The Recipient of Prayer in Its Four Moods

Now request and intercession and thanksgiving, it is not out of place to offer even to men -- the two latter, intercession and thanksgiving, not only to saintly men but also to others. But request to saints alone, should some Paul or Peter appear, to benefit us by making us worthy to obtain the authority which has been given to them to forgive sins -- with this addition indeed that, even should a man not be a saint and we have wronged him, we are permitted our becoming conscious of our sin against him to make request even of such, that he extend pardon to us who have wronged him.

Yet if we are offer thanksgiving to men who are saints, how much more should we give thanks to Christ, who has under the Father's will conferred so many benefactions upon us? Yes and intercede with Him as did Stephen when he said, "Lord, set not this sin against them." In imitation of the father of the lunatic we shall say, "I request, Lord, have mercy" either on my son, or myself, or as the case may be. But if we accept prayer in its full meaning, we may not ever pray to any begotten being, not even to Christ himself, but only to the God and Father of All to whom our Savior both prayed himself, as we have already instanced, and teaches us to pray.

For when He has heard one say. "Teach you us to pray," He does not teach men to pray to Himself but to the Father saying, "Our Father in heaven," and so on. For if, as is shown elsewhere, the Son is other than the Father in being and essence, prayer is to be made either to the Son and not the Father or to both or to the Father alone.

That prayer to the Son and not the Father is most out of place and only to be suggested in defiance of manifest truth, one and all will admit. In prayer to both it is plain that we should have to offer our claims in plural form, and in our prayers say, "Grant you both, Bless you both, Supply you both, Save you both," or the like, which is self-evidently wrong and also incapable of being shown by anyone to stand in the scriptures as spoken by any.

It remains, accordingly, to pray to God alone, the Father of All, not however apart from the High Priest who has been appointed by the Father with swearing of an oath, according to the words He hath sworn and shall not repent, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." In thanksgiving to God, therefore, during their prayers, saints acknowledge His favors through Christ Jesus.

Just as the man who is scrupulous about prayer ought not to pray to one who himself prays but to the Father upon whom our Lord Jesus has taught us to call in our prayers, so we are not to offer any prayer to the Father apart from Him. He clearly sets this forth himself when He says, "Verily, verily, I tell you, whatsoever you may ask of my Father He shall give you in my house. Until but now you have not asked aught in my name. Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled."

He did not say, "Ask of me," nor yet simply "Ask of the father," but "Whatsoever you may ask of the Father, He will give you in my name." For until Jesus taught this, no one had asked of the Father in the name of the Son. True was the saying of Jesus, "Until but now you have not asked aught in my name"; and true also the words, "Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled." Should anyone, however who believes that prayer ought to be made to Christ himself, confused by the sense of the expression make obeisance, confront us with that acknowledged reference to Christ in Deuteronomy, "Let all God's angels make obeisance to Him," we may reply to him that the church, called Jerusalem by the prophet, is also said to have obeisance made to her by kings and queens who become her foster sires and nurses, in the words, "Behold, I lift up my hand upon the nations, and upon the isles will I lift up my sign: and they shall bring your sons in their bosom and your daughters they shall lift up on their shoulders; and kings shall be your foster sires, their queens, their nurses: to the face of the earth shall they make obeisance to you, and the dust of your feet shall they lick: and you shall know that I am the Lord and shall not be ashamed."

And how does it not accord with Him who said, "Why callest you me good? None is good save One -- God the Father" to suppose that He would say, "Why pray you to me? To the Father alone ought you to pray, to whom I also pray, as indeed you learn from the holy Scriptures. For you ought not to pray to one who has been appointed high priest for you by the Father and has received it from the Father to be advocate, but through a high priest and advocate able to sympathize with your weaknesses, having been tried in all points like you but, by reason of the Father's free gift to me, tried without sin.

Learn you therefore how great a free gift you have received from my Father in having received through regeneration in me the Spirit of adoption, that you may be called sons of God and my brethren. For you have read my utterance spoken through David to the Father concerning you, I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing hymns to you.' It is not reasonable that those who have been counted worthy of one common Father should pray to a brother.To the Father alone ought you, with me and through me, to send up prayer."

So then hearing Jesus speak to such effect, let us pray to God through Him, all with one accord and without division concerning the manner of prayer. Are we not indeed divided if we pray some to the Father, others to the Son -- those who pray to the Son, whether with the Father or without the Father, committing a crude error in all simplicity for lack of discrimination and examination?

Let us therefore pray as to God, intercede as with a Father, request as of a Lord, give thanks as to God and Father and Lord, though in no way as to a servant's lord; for the Father may reasonably be considered Lord not only of the Son but also of those who through Him are become sons also, though, just as He is not God of dead but of living men, so He is not Lord of baseborn servants but of such as at the first are ennobled by means of fear because they are as infants, but serve thereafter according to love in a service more blessed than that which is in fear. For within the soul itself, visible to the Seer of Hearts alone, these are distinctive characters of servants and sons of God.

chapter ix the content of
Top of Page
Top of Page