How can Jesus, as God, pray to God, the Father, if he himself is God?
The trinity is probably one of the most confusing mysteries of the Church and while there are plenty of metaphors, such as St. Patrick shamrock, it is not easy to find a satisfying answer that makes intellectual sense.
In 25 Tough Questions, one of the chapters addresses this common question by asking,
“Isn’t the doctrine of the Trinity at best a mathematical conundrum and at worst a plain contradiction?” (pg. 85)
This is how people, both inside and outside the faith, may see the Trinity. The passage goes on to explain how understanding the Trinity can help us understand Jesus and the beauty of this mystery.
God is infinite, we are finite. He is a mystery, unfathomable and permanently beyond the reach of our minds. That God is a mystery does not mean, however, that we cannot know anything at all about him. But it does mean that we can never know or understand what it takes to be God: we cannot know his nature or essence.
But, at the same time, to say that God is a mystery, does not mean that we cannot say anything true about him. Rather, it means that whatever we can and do say about God is exceeded by God himself.
To speak of God as a Trinity does not lessen, but deepens, the mystery of God: our words become even more inadequate. But in speaking of the Trinity, we come to see that the distance between God and us is nevertheless bridged: not by knowledge, but by love – his for us and ours for him.
And we come to see that our love for him is sharing in the love that Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Trinity – have for one another. …
The doctrine of the Trinity was, of course, “a stumbling block to Jews and to the Greeks foolishness,” but it is a belief rooted in the Jewish monotheism out of which Christianity arose, and it found expression in the philosophically sophisticated concepts of the Greco-Roman culture into which Christianity came.
Reflecting on their knowledge of Jesus and their experience of faith, Christians arrived at the conviction that their understanding that Jesus is God would be incomplete without recognising that what makes the life of faith possible, is the presence among us of the Spirit promised by our Lord.
“No one”, says Paul, “can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit….”
The teaching, put simple, is that there is only one God and that this God reveals himself and is known to us as Father, Son and
Holy Spirit: three person, each distinct and yet each entirely God. God, in other words, is a unity of substance and a diversity of person. Their life within the single Godhead is one of total love and self-giving. And it is into this divine friendship that we are drawn through faith and baptism….
Jesus is God and, we believe, God is love. God, therefore, in some sense demanded by the nature of love, is a relationship. The Trinity is love given, love received, and love shared. And the Christian life is a sharing, made possible by sanctifying grace, in this divine love.
This reading of the Trinity may not answer how Jesus prayed to himself in a ‘textbook answer’ way, but it does reveal the importance of that question. Not only is Jesus giving us an example of how to pray to the Father, but he is also revealing the importance of seeing God as a relationship.
So while there isn’t an easy answer to understanding the Trinity, there is deep spiritual value in reflecting on it, and the life of Jesus is one of the most important starting points in this meditation.