May 2, 2007
Talladega Nights and Trinitarian Prayer
In the movie Talladega Nights we get a glimpse of how car racing superstar Ricky Bobby offers the blessing at a family meal. He addresses "Little Baby Jesus," thanking him for helping him win races, make money and marry a beautiful wife. When his wife asks why he's talking to "baby" Jesus, Ricky Bobby says that he wants to pray to "Christmas Jesus." And he continues, "Dear tiny infant Jesus." It's a funny scene (Yes, I did see the movie--my family made me! Really.), but it might also be a fair reflection of how we like to pray--and who it feels safe to pray to. Little baby Jesus isn't going to interfere much with our prayer agendas.
In my work life I have been pondering the value of addressing all three persons of the Trinity in prayer. In The Path of Celtic Prayer (an upcoming IVP book) Calvin Miller highlights Trinity praying as one of the unique features of Celtic faith. Care is taken to address Father, Son and Spirit as in this prayer from Andrew Carmichael's Carmina Gadelica called "A Prayer for Grace":
I am bending my knee
Today I was making a final check on The Ancient Christian Devotional, and I came upon Basil the Great making a comment on the importance of invoking the Trinity in baptismal rites (as it relates to Acts 10:38):
Do not be misled because the apostle frequently omits the names of the Father and the Holy Spirit when he speaks of baptism. Do not imagine because of this that the invocation of their names has been omitted. . . .To address Christ in this way is a complete profession of faith, because it clearly reveals that God anoints the Son (the anointed One) with the unction of the Spirit.
It was striking to me that this church father also wanted to be sure that we understood that we were addressing all three persons of the Trinity in the baptismal rite. Clearly, the Trinity factored high in his faith. And so I ponder: does our contemporary prayer life reflect a three-person theology? Are we prepared to have the power of the Trinity shape our agenda, or are we trying to control what happens in prayer by praying in ways that feel safe and easy?