I was wondering recently about how we should pray to God. Should we pray to God only or do we pray to Jesus? What about praying to the Holy Spirit? Is that okay? The model prayer we have been given is, “Our Father in heaven…” so can we safely assume that Jesus wants us to pray to God and not him or the Holy Spirit? The Lord’s Prayer has often been used as a basis for praying to God alone. “Jesus never said to pray to him or to the Holy Spirit,” proponents of this view declare. “So we shouldn’t pray to anyone but God.”
But I think we are missing the bigger picture by focusing solely on this issue. In the first place, John said that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1) We know this was Jesus because later he says “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling with us.” (John 1:14) In Hebrews we read that Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. (Heb. 1:3) And Jesus prayed that we would all be one just as he and the Father were one. (John 17:20-21) Furthermore, in the beginning the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the waters and God said, “Let us make man in our image.” (Gen. 1:2 and 26) So it’s clear that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all one. So if we pray to the Father, we are also praying to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If we pray to Jesus, we are also praying to the Father and the Holy Spirit. And if we pray to the Holy Spirit, we are also praying to the Father and Jesus. They are all one so if you interact with one, you interact with all.
But taking it a step further, focusing on this question misses the level of relationship we can have with God. Most people take a “I’m just a lowly servant” attitude when it comes to God. When they talk to God, they revert to, “I come before thee now, just a nobody in thy presence, to humbly ask you for just one thing.” But Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants. Instead, I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) Notice Jesus takes the initiative to call us friends; he doesn’t wait for us to call him friend. By this we can see that Jesus wants us to be friends with him, God and the Holy Spirit. (Since they are all one.) But so many people get up from praying with “thee, thou” language and go to a friend’s house and say, “Hey man!” and give their friends high fives and hugs. If we are friends with God, why do we not say, “Hey buddy!” to God?
“This is GOD you are talking to here!”
But wait—if God calls us friends, it would be an insult to him if we treat our own friends better than we treat him. It would be disrespectful to demote ourselves back down to “servant” after he declared that we are his friends.
More so, Paul says that we have received a spirit of sonship and we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15) Going still further, Paul says the relationship between a husband and wife is a mystery in that it is actually a picture of Christ and the church. (Eph. 5:31-32)
So if we look at marriage, we get a picture of what Christ wants with the church. In a marriage, both the man and his wife are naked and unashamed. (Gen. 2:25) So we are to be totally vulnerable and exposed to God. But God is going to be vulnerable and exposed to us as well. Because both the husband and wife were naked before each other. God is not ashamed to be naked before us, we should not be ashamed to be naked before him.
Paul picks up on this imagery even further and says the man and wife will be united and the two will become one flesh. (Eph. 5:31) One of Jesus’ final prayers on this earth was that all of his followers would be one with God just as he was one with the Father. And he himself said that his words were the Father’s words. (John 14:10) So this is actually God’s (Father, Son and Spirit) prayer: that we would all be one in Him just as Jesus is. During the same prayer, Jesus said, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
“But this is not the simple, casual ‘knowing’ of an acquaintance, or even a close friend. The word used here for ‘know’ is ginosko, and it means ‘to be involved in an intimate, growing relationship.’ In the Greek version of the Old Tstament, this is the word used in Genesis 4:1, where it says, ‘Adam knew Eve and she bore a son.’ This is the most intimate relationship possible. Jesus makes the fantastic statement that this is what eternal life is all about!” (How to Hear God’s Voice by Mark and Patti Virkler) Now when it says that Adam knew Eve and she bore a son, clearly this is a reference to a sexual relationship. And the original thought expressed in Genesis 2:24 (quoted by Paul in Ephesians 5:31) is actually a reference to the sexual union of a husband and wife. When it says “the two will become one flesh” it is referring to the physical union of a husband and wife in sexual embrace. And that is a picture of Christ and the church!
There is an intimacy in marriage like no other relationship. And that’s what God says he wants with us. And this isn’t just in the New Testament. God told Israel that he was their husband. (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:14, 31:32) In Hosea, God refers to himself as a husband and Israel as an unfaithful wife. This is how God sees the relationship with us—as a husband and wife. Why do we not see it that we ourselves? Why do we insist on discouraging the closeness and intimacy that God clearly wants with us?
Now how does a husband address his wife? Does he use formal language, addressing her as “m’am” and “Mrs. Smith?” (Or whatever their last name is.) Does the wife approach her husband with, “I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but wouldst thou be willing to help me with this one task? I promise I’ll never ask you for anything ever again.” No! They are very casual with each other. They address each other as, “Honey” and “Dear” and “Babe.” They don’t use formal address to talk to each other. That would be ridiculous considering the type of relationship they have. If they were meeting someone for the first time, especially someone important (like the president of a company, e.g.) then they would use that language with him. But if upon meeting the president of a company and saying, “Hello, Mr. Johnson. How are you sir?” and the president said, “Call me George,” then they have a different frame of reference. If they continue to call him, “Mr. Johnson” it would be an insult to his gesture of intimacy. We understand this with this example, yet this is what people do all the time with God. He has said, “I no longer call you servants, but friends” and he clearly expresses he wants the type of relationship a husband and wife have, yet we continue to address him as, “Thee, thou, Most Holy God, etc.” We forget that it is God who wants intimacy with us. Not the other way around. He made the first move and the first gesture of intimacy. And he says that what husbands and wives have, he wants with us.
Even to the point that he has pet names for us. Husbands and wives often address each other with pet names. Sometimes they are general like, “Honey” as I mentioned before. But sometimes they are specific to their relationship and the names mean something only to them. For instance, I call my wife “My Cheeseburger.” Now that doesn’t sound very romantic or special to outsiders. But it means something to us. The first weekend we spent together, we watched a video of Veggie Tales. One of the songs they played was a song called, “My Cheeseburger.” It is played as a romantic song between a cucumber and his cheeseburger. So ever since then we have said to each other, “You are my cheeseburger.” Well, God says that when we get to Heaven, he will give us a white stone with a new name known only to God and the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17) This is a special “pet name” just between each individual and God. Much like each husband and wife have special names reserved only for each other, we will have that with God. So why are we so afraid of this kind of intimacy with God? Now do I call my wife, “Honey” “Babe” “Dear” “Cheeseburger” or “Kristy?”
All of those are her name to me. But notice it is only her formal name that others use to address her. I have a special relationship with her as her husband so I have special names that I use that nobody else uses. Ever. (At least they better not!) For an outsider, those terms would be offensive to her. But from me, they are terms of endearment and intimacy.
We are not outsiders to God! We are his friends and we are his bride! We don’t have to be afraid of calling him a name that is too comfortable. Coming from someone who isn’t in relationship with him, “Hey God” would be offensive and disrespectful to him. But coming from his bride, it is the sign of intimacy. It is his lover calling to him. And lovers don’t worry about getting too personal with each other.
Now I know the concern is that we will get “too” comfortable with God. Well, on one hand—what’s wrong with that? If God clearly desires intimacy with us, let’s give him what he desires. On the other hand, in a healthy marriage, there is mutual respect even within the intimacy. So being intimate with God doesn’t mean we lose respect. In fact, I believe it can enhance the respect more than the person who continues to see himself as a “lowly servant” before God.
“But isn’t the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom/knowledge?” (from Proverbs 1:7; 9:10)
Yes, but it is only the beginning.
John writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) And Paul adds to this, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15) God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love. (see 2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
Yes, fear is the beginning of wisdom—but love is the end. And there is no fear in love. (Much of these thoughts concerning fear and love were developed from reading, “He Loves Me” by Wayne Jacobsen.)
I think we go through stages in our relationship with God. (At least, this has been the case with me.) We obviously start out as enemies. (Romans 5:10) When we accept Christ we, of course, instantly become the Bride. But our understanding of this is developed through continuing to grow in our walk with him. First we develop a parent/child relationship with him. This is the stage where we are concerned with obeying him and doing what he says. Next we realize that he calls us friends and we focus more on the relationship with him rather than the rules he establishes. Then we grow into sonship and learn that we have the rights of a son in his family, just as Jesus does. The last stage—and the true goal for ever believer—is to become one with him—to become his bride.
And no bride worries about how to address her husband. There is so much intimacy and closeness, she simply talks freely with him. May we know God in this same way and experience the true eternal life that comes from oneness with him.