To Whom Do You Pray?

Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch. (Ps 5:1-3)

To whom are you speaking when you pray?

I am sure you have your reasons and your habits for how you address the Deity; Christians who pray generally do. But when you utter "Lord," "Heavenly Father," "Dear God," "Father God," "Dear Jesus," "Higher Power," etc., who does that being represent to you?

This is the most important question of prayer because it cuts to the core of belief. It represents the difference between prayer as self-talk, superstition, or petition of faith.

You may have learned to pray from parents, pastors or teachers who told you there was only one acceptable form of addressing God and you had better use it if you wish to please him and receive the answers you want. I remember a few of these pompous exchanges myself at church and school, but not at home.

My parents talked to God as a loving Father and intimate personal acquaintance. The Father loved them, they loved the Father, and they loved me and I loved them. So I learned to pray to a God the Father who loved me and looked out for me, a Son, who created me and saved me, and a Holy Spirit who guided me and stood up for me. This God was the over-arching presence in my life – a God who loved the world and loved me, an ever-present help in time of trouble, and the One who was on my side in every aspect and season of life and death as described in the Scriptures that were often read in our family worship (John 3:16, Ps 46:10, Romans 8:31-39).

I know there are men and women whose relationships with parents were so harsh and horrific they can't relate to God as Father. But God is the original and perfect parent none of us will have on this earth. Jesus prayed to God as Father. Faith and trust is required of us to make the deeper connection of prayer as relationship.

David woke up in the morning and prayed to "my king and my God." He knew God as the authority to whom he owed ultimate allegiance and the source and strength of his life.

There is nothing abstract or theoretical there. The pronouns convey that David was praying to someone he knew personally and to whom he ascribed power and authority – a personal creator, redeemer and sustainer who David believed and followed.

We know that David became full of himself and arrogantly betrayed his king and his God. But God forgave him because God wants his children with him, not lost and destroyed, and God will do what it takes to make that happen.

David had his gracious God, but not as his unique possession. His Psalm is in the scriptural canon to teach us conversations of grace with our king and our God are available to us each day.

I ask you again, "Are you making the connection of prayer to a God you know on a personal and intimate basis? Who do you know God to be for you personally? I can tell you it is not an easy intellectual and spiritual exercise to reach your own answer to that question. It is essential to find that answer, if your prayer is to be a true conversation with your mind and heart engaged with the mind and heart of God, rather than a mere utterance of lip service.

Kent Hansen is a business and healthcare attorney from Corona, California. This essay first appeared in his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday.” Kent’s devotionals can be read on the C.S. Lewis Foundation blog at www.cslewis.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7030
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Lord.

Why? Because I have submitted my self to Him to do with as He will.

I appreciate all of the metaphors for God that we find throughout the Scripture, Almighty, Father, Friend, Comforter, Creator, etc. And indeed respond to each of them in their sphere, for no description comes close to appropriating Him.

‘Father’ exhibits a tenderness that is all too lacking in our lives, as well proposes a meaningful relationship that even (many) children understand. It was also as Jesus preferred in introducing God, though Sovereign is close behind as the Kingdom of Heaven/God infers. It may be noted here that Jesus called us Friend at the close of His mission to those which were going to suffer with Him.

Yet to me ‘Lord’ conveys my relationship to Him; eternally dependent, yet, it is upon the Life-giver that I depend! Since man’s ways are not God’s way’s I am reminded to continually get out of the way and give Him space and place to do His will. After all, I can’t trust myself, so I …

Trust God.

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Having to think in terms of three PEOPLE being the one GOD is a problem. Jesus said to “pray to the Father in my name”. Why we tell our kids to “pray to Jesus” I don’t know. I suppose it’s Harry Anderson’s picture of the kids at Jesus’ knee.

I’m also skeptical about this “personal relationship” prerequisite to meaningful prayer. I’m not even sure we know what that means. It’s one of those non-specific terms we use when we don’t know exactly how to describe something. It’s difficult to have relationship with something as big as GOD. That’s like saying you have to have a relationship with beauty in order to appreciate a painting or music; or, you have to have a relationship with love, in order to love (that one may be true, come to think of it).
There can be no prerequisites to God hearing our prayers. We’re all struggling to connect in a meaningful way - to make God relevant to our lives. We think if we go to church and SS; and maybe a Wednesday night meeting; and we pray before meals (even at the restaurant); and eat the right meals; and we pray every time we’re trying to decide which road to take - in other words, weaving God into every aspect of our lives - that we are creating a relationship where we are worthy to have our prayers answered. No, it’s not about that …

To be honest, I have a hard time praying out loud in a social setting. It’s like playing a part someone has handed me. There was a reason why Jesus said to go into your closet to pray - so as not to play to the audience. At any given moment a kaleidoscope of situations needing God’s hand rush through my mind. The most I can utter is “Thy will be done”.

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A timely article by Kent Hansen. Thank you Kent. Several points hit home we me. First, we learn to pray from our parents. There was a conflict between what I heard at home and what I heard at church. At times the prayers felt like either sermons or a continuation of a sermon. Meaning the more public prayers seemed to be to people not to God. So my public prayers went one way and my private prayers went another. Years of practice creates a difficult change.

The second point Kent made that caught my attention is the personal connection David had with God which is recorded by David. He, David had prayers that he praised his God and prayers where he unloaded on God his personal friend. How many times have I really wanted to unload but could not pull the trigger.

Third point Kent asks us a good question. Are you making that connection. I confess to really not knowing. I love feed back when I talk. A response of some kind. I have heard people say they hear Gods voice. I can’t say for sure if that happens to me. I see God as a loving God but I don’t always know if my prayers are reaching Him. There are people who say you need to listen to that still small voice. Ok I admit that I can say that has happened but not often. All that being said, prayer does bring comfort.

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I agree it is not an easy concept. But I strongly disagree that it is essential to find the answer. How would you go about finding that answer? There are no rule books or formulas to do this. It is not a methodology.

I also disagree that this is the foundation for a ‘true’ conversation (whatever that means in this context). ‘A mere utterance of lip service’? This is rather condescending to the person uttering and the God who is listening. And what makes the author think we are not all , in fact, simply uttering. From a God perspective, surely this is all we can do.

The author makes the usual error of using human constructs without any supernatural definition. What does’ conversation’ mean? We know what it means in our human relationships but really, how does this translate to the metaphysical? This type of explanation’ is completely unsatisfactory, in fact, it is not an explanation at all.

The concept of prayer is nebulous from the outset. People make their own interpretations. Some believe they can petition some form of action from God. They then believe their prayer has been answered, no matter the nature of the response. Indeed, no response is needed (or, I would argue, given), as their belief system predicates the outcome/answer.

The idea of God as a father is limiting (and patriarchal) . As the author points out, a person with an abusive father will have problems with this concept. A soldier dying on the battle field invariably cries out for his mother. Of course an abusive mother relationship would be problematic also. God is not a human. He is not male or female. Essentially, he is whatever you want or need him to be; whatever works for you personally. Being God, he exhibits all characteristics and is therefore accessible to all.

And then you have public prayer. What is that all about?

As to praying to the Father or Jesus it doesn’t matter. Both are One.

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I’m with you there, Sirje. For me, most of the time prayer is like a private conversation, and I don’t want anyone else listening in. There is a place for public prayer, of course, but, as Ellen White said, it should be short and to the point.

By the way, I think you did a “no-no” and posted twice. You might want to delete it before the mods come after you. :wink:

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One God, One Comment.

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the better question is why do you pray? The recent GC session demonstrates the use of prayer to influence votes. to change or to attempt to change people’s minds. I pray to the One who invites to come and have my burdens lifted. Tom Z

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Does one Always have to address one’s “Higher Power” with a Name?
Can one just begin talking as if one’s “Higher Power” was next to her/him?
One can begin conversation with God as if He is way off somewhere.
One can begin conversation with God as if He is already sitting in the chair across from one. And, never really left since last time each conversed.

I like what Richard Rohr says about prayer. Breathing Under Water, “An Alternative Mind”.
The disciples said, Teach us how to pray. Have to be taught how to pray, “soul-centric”.
The Egocentric perspective mind sees: own private needs, hurts, angers, memories.
Prayer can become A Pious Practice in a self-centered position.
The Common Prayer:- Help with already determined solutions.
God’s better role – Help me to know what I REALLY desire.
Prayer is praying only for a knowledge of his will. Willing to let God change us.
Its prayers are answered because they are, in fact, the prayers of God, too. [Who is praying? Me or God?]
Prayer is divine participation. You praying WITH God. Joining in WITH God.
Other forms of prayer have too many external forms, too much social payoff.
Sunday morning singing, reading, and recitation of group prayer took over.
Social payoffs from public encounters keep me from facing my real issues.
“By Himself” takes a lot more courage, choice, trust.
What better place to hide than in Religion?
Social Prayer 1. Holds the group together. 2. Unites the group against Foes, against Heresy.
We must have a form of prayer that changes us from the inside.
Pray for "a knowledge of His will for us, and for "the power to carry it out.“
The Will of God – is a Creative Act in my life.
Careful that Religion does not become largely externals and formulas.”

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Amen to that, Sirje. I’m not comfortable with that at all. And, I’m okay with being uncomfortable. If God changes that in me, fine. If not, that’s fine too.

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To whom do we pray? Indeed. Such a provocative question, Kent.

My understanding of prayer remains bewildering, especially when sensing prayer as a response to a time and place. Prayer before preaching, before eating, before traveling, before sleeping, before getting dressed in the morning, before studying, indeed before activities of life in all its dimensions. Prayer in response to an experience when surprised, demoralized, uncertain, pained, dying, even overjoyed perhaps.

I’m reminded of Samir Selmanovic’s experience chronicled in It’s Really all About God. His first prayer was but one word, “God.” And it was in response to a picture of God Samir saw for the first time.

So how do we picture God? I’m reminded of Michael Polanyi’s The Tacit Dimension. We know, we picture before we can explain. We know tacitly. We picture in faith. And scripture affirms that it is God who measures to each of us faith and thus everything we know, everything we picture in faith is God’s creation in and for us.

What we know of God is special-to-us revelation. As Polanyi is reported to have affirmed, all knowledge is personal knowledge. I sense you sense this, too, Kent.

This is perhaps another way of affirming that we can only know God at the personal level, which is the level of our own personhood, surely not at the personhood of God level. Indeed, the scripture is abundantly clear about God not being a person; God is creator and thus exists wholly outside of the creation in which we all as persons exist.

So then, to whom do we pray? What is the spiritual exercise in answering this question? Indeed, is prayer a conversation at all? Could it be that prayer is God praying through us? Such a sense of prayer is a parallel to both grace and faith, each of which is God-sourced, scripture affirms. And enduring, unlike knowledge, tongues, and prophecy as Paul explained to the Corinthians.

So is it that we are privileged to observer God by observing our own prayers? I wonder. Is prayer not a form of worship, then? And is worship not an experience of the heart, rather than the voice?

Maybe Samir was blessed most by saying least. Just, “God.”

But what about all the times and places and experiences where superstition seems to ring the prayer bell? How does prayer rise above mere time and place and experience?

That is, in what way is time and place and experience not at all superstitious?

Perhaps when it is sensed as an opportunity for worship rather than mere submission; perhaps when it is sensed already present rather than something we initiate?

Perhaps it is when prayer, like faith and grace, is truly sensed as not of ourselves, that prayer is sensed as what it truly is.

What isn’t easy, it seems, is living with the dissonance of prayer as verbalized superstition.

Thank you for reminding me of that, Kent.

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For me, spending time in the Word is like communion with God. In fact that is now my working definition of prayer, Prayer is communion with God.

I think a lot of people create their own personal gods. Personally, I seek to use the recorded revelation of scripture as my guide to knowing God. The larger story of all the books of the bible, The logic, the reason, the beauty, the love, the patience, the wisdom, the sacrifice and ultimately the revelation expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. Through communion with God (prayer) via studying His Word we are connected to the Divine mind.

While our experiences differs, God is one.

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Your experience reminds me of what Luther said, " To pray well is to study well, and to study well is to pray well." You’re in good company.

Thanks…

Frank

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My aim is to follow the teachings of Jesus to the extent that I am able to understand those teachings. When His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, He responded with, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…”, and when all formality was abandoned, under excruciating pain, he testimony to the ages was a cry out to “Abba”, or “Daddy”.

But this only accounts for how to address God. The question posed above is, who does that being represent to you? And the answer to that question is revealed in the contents of any given prayer. The prayer modeled along the lines of a Christmas list betrays the existence of a certain kind of God in the mind of the one who prays. Prayers reflecting upon the virtues of justice, mercy, and humility reveal a God possessing those same virtues. It’s the body, rather than the salutation, of the prayer that answers the question.

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Brother Hansen, you pose a good question,

There is some confusion among believers as to whom we are supposed to address our prayers. The Bible says we are to pray to God the Father, through God the Son, by means of God the Holy Spirit. Prayer is important in our lives and wanting to know who we are praying to is essential. I believe all three members of the Trinity play a vital role in the process of prayer. For me, communication is the transfer of meaning.
What could be more meaningful than getting meaning in life by communicating with God?

The Father

Jesus taught that we are to pray to God the Father.
O This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name (Matthew 6:9).

Therefore God the Father is the ultimate one to whom we are praying.

Christ The Mediator

Though we are to address our prayers to God the Father it is through the mediation of Jesus Christ that are prayers are heard.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is also to participate in our prayers. He is the One who prompts us to pray and teaches us what to pray for.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26,27).

Summary

When we pray it is to God the Father, through God the Son, by means of God the Holy Spirit.

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