected. After a similar fashion, there is no teaching in the Bible pertaining to prayer to the Holy Spirit. The Christian does not pray to the Holy Spirit because a special work of intercession is assigned to the Spirit in the assisting and approaching the Father relative to the prayers of the Christian and because we are told that the Father is addressed as opposed to the Holy Spirit. Prayer is to the Father and through Jesus (Rom. 1: 8, 7: 25). The fact that the Holy Spirit is deity is irrelevant. The Bible presents a pattern in prayer and role for each member of the Godhead. However, we are told that while the Bible does not teach prayer to Mary or different saints, prayer to Jesus is taught. The proponents of prayer to Jesus tell us that authority for praying to Jesus is established in three ways: the examples of prayer to Jesus; arguments that authorize prayer to Jesus, and by express teaching.

(Bible Truths: Don Martin: "Prayer Addressed to Jesus"; much more argumentation is on this page beyond what I have cited)
Campus Crusade for Christ is an example of the mainstream Protestant position (that agrees with the Catholic one): "But since God is one God, manifested in three persons, it is perfectly acceptable to pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit."

The mainstream, "Reformation" doctrine of sola Scriptura, and the one held by most Protestant theologians and thinkers, holds that Scripture is the only infallible authority for doctrine. The extreme of this position (sometimes known by Protestants themselves as solO Scriptura) holds that everything must be explicitly mentioned in the Bible in order to be believed. We see such a mentality in groups such as the Churches of Christ, and in the examples above.

The vast majority of Protestants, however, would hold with Catholics that there are many doctrines and practices not explicitly taught by Holy scripture, but nevertheless "biblical" or "scriptural" insofar as they can be straightforwardly deduced from biblical data. Prayer to the Holy Spirit is one of these. It never explicitly appears in Scripture (that I could find, anyway), but it is a biblical doctrine, by the following reasoning:
1) The Holy Trinity is true, and taught in Scripture (many direct and indirect proofs; also the denial of same would lead to massive biblical self-contradiction).

2) Thus, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God.

3) The Holy Spirit is God.

4) God can receive and answer prayer.

5) Therefore, the Holy Spirit can be prayed to.
See also my papers compiling massive biblical data concerning the deity or divinity of Jesus and the Holy Trinity.

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