In the story of the Passion, Jesus prays two prayers that harrow the Christian’s heart. At Gethsemane, he prays to his Father that he be spared the agony of the Cross, even as he submits himself to his Father’s will. From the Cross itself, he asks his Father to forgive us, on account of our ignorance of the full meaning of our acts. Why? If the Son is the same being as the Father, wouldn’t he be praying to himself? And, being himself God, wouldn’t Jesus have the power to grant his own prayer?
This gets confusing for us because we parse it in terms of our relations with other persons, who inform each other in a series of temporally distinct acts. E.g., there is a period of time when I want Proph to pour me a cup of coffee, but Proph doesn’t know about my desperate need for coffee. Then, I ask him for the coffee – I pray to him – and he learns of my desire. Then, he either grants my request, or not. We map such sequences of operations onto the ad intra operations of the Trinity, and then we get muddled when we learn that they know everything about each other from all eternity, so that there would seem to be no need for them to pray to each other.
But the Persons of the Trinity do not relate to each other as we do to other people. They relate to each other rather as we do to ourselves; and because they are eternal, there is no state of affairs “before” the state of affairs in which they learn everything about each other.
The integrity of our present moment with those of our past is one way we may understand the integrity of the Trinity, and see how their mutual indwelling is effected. As I am at one with the somewhat different me of last evening, so the Logos is at one with the Father, as inheriting from the Father everything of the Father. Likewise, the prayer of the Son to the Father, by which the Son reflects the Glory of his Father back to its source, is wholly taken up by the Father. Likewise, again, the Spirit inherits all that there is of the Father and the Son, and vice versa.
We should not push this analogy too far, of course, for my integrity with my past is but a shadow of the perfect integrity of the three Persons. Among other things, whereas my life’s integrity is effected one moment at a time, and seriatim, so therefore temporally, the integrity of the Persons is effected all at once, and eternally. Furthermore, whereas the moments of a creaturely career can inform only one personal order, in God the moments of the three Persons inform three personal orders.
Yes, Jesus knows what will happen to him as he prays at Gethsemane. But his human reluctance to die is known to the Father and the Spirit, not before the actualization of that reluctance – for in eternity there is no before or after – but with it and by means of it (and, in the last analysis, as it). The humanity of Jesus is the way that omniscience knows eternally what it is like to be human.
So the humanity of Jesus is an aspect of what the Word has to say to the Father and the Spirit, the tale he tells them, by means of which they know humanity as Jesus knows it. The Father and the Spirit know the taste of bread and wine, of fish, and of death, in virtue of the knowledge the Son as Incarnate in Jesus has of these things – not before Jesus eats, or drinks, or dies, and nor yet after, but as, and eternally.
It is in virtue of the prayer of Jesus for our forgiveness that God learns from before all time that we need forgiveness, and that he wants it for us.
Jesus is not praying to himself – or, not only to himself. He prays to his Father, as we do, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, all three Persons are involved in each aspect of the prayer, and participate in it. The prayer does add something new to the life and being of God; but the addition occurs in eternity, together with all other such additions, in a single act. While it is manifest to creatures in different ways, and appears therefore as different acts, nevertheless it is one integral motion, in which and by which all created acts are engendered and accounted for, begun and ended.