On Praying (or Singing) to the Holy Spirit: Part 3

O God the Holy Spirit,

That which I know not, teach thou me,

Keep me a humble disciple in the school of Christ.

~ The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

 The question of praying or singing to the Holy Spirit has led us to see that this question does not apply to “new” hymns and songs alone; rather it has been an element throughout hymnody in the past.  My last post considered some of the theological issues that need to be considered.  This final post will consider whether or not there is any textual warrant for the practice of addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer or praise. 

Even if one agrees with the theological analysis above, he will still be hesitant to concede on textual grounds.  The oft recited “fact” is that there is no example in the Scriptures of prayers being directed to the Holy Spirit.  This assertion can be challenged, especially when we extend communication between man and God to include the benedictions found within the New Testament. 

            A benediction is simply an invocation directed toward God for blessing.  Harper’s Bible Dictionary expresses the definition more fully as “a prayer for God’s blessing on someone or a prayer recognizing that blessing has been given” (emphasis mine). 

  • II Cor. 13:14 – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
  • Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.
    •  Albert Barnes writes of this benediction, “It is a prayer; and if it is a prayer addressed to God, it is no less so to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit.”[1]
    •  Charles Hodge comments, “The distinct personality and the divinity of the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, to each of whom prayer is addressed, is here taken for granted.” (emphasis mine)[2]
    •  Loraine Boettner says of this text that it “is a prayer addressed to Christ for His grace, to the Father for His love, and to the Holy Spirit for His fellowship.”[3]
    • B.B. Warfield describes this benediction as a “closing prayer,”[4] and Augustus Strong observes, “If the apostolic benedictions are prayers, then we have here a prayer to the Spirit.”[5]

Three factors must be considered in order to evaluate as to whether prayer should or should not be offered to the Spirit. 

1. Prayer to the Holy Spirit is nowhere forbidden in the Scripture

2. Prayer to the Holy Spirit is the natural consequence of prayer directed toward the Trinity. The ontological nature of the Trinity demands this consequence.

3. Prayer to the Holy Spirit is demonstrated through the example of apostolic benediction. Granted, one must agree as to whether or not a benediction is a prayer, but the burden to prove otherwise is certainly great.

Concluding remarks:

            It is right to observe the primary functions of each Person of the Godhead with reference to prayer.  We do direct our prayers to the Father primarily, through the Spirit, in the name of the Son.  However, one must further understand that when prayer is directed to the LORD or to God generically then the normative economic activities of each Person in prayer are assumed.  Furthermore, one may contend that Scripture allows and exemplifies prayer directly to each Person of the Trinity because of their ontological equality.  Should an ontological equality overrule our sense of the Trinity’s economic function?  No.  For this reason, a caution is given.  It may not be the best reflection of the working order of Trinity to routinely be addressing in prayer the Persons of the Trinity other than the Father.  God the Father should be the primary addressee.  However, when prayers include triadic formulations focusing on the specific function of each person, it almost obligates the one praying to address the economic functions of each person by appealing to their ontological reality. Apparently this was an apostolic practice that should not be prohibited today.

[1] Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament – II Corinthians and Galatians (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1955), 274.

[2] Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New York:  Robert Carter& Bros., 1860), 314. 

[3] Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1953), 92. 

[4] Benjamin Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies (Philadelphia:  Presbyterian & Reformed, 1952), 46.

[5] Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ:  Fleming Revell, 1907), 316.


2 thoughts on “On Praying (or Singing) to the Holy Spirit: Part 3

  1. Thanks, Phil. I was hoping you would be able to read it, especially since I know you have been doing quite a bit of research and dialogue concerning Trinitarian theology. I would welcome any adjustments to my thinking. As I replied previously to another comment, I’m not fully satisfied with my own verbage and formulation when addressing the relationship between the ontological and economic aspects of the Trinity.

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