Some Christians wonder if we should pray to and worship the Holy Spirit. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity teaches that one God eternally exists in a unity of being as three persons. Because the Holy Spirit is God, it’s right and appropriate that we not only pray to him, but honour him as God. Objections to worship the Holy Spirit sometimes arise from misunderstanding of his identity. There was an interesting dispute over worship of the Holy Spirit in the fourth century. In his book, On the Holy Spirit, Basil of Caesarea tells us that there were two liturgies that were used in his church. The first liturgy was praise to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. A second liturgy was praise to the Father, with the Son, together with the Spirit. Some who were Arian in orientation objected to this liturgy because they really didn’t believe the Holy Spirit was divine. But if, as Scripture teaches, we have good reason to believe that the Holy Spirit is divine, then it’s appropriate that we express to him in worship, doxology, and praise his true nature.
If we believe that the Holy Spirit is divine, the third person of the Trinity, then acknowledging the divinity of the Holy Spirit is truly important in our worship. Now unfortunately, much of our worship is often directed solely toward Jesus. We praise Jesus for what he has done. We thank Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and in doing that we forget that the one who brings the life of Christ to us is not the second person the Trinity. The One who brings the life of Christ to us, the benefits of his death, his passion, his resurrection, the reality of his ascended glory, is the Holy Spirit. In that regard then, our worship should be careful always to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is the one through whom the Father and the Son bring the church to life, through whom the Father and the Son carry us in the midst of history to the culmination of the new heaven and the new earth.
Now, practically speaking I think it works out in this way as we’re choosing songs. From time to time we need to have songs that sing of the glory of the Holy Spirit. When we have affirmations or liturgies in which we have a litany of praise, we need to have portions of the litany, which lift the glory of the Holy Spirit along with that of the Father and the Son. When it comes to praying I think there’s a certain formula that we could learn to employ, at the beginning or the ending of our prayers in which we would say, that we pray these things dear Father in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit who makes us alive unto you. In doing that we form this Trinitarian focus in our worship, so that we continually are able to meditate on the mystery of God, but also acknowledge the true and rightful divinity and worthy-of-worship nature of the Holy Spirit.
The divinity of the Holy Spirit impacts our prayers in the sense that he is God, and since he is God he can be rightfully addressed in prayer. When we begin our prayers with praise, he should be acknowledged. We praise the Father, praise the Son, praise the Holy Spirit because he’s the one who produces the character of Christ in us when we pray prayers of confession, confessing our weakness and inability to live up to who Christ is and what he wants of us. The Holy Spirit is the one who, by the fruits, reproduces who Christ is in us, and so we think of him and ask him to make us reflect more and more Christ. He is the tutor of the church and of each individual believer. He is the teacher, and so we call upon him and say, “Lord, teach me.” And when we say, “Lord teach me,” we are addressing the Holy Spirit. Christ’s teaching is encoded in the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit is the one who makes those teachings personal to us.
So, in individual worship he is very much central, and in the worship of the church it is the Holy Spirit who incorporates individual believers collectively into the body of Christ. And so, he should be honored and extolled as we meet in local congregations since he is the one who bonds us together in unity as believers and makes us the church, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul said that the church is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So, he should be acknowledged and praised centrally as we worship individually and corporately.
The Holy Spirit is essential to the life of every Christian. Although the Apostles’ Creed only mentions him briefly, the Creed still indicates the Holy Spirit’s power and divinity. And as believers, we’re free to acknowledge him in our worship and prayers. He lives in us, giving us comfort, support, and spiritual gifts. And he empowers us to serve God faithfully. We can be confident that through his illumination and inward leading, the Holy Spirit will guide us to live lives worthy of our calling.