In the Lord’s prayer, the Lord is not giving us a script necessarily, but a pattern for our prayer life. And he begins with a phrase that we often gloss over…
Matthew 6:9: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven,
Jesus starts with describing who our God is. Our Father. Which that truth then establishes the foundation of our prayer life. Our Father. It is collective in nature. Our faith is not just me, my Bible and God, but rather we are following Jesus together. Yes a personal relationship, but never a private one. We are following Jesus together, and our God is our Father.
Fourteen times in the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father, but it is always in reference to the whole nation of Israel. In the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), Jesus prays to God as Father sixty times. This idea of ‘Father’ is brand new to the disciples and the crowd that was listening to Jesus teach that day.
God is not just a force, or far away. He is close, loving and involved in His children’s lives. There is a warmth, intimacy, and yet also loving authority in the picture of Father. Now for many of you, the picture of God as Father is something you struggle with because of your earthly Dad. Others of you had or have a Dad who honored or is honoring Jesus with his life. Others of you didn’t have that example.
Dad walked about, left you and your mom, or abused, or neglected. Or he was addicted to work, or a substance, or to a hobby, and so when you think Dad, you don’t think, warmth, intimacy, closeness, and loving authority. You think of all the opposite of those words, and you’ve got a Father’s wound on your life.
Do not judge God by the experience you had with your earthly Father. That broken relationship does not have to define how you relate to God as Father. He sees that brokenness and hurt, and wants to minister to that area of your heart. He wants to do that through His Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through the Body of Christ, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are all like runaway, rebellious children. Wanting to do our own thing, and yet through Christ and when we give our lives to Him, God adopts us into the family of God (John 1:12). And church is family, and now we have all these brothers and sisters around us, in this growing family of believers. And God is OUR Father. And so we relate to one another like family, and love God as our Father.
So to learn how to pray, we don’t look to the religious, we instead get a picture of a great Dad with his children. We move away from the overly formal, and into the context of the family. I have the opportunity to be a Dad to a son and a daughter. I love being a Dad, and I love our two kids, but by no means am I a perfect Dad. I fall short as a Dad, and by the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I want to grow to reflect God the Father to my children. And yet despite me, God loves them perfectly. His love for them, I can’t even begin to comprehend or get my head around.
And so as a parent, I want my kids to gradually transfer their trust from Heather and me to their perfect Heavenly Father. To make their faith their own, and where they ultimately are making decisions and choices, not to please us, but to honor their Heavenly Father. As parents, we want to keep pointing them to Jesus, because Heather and I are not the source of their salvation, joy, or delight.
So in the context of that Father-child relationship, my children and I interact because of relationship. They talk to me, humbly, respectfully (for the most part ;)). Dad, I need something from you. I need to talk to you about something, Dad. Dad, I need some help. Dad, I’m frustrated. Dad, I’m so excited. Dad, what do you think about me going there and doing that? Dad, I need some wisdom.
The foundation of our prayer life is God as Father. And when we get that, we won’t come to Him as a far off force, or mystical presence, but a holy Creator who sent His only Son to rescue us from judgment and our sin, so that through faith and by grace alone, we could relate to Him as Father.
If we get that God is Father, then you and I will pray. Then we won’t think, “well, I’m doing it wrong”, or “I feel stupid”. I’m not looking for my children to communicate with me formally. Respectfully, humbly, yes. But also authentically. As Hebrews 4:16 tells us, we will come boldly before the throne of grace with confidence…because we know the One who is in the throne is not just Creator and Almighty, but also Father.