A Simple Trinity Prayer


In my email I receive and collect Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. I highly recommend them, and you can subscribe HERE.

Fr. Rohr’s new book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation will be available October 4, 2016. You can pre-order at thedivinedance.org). In his daily meditations, Rohr is currently exploring ideas and themes about the Trinity from this forthcoming publication.

In his first meditation, Fr. Rohr suggested that we begin thinking about our Triune God by praying the following simple prayer. I commend it to you today for your own contemplation and for any discussion you might want to offer.

• • •

God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
Together, you are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me. 

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.


29 thoughts on “A Simple Trinity Prayer

  1. Nm – I can see why you may have read that in my comment. In any case I completely agree with you. Rahner is critiquing the “irrelevance” of trinitarian thought as a deficiency.


  2. Thanks, Dana. I know you didn’t say nobody understands the Creed, I said it, and that after reading much on it. I know there are people who think they understand it. Not even the people who framed it seemed to agree with one another. I find it most peculiar that something claimed to explain the source of Love is conspicuous by the lack of that word. I’m glad it is so helpful for you and whoever else, but I find it not only not helpful, but a hindrance. I’ve read much of the Fathers enough to know I prefer getting my understanding a lot closer to the Source. I guess this is one we’ll just have to agree to disagree on, but I do appreciate you looking out for me. Thanks again. ~Charley


  3. May the Lord help you always, Robert.

    Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; among other things, the Cross is the guarantee that Christ is with you in every place where you feel like he isn’t.



  4. C,

    I was actually attempting to explain why people seem to think it is necessary to believe it:
    1) it explains the source of Love;
    2) it has everything to do with what “salvation” (= healing/deliverance) is and how and why it comes to us.

    Those are pretty important and relevant things.

    I did not say nobody understands the Nicene Creed; I said, “Nobody who affirms the Nicene Creed understands the Trinity completely.” Nonetheless, we have to be able to talk about what we do understand.

    Yes, Arianism played a significant part, but Trinitarian understanding was in place from the beginning. The expression of it is there in Scripture already, and it unfolded and was refined as thinking Christians met all kinds of sincere questions, as well as weird ideas that were floating around in the ancient world.

    Do at least read the Apostolic Fathers and St Irenaeus – you can find them free on line. You might be surprised.



  5. Uh, I think Rahner is criticizing the fact that so much theology, and much Christian thinking and practice, is not informed by Trinitarian persepectives, i.e., he’s pointing that out as a defect. I don’t think he in the least is suggesting that the Trinity should be dropped from Christian theology and faith due to irrelevance; just the opposite, his comment is pointing up a deficiency that he would see remedied by a return to robust Trinitarianism. I’m willing to wager that Rahner firmly believed that Trintiarianism is central to Christian faith, and that its absence indicates the existence of a diminished form of Christianity, not fully Christian.


  6. Charles, I think the idea that the trinity is “irrelevant” – not that it’s antiquated and/or needing some refreshed language but irrelevant – is exactly what the quote speaks to.


  7. Mike H, I don’t see the doctrine of the Trinity as false so much as irrelevant. It was developed over time to defeat what was called Arianism at a time when people believed that what you believe was far more important than what you do, a life and death matter for them, quite literally. I regard this as low level spiritual consciousness, and it is still with us today, tho not as strongly. I don’t believe it would have made any difference to Jesus or anyone else except the controllers if Arians had been allowed to continue in their belief and practice.

    If someone asked what Christians believe and you recited the Nicene Creed to them, I think the response would probably be, “Huh?” On the other hand, I would think the Apostle’s Creed would be comprehensible to most people, and is perhaps the high point of Latin Christianity. But even without that, I would say that “the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” Certainly my own belief and practice and understanding would remain unchanged.

    I hope this subject gets treated here again while Richard Rohr teaches on it in the next three weeks for those few of us Usual Suspects.


  8. Dana, I much appreciate your effort to put your understanding into words. I don’t feel that I need to understand Trinitarian thinking so much as I need to understand why people seem to think it is necessary to believe it. Many claim it to be the central doctrine of Christianity, which in my mind verges on blasphemy. I don’t need Greek philosophical treatises to describe who Jesus is and his relationship to God. The New Testament is quite clear on this, Jesus is God’s Messiah and he and the Father are One. That is all I need to know, and this is in my understanding the central doctrine of Christianity. If he was called Son of God, I am quite willing to let it go at that, even if that title is not entirely clear as to meaning, and the same with Son of Man. What is clear to me is that Jesus made it possible for you and me to become Children of God and to be One with the Father, just as he was. I realize that this is not clear to most Christians, but that is not because it isn’t clearly stated in the New Testament writings. To ignore these simple truths and then turn around and promote the gobbledy-gook of the Nicene Creed, which everyone agrees can’t be understood, just strikes me as ludicrous. I don’t mind if others choose to incorporate it into their practice and ritual, but I very much mind if others imply or baldly state that my salvation depends on believing this incomprehensible jumble of words. My salvation depends upon Jesus the Word, not human efforts to describe the indescribable. But I think you already know that. Bless your day.


  9. Same here. I discovered Rohr several years ago and it has been eye opening. I enjoy his daily devotions as they have led me to rethink many things about God, Christianity, and religion in general.


  10. Although, and strangely enough, I have come across what seem to me to be significant parallels and convergences between the theology of Barth, to the degree that I understand and know it, and Eastern Orthodoxy, to the degree that I understand and know it. For now (and probably for the rest of my life), I have little choice but to stay where I am, ecclesially speaking, and make a virtue of necessity.


  11. Dana, I think I must have latent Orthodox tendencies, despite my own protestations to the contrary. There is an elegance in the history of the development of doctrine in the early centuries of the Church as accounted for by Orthodoxy that is very holistic, and compelling. It has some of the same dovetailing of processes and developments that we see in the biological realm in the theory of evolution: things happening together in parallel and crisscrossing tracks, each needing the other for itself to make sense, and everything taking shape gradually and by nearly invisible increments.


  12. Yes, almost any prayer inclusive of the Holy Trinity will be imbalanced, but when you start off by equating the Persons with specific functions, you’re guaranteeing it. It comes from the modernist desire to soften the maleness of the traditional formula, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But because the dynamic relations of this formulation are not readily and economically translatable to other language (apart from the use of Mother in place of Father, which is another matter with its own problems), it always ends up in modalism, due to the unavoidable replacement of personal categories with functional ones.


  13. Charley,

    what Robert said. Wright, and others in the west, believe there was a very high Christology and Trinitarian sensibility pretty much right away in the early Church, before anything got written down. Wright is adamant that it is very clear in Paul already. In the east, as Christians moved to other parts of the Mediterranean basin they encountered questions they had to answer, and, later, the heresies. They took the vocabulary available from Greek and stretched many of the word meanings to be able to explain, as best they could, what they believed, without lapsing back into Platonism.. The continued clarifications can be followed through the Apostolic Fathers, of the east, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and on to Athanasius and the rest.

    The difference it makes is that unless we know and can somehow describe who Jesus is and his relationship to the Person known as “God”, and via the Incarnation to the rest of humanity as well, then we can’t know for sure that we and the kosmos have been delivered and healed. Nobody who affirms the Nicene Creed understands the Trinity completely; the deal is, that’s the only way, given the Jewish background of monotheism and all that was stewing with that in the 1st Century, that we can even begin to have some vocabulary to talk about these things. Wright’s first 3 “big books” are very helpful. One of the things I love about Orthodoxy is that people with very little understanding at all (infants, people with cognitive impairment) are full members and are communed and participate in the sacramental life of the Church just like anyone else.

    What it ultimately comes down to is Love. If God is Love, then there must be a reciprocation of love between Two. And then, fullness of Love will admit Another. Sorta like marriage and procreation 🙂 The “dance” illustration of perichoresis has limits; it’s less like Ring-Around-A-Rosey and more like interpenetration, communion, coinherence – a knowing that is at the same time revelatory and beyond understanding, as we would expect a Deity who is Love to be. The late Richard Twiss (memory eternal!) used to say, “God is One *because* God is Three.”

    There’s a lot of free stuff to read at ntwrightpage.com, esp under the “Jesus” column. Jaroslav Pelikan and Fr John Behr are also good on this subject; Pelikan would probably be more approachable than Behr. You might find the books available through interlibrary loan, if you’re interested. If we lived closer, I’d loan you mine…



  14. You hit it right on. The modalism was what first hit me. It is an appealing prayer, but … . Having said that, almost any prayer we write that includes the Holy Trinity will be guilty of an overemphasis one way or another.


  15. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation developed in tandem. I think the early Church moved in this direction because 1) the traditions/Scripture moved them to have a very high view of the person of Jesus, culminating in the definition of Jesus as both God and man (and uniquely so: “..the only begotten son..”) and 2) the Scriptures/traditions showed Jesus relating to the Father (who is God) as a different person, praying to him, talking about him, etc. How they got to the definition of the Holy Spirit as another Person of the Godhead has always been more difficult for me to follow than how they got to the deity of Jesus and the Persons of the Father and the Son. But it’s clear to me that the early Church felt compelled by the evidence of traditions/Scriptures to the conclusions that were formulated in the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, however many stages were involved, and this sense of being compelled also seemed to them to be rooted in revelation as it came to them through Scriptures/traditions.


  16. Mule,
    What may set your Orthodox teeth on edge is the implied modalism of Rohr’s prayer, in which the Trinity is presented, and to some degree defined, in terms of the the functional modes in which we supposedly experience God, rather than the relationships between the Persons of the Godhead. The traditional doctrine of the Trinity, in both East and West, has always been that God is not merely triune in modalities, but in the inner life of theGodhead, i.e., that God knows God as Trinity. Some of this implied modalism can be found in mainline Protestant churches (like the ones I attend) when they refer to the trinity as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, as if these functions are not overlapping in the traditional formulation of Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and as if the persons are defined by function rather than intra-divine relationship. Your ears may hear in Rohr’s prayer the reduction of dynamic personal categories to more two-dimensional functional ones, and that might set your teeth on edge; I know it does mine, though I’m by no means orthodox in most senses of the word.


  17. Fr Rohr’s email from yesterday had the following (rather provocative) quote from Karl Rahner:

    In his classic study, The Trinity, Karl Rahner said, “Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists.’ We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.”


  18. I was raised Catholic and we focused on the Holy Trinity, starting each prayer with ‘in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ together with the sign of the Cross

    I would say that we also prayed comfortably to each Person in the Holy Trinity as ‘God’. I don’t know if the ‘wider’ evangelical community views the Holy Trinity in the same way, but after learning about the Eternal Subordination of the Son fiasco, I suspect that Our Lord is NOT seen by the neo-Calvinists in the same way as Christians who are main stream believers in the Holy Trinity.

    The Orthodox Christiana have this beautiful hymn, the Phos Hilaron, which celebrates the full Trinity as ‘God’


  19. If anyone could explain to me in a way that makes sense why it benefits me in any way to believe that God spends His days playing Ring-Around-the-Rosy with Himself, it would be Richard Rohr, but then I’m one of Mule’s Usual Suspects. I will be giving Richard’s series on this my full attention. I understand that there is a basic universal law of three that operates everywhere, and there is no good reason why God should not exhibit this pattern, since He originated it. As to how that translates into the need for me to affirm that I believe Jabberwocky before I am let into the game, my understanding balks. I believe that Jabberwocky is a wonderful poem of nonsense that mirrors the non-sense of our perceived reality, but for me to have to stand up and raise my right hand and swear, I believe ‘Twas Brillig, you’ve got to be kidding. I do believe that God is One.

    I relate daily and moment by moment with God as Father, with Jesus and Spirit as fully representing God’s authority in my life. This helps me deal better with my neighbor and my cat and you folks, but it does not help me understand why hammering out the Nicene Creed with vile political intrigue and deadly violence in any way benefitted me. I do get how it benefitted certain factions within the institutional church and all but destroyed others. I am bombarded from all sides with constant affirmations of Trinitarian dogma. and I find no difference between that and the constant bombardment of political propaganda or of consumer advertising. In my view, the church worked better before Nicene than after, at least the western church. Something got all but lost along the way..

    What difference does it make in my service and dedication to Jesus whether or not he toes the line we have set up for him or dances to our tune? When he sat down at the right hand of the Father with full authority as Messiah to rule, did he have to take a quick course in Christology so he could figure out how to do it? If the Arians had won the battle, and it was a squeaker, would that have made a particle of difference in how the universe operates? If I’m out to lunch, how come Jesus hasn’t taken multiple opportunities to pull my coat? Anyway, I’ll be listening and watching for anything that makes sense to me, but not holding my breath.


  20. I acknowledge those concerns, Mule. I’m not sure it’s new-agey as much as syncretistic from a variety of mystical and “wisdom” traditions, which Fr. Rohr explicitly admits in describing his own approach. I don’t buy it all either, but IMO he has tapped into a great deal of genuine wisdom. Very appealing to those of us Westerners who are fed up with rationalism and dogmatics and desire more contemplative and personal balance. Not as good or robust as Merton, but I still find him helpful.


  21. Being raised Catholic I find focusing on the Father to be MY choice. After all, Jesus taught his disciples to pray to the Father, and he did the same himself.

    The relationship with the Divine is what is important, so I don’t think it really matters substantially which Person you pray to.


  22. I, too, get his daily meditations…I look forward to them each morning. Along with Anglican Pastor. This is my trifecta or trinity each morning–imonk, Fr. Rohr, and AP.
    Thanks for sharing this.


  23. Seems I’ve read this in bits & pieces elsewhere….like throughout the epistles, and Abbess Hildegard von Bingen and Julian of Norwich. Good to hear it again. ?


  24. Father Rohr spices his spiritual salads with too many New Age-y seasonings for my tastes, and I see the Usual Suspects endorsing his books, but maybe this is just what Immanence looks like and sounds like when you approach it from the West.

    In his short prayer, there is nothing objectionable, but something just sets my teeth on edge.

    One thing I have always admired about Rome is her ability to keep loo-loos like Fr. de Chardin and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez down on the farm. I notice they weren’t able to do so in the case of Matthew Fox, and there is certainly not total acceptance of Fr. Rohr even among Franciscans.

    Just sayin’


  25. Although I’m not averse to praying in Trinitarian language, and accept the Church’s received doctrine of the Trinity (to the degree that I understand it”, the focus of my thinking about and praying to God is Jesus Christ. The Father and the Holy Spirit are far more abstract to me than Jesus is. The center of my faith as I understand and experience it, and the foundation for the doctrine of the Trinity as I understand it, is the Incarnation, Jesus Christ. I experience and know him as being for, alongside and within me, and I do not find that his “name” (with all that entails) falls short of God’s goodness and greatness.


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