So where is the “appropriate place” to pray physically? Let’s go back to our definition of prayer: “a conversation with the Creator.” So where is it appropriate to have a conversation with your earthly father? Isn’t it appropriate to have a conversation with your Heavenly Father in the same places? Within the Bible people prayed in all sorts of places.
Adam and Eve talked with Him when He came into the garden of Eden in the cool evening (Genesis 3). Noah spoke with Him in the field and outside the ark and at an altar he had set up. Abraham met God while sitting under the great trees of Mamre in the middle of the afternoon (Genesis 18) and again in Abimilech’s home (Genesis 20) and as you read his story you will find there was no temple or church building, no requirement for special orientation, no special position he had to assume. Moses seemed to be in frequent conversation where ever he was; David and others prayed on the battlefields; Daniel prayed in his bedroom; Nehemiah had a hasty conversation with God while standing before King Artaxerxes.
So we conclude the physical location is insignificant, as is the physical position or direction you face. What matters is the conversation with Father.
But “where” do you pray, spiritually? We have some clear guidance from Jesus and the Apostles on this. Jesus said very clearly, “No one comes to Father except through me” (John 14:6). This is not exclusive because anyone may come, no matter what the condition of one’s heart before coming, no matter what history precedes your coming, no matter where you’ve been nor what you’ve done. Anyone may come.
Yet, it is exclusive, in that coming to Father can only be done through Jesus. Some would like to suggest all religions show ways to God. But we must be realistic. If I told you to come from the mall on Nicholasville Road to my home, but sent you by way of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, you would think I was crazy. It might get you to my home, but you would have traveled about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) to go a distance of three miles (5 km).
In the same way, all religions may have good teachings imbedded at some level, but only Jesus makes this claim that the most direct and only way to the Creator is through Him. You may eventually find Jesus by searching other ways, but why go around the world for a trip that should be short and direct? In any case, Jesus claim is exclusive in that, even if you start with Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shamanism, or any other faith, eventually you must come to Jesus to get to the Creator. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).
Ephesians 5:18-20 describes “praying in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is not intended as a sweet add-on to tell the listeners to a prayer that it is about to end. Praying in Jesus’ name is intended to convey a legal standing with Father and whoever else is involved in the situation calling for prayer. Think of a policeman coming to your door and demanding to see what is in your home. If the man stands there and simply says he wants in you will not likely let him. But if he shows a document that reveals he is not coming on his own authority, but rather “in the name of” a judge or the police department he will likely be allowed.
When we “pray in Jesus’ name” we are invoking His authority. We are claiming to speak as if He was present, in the same way the man at the door is invoking the name of his authority to enter your home. Invoking the name of Jesus is not something that should be done lightly, just as claiming a legal authority to enter another’s home without really having that authority can get one into a lot of trouble. The officer at your door can get into serious problems if he comes only “in his own name,” but if he comes “in the name of the Law,” he is on solid footing.
Paul and Jude described “praying in the Spirit” (Ephesian 6:18, Jude 1:20), and Paul has extensive teaching on the Spirit of God in our interactions in I Corinthians 12-14. This is an important part of learning to converse with the Creator. A.W.Tozer said, “The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” We will address this more in future blogs.
Christians have at times legitimately been accused by some of being polytheists, that is, believing in three gods, as there are two dangerous errors that cloud Christian thought about God:
1) Many Christians seem to believe in a disunity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that results in an actual worship of three separate gods.
2) On the other hand, to counter this error, some fall into an opposite, but equally incorrect idea, and see the three persons as modes of presentation. For example, a man may be a father in one relationship, a husband in another, and a son in another; one man, but three modes of relationship, only one person.
Both of these errors of understanding reflect our lack of faith [trust] in who He has revealed Himself to be.
We must recognize our limitations in understanding the One True God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need Him as He is, not who we imagine Him to be. We may in moments of prayer imagine a grandfatherly white guy watching us from a distant Heaven, or we may see ourselves walking with Jesus to do good as He did, or we may think of the Holy Spirit as a dove, coming to teach us and reveal the Father and Son to us. But He is One being in three persons, He is not white, and He is not a bird 😉 !
However, in each of these imaginations we must recognize it is our limitation of understanding Who He Is, the I AM THAT I AM, uncreated, first cause, eternally existent Father/Son/Holy Spirit, Creator, the One God. “Hear, Oh, Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The all capitalized “LORD” is a linguistic device to not use His name, I AM, improperly. The best translations of this are probably “Yahweh,” a Hebrew word for I AM. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/651183/Yahweh).
The difficulty we have with this is our limited experience. Among us created ones, we experience only one person to each being or soul. Realize God is so much more than we can understand, we must accept what He has revealed about Himself, and He has not left us in the dark on the matter of His personality. He is somehow three persons in one being, a mystery that He asks us to believe. When Jesus says, “I and Father are one” (John 10:30), He is not playing with ideas, but presenting who the Godhead is.
When He promises to send an Advocate, a Spirit of Truth (John 14:26), this in on the heels of his claim to be The Truth, and when viewed with the rest of the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit, it becomes clear that this Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
So we come back to our title question: Where do you pray? Let me encourage you to begin to come to God through Jesus, called the Messiah or Christ. Pray to the Father through the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. We are not praying to three gods, nor do we pray to one person, but to the Triune God, Father/Son/Holy Spirit, a mystery which we will never fully comprehend, even through the ages of eternity, but we will come to know him better as we pray in this way.