Abraham Kuyper, Charles Hodge, Charles Simeon, Charles Spurgeon, Daniel Block, Daniel Bloesch, Holy Spirit, Object of Prayer, Prayer, Prayer to the Holy Spirit, Theology, Trinity, Worship of the Spirit
In Daniel Block’s “For the Glory of God”, he asks the question as to whether we should address worship specifically and personally to the Spirit. His analysis begins with three observations:
- “No one addresses the Holy Spirit in prayer, or bows to the Holy Spirit, or serves him in a liturgical gesture. Put simply, in the Bible the Spirit is never the object of worship.”
- “The Spirit drives the worship of believers yet does not receive worship.”
- “In true worship, the person of the Trinity may not be interchanged without changing the significance of the work.”
He notes two historical developments in the church. First, is the development of the Doxology,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him all creatures here below;
Praise him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
He noted that it derives from Gloria Patri per Filium in Spiritu Sancto, Glory to God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. This was changed in response to the Arians, which sought to ontologically subordinate Jesus. To avoid that movement, the connections where changed to “and” from “through” and “in”.
The second development was the Charismatic movement to single out the Spirit for particular adoration in prayer and song.
Block is reticent to make the Spirit the unique object of worship
When we read Scripture, the focus will on God the Father or Jesus Christ the Son. However, it seems that the Holy Spirit is most honored when we accept his conviction of sin, his transforming and sanctifying work within us, and his guidance in life and ministry, and when in response to his leading we prostrate ourselves before Jesus.
This emphasis on the Spirit’s work in is matched by an interesting comment from Kuyper
It appears from Scripture, more than has been emphasized, that in the holy act of prayer there is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit working both in us and with us.
Kuyper, Holy Spirit (1946), trans. de Vries, p. 618.
James Hastings has a discussion on prayer directed to the Spirit. The conclusion comes in his last paragraph:
No instance of prayer directly addressed to the Holy Spirit can be found in the New Testament. This may be due to the fact that the Holy Spirit is regarded as having already been given to the believer as the indwelling presence of God, and that therefore prayer to One who dwells within may not have been considered suitable.
But prayer is really addressed to the Holy Spirit when it is addressed to God, because, in the Unity of the Divine Essence, He is one with the Father and the Son. He is invoked in benediction: “The communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all”. He is addressed in intercession: “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ”.
There is yet a wider phase of the subject. The Bible throughout, from Genesis 1:2, consistently presents the Holy Spirit as the universal vitalizing Executive of Deity, the active agent in producing, nourishing, and developing all life, beauty, organic force, and order in the universe, the direct source of the fragrance of the rose, the flavour of fruit, the strength of the athlete (Judges 14:19), the vision of prophet and poet, the equipment of Christ, the life of enduring literature (2 Peter 1:19–21). His function in developing piety is central but not exclusive. Why may we not, how shall we not, find Him everywhere, converse with Him on all His glorious work, and seek from Him supplies through every department of His productive power? He is in the world as well as in the Word, and we find Him and commune with Him, open-eyed, in garden and grove as well as in the solitude of the closet and in prayer for revivals and missions.
We gain greatly in the keenness of our consciousness of the reality of the members of the Godhead by talking freely, naturally, lovingly with them, in prayer. Those who pray to the Spirit are not likely to slip into the vague use of the pronoun “it” when referring to Him, as though He were only an abstract force. He is our Comforter, our Guide, our Teacher, and our Friend. It is He who makes Christ known to us. And He uses us, if we will let it be so, to make Christ known through us to others. Shall we not talk freely with Him of this blessed, glorious mystery yet fact, Christ the life of the world, which it is the mission and the passion of the Holy Spirit to bring fully to pass? God is one God, though in three persons, and we shall come to know God better and better as we come to know the different persons of the Trinity in the sacred and intimate fellowship of the priceless privilege of prayer, addressing them individually according to the need of the moment, and in the light of the plain teachings of God’s Word.
If it is the Holy Spirit’s special function not only to speak to and deal with, but also to speak and work through, the man He renews and sanctifies, we can just so far understand that He the less presents Himself for our articulate adoration. But meanwhile the sacred rightfulness of our worship of the Holy Spirit is as surely established as anything can be that rests on large and immediate inferences from the Scriptures. If He is divine, and if He is personal, how can we help the attitude of adoration when, leaving for the moment the thought of His work in us, we isolate in our view the thought of Him the Worker? Scripture practically prescribes to us such an attitude when it gives us our Lord’s own account, in His baptismal formula, of the Eternal Name as His disciples were to know it—“The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”; and when in the Acts and the Epistles the Holy Ghost is set before us as not only doing His work in the inmost being of the individual but presiding in sacred majesty over the community; and when in the Revelation He, in the mystical sevenfoldness of His operation, Seven yet One, appears in that solemn prelude as the concurrent Giver, with the Father and the Son, of grace and peace; above all when in the Paschal Discourse the adorable and adored Lord Jesus presents Him to our faith as co-ordinate with Himself in glory and grace, “another Comforter”.
So, while watchfully and reverently seeking to remember the laws of Scripture proportion, and that according to it the believer’s relation to the Spirit is not so much that of direct adoration as of a reliance which wholly implies it, let us trustfully and thankfully worship Him, and ask blessing of Him, as our spirits shall be moved to such action under His grace. Let us ever and again recollect, with deliberate contemplation and faith, what by His word we know of Him, and of His presence in us and His work for us, and then let us not only “pray in the Holy Ghost” but also to Him.
James Hastings, The Christian Doctrine of Prayer (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1915), 390–392.
“We do not pray to the Father over the Son or to the Son and Spirit apart from the Father, for this again is to verge toward tritheism. We pray to the Father in the Son and through the power of the Spirit. We pray to Christ who proceeds from the Father and who is made available to us by the Sprit. We pray to the Spirit through the intercession of Christ and by the grace given to us by the Father. Because of the perichoresis (mutual indwelling), each member of the Trinity is fully present in the being and acts of the others. A prayer to Christ is also a prayer to the Father and vice versa.
The question naturally arises: Why not direct our prayers simply to God or to the Father? The answer is that God chooses to relate himself to us in different ways and under different names. If we pray to God the Father exclusively, we might then lapse into a patriarchal monotheism, which often serves as a screen to enhance male domination and keep women in subjection. If we pray only to Jesus, we might come to see God primarily as a suffering companion and no longer as Lord and Master. If we address our prayers exclusively to Christ as Elder Brother, we might begin to align the faith with the ideology of democratic egalitarianism. Prayers directed to Father–Mother or simply Mother might result in supplanting monotheism by a nature mysticism or pantheism in which faith is sacrificed at the altar of environmentalism. If we address our prayers only to the Spirit or the Spiritual Presence (à la Tillich), we might lose sight of the personal nature of God and reduce God to a creative force in nature, an élan vital.
We need to vary our prayers to the living God and even be willing on occasion to address God by metaphors that have biblical support—such as Rock, Fortress, Sun, Light and Fire. But in our prayer life we must finally return to the name by which God discloses himself to us in his revelation—Father, Son and Spirit.”
Donald G. Bloesch, God, the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 193–194.
“We stand in relations to the Holy Spirit which we can sustain only to a person. He is the object of our faith. We believe on the Holy Ghost. This faith we profess in baptism. We are baptized not only in the name of the Father and of the Son, but also of the Holy Ghost. The very association of the Spirit in such a connection, with the Father and the Son, as they are admitted to be distinct persons, proves that the Spirit also is a person. Besides the use of the word εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, unto the name, admits of no other explanation. By baptism we profess to acknowledge the Spirit as we acknowledge the Father and the Son, and we bind ourselves to the one as well as to the others. If when the Apostle tells the Corinthians that they were not baptized εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παῦλου, and when he says that the Hebrews were baptized unto Moses, he means that the Corinthians were not, and that the Hebrews were made the disciples, the one of Paul and the others of Moses; then when we are baptized unto the name of the Spirit, the meaning is that in baptism we profess to be his disciples; we bind ourselves to receive his instructions, and to submit to his control. We stand in the same relation to Him as to the Father and to the Son; we acknowledge Him to be a person as distinctly as we acknowledge the personality of the Son, or of the Father. Christians not only profess to believe on the Holy Ghost, but they are also the recipients of his gifts. He is to them an object of prayer. In the apostolic benediction, the grace of Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, are solemnly invoked. We pray to the Spirit for the communication of Himself to us, that He may, according to the promise of our Lord, dwell in us, as we pray to Christ that we may be the objects of his unmerited love. Accordingly we are exhorted not “to sin against,” “not to resist,” not “to grieve” the Holy Spirit. He is represented, therefore, as a person who can be the object of our acts; whom we may please or offend; with whom we may have communion, i.e., personal intercourse; who can love and be loved; who can say “thou” to us; and whom we can invoke in every time of need.”
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 525.
“I say, then, confess your hypocrisy, and humble yourselves for it———And take the Holy Scriptures, and “search them with all diligence; and pray to the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth.” But mark more especially what they speak of Christ; for “of Him they testify in every partc:” and, having found him, believe in him, and surrender up yourselves to him: and let your whole life attest the consistency of your character, and the integrity of your hearts before God.”
Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII, vol. 13 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), 366.
“If Christ can draw one soul to himself, why can he not draw twenty; and if he can draw twenty, why not twenty thousand, and why not thousands of millions? Why should not we live to see many millions of souls converted to God? Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to present the irresistible attractions of Christ to the hundreds of millions in the whole human race.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Lessons from a Dovecot,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 53 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 379.