Pray to Whom?
Friday of Pentecost 14
20 September 2019
The church prays in the name of the Triune God and addresses prayer to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. She never prays to Father, Son, and angels, or to any other created being for that matter. For to do so would imply that such creatures are equal to the true God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and are due divine honor and worship. Athanasius of Alexandria used the Bible's formula for prayer as proving the divinity of the Son of God in contrast to all other creatures. According to Athanasius, the Bible never addressed prayer to "the Father and the angel," as one example. Basil the Great, Chrysostom, and Theodoret all made similar arguments. Christ is God co-equal with the Father because He is addressed with the Father.
Viscerally, I had always understood prayer as an act of worship. I knew that prayer addressed to a person was a blasphemy, although I wasn't entirely sure why. Athanasius's point is that someone addressed together with the Father in prayer had to be God. That is why the Bible never addresses anyone but the persons of the Trinity in prayer or blessing. Athanasius then also had the presupposition that only God could be addressed in prayer and that it was an act of worship. This is why the penchant for praying to Mary among Roman Christians seems so odd, given their respect for the opinions of the ancient fathers of the church. The greatest teachers of the church all argued this way.
It seems doubly strange that Roman Christians have fallen into addressing Mary (or any other saint) in prayer. They argue that Mary is due a kind of worship, more like honor; a worship less than that which is owed to God, but yet she is due also to receive our prayers. But what worship did the Roman emperors demand with their pinch of incense pitched upon the altar of their genius? What lesser worship or honor could the Christians of Rome have offered to keep from feeling the ax of persecution on their shoulders or the tearing claws of ravenous beasts shredding their bodies? This they categorically declined to offer mere creatures. How ironic then that the very church that ought to have honored the extraordinary sacrifice of their forebears now has fallen into the promiscuous honor and worship of offering prayer to humans, for which the children of the ancient church died when they refused to do so. We address God alone in prayer, because He has invited us to pray to Him as an act of worship. He has promised to hear us. Praying to anyone else means that He has gone back on His promises. Impossible!

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Athanasius of Alexandria
"For if there were no unity between the Father and the Son, or if the Word was not the offspring of the Father's essence, as the radiance of the light, but the Son were divided in nature from the Father, it would be sufficient that the Father alone should give gifts, since none of the created things is a partner with his Maker in His giving of gifts. However, as is actually the case, such a mode of giving shows the oneness of the Father and the Son. For example, no one would pray to receive from God and the angels, or from any other creature. No one would say, 'May God and the angel give you...' but rather 'May the Father and the Son give you...,' because of their oneness and their oneness in the giving of their gifts. For through the Son is given what is given; and there is nothing but that the Father works it through the Son. Thus grace is secure to him who receives it."

Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 3.12
2 Corinthians

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers,of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (ESV)
Dear Father, through Your blessed Son in unity with the Holy Spirit, You have invited us poor sinners to address You in prayer. Give us boldness to trust Your promise to hear us and accept Your invitation whenever we need to pour out our hearts or to seek Your rescue. Amen.
For Charles Wokoma, that the Lord would keep him safe and grant him joy in his work when his travels are ended
For the St-Onge family, that they would be kept in the care of Christ under the watch of the holy angels
For Ann Olsen, that the Lord would grant her the peace that surpasses human understanding
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by in collaboration with
Constant Contact
Try email marketing for free today!