“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:8)
It’s an all too familiar prayer–in fact many of us would have to admit that we often recite it out of habit. Ironically, the verse prior to this one says not to do just that. Regardless, I didn’t choose this verse to talk about the problems of empty religious practice. What I would like for you to consider is the weight of those two words, “Our Father.”
For a Jew in the time of Jesus, looking to God as Father was borderline blasphemy. God was no mere Father. How dare anyone reduce the great “I AM,” the Creator, Elohim, El Shaddai, YHWH, the one who numbered the stars, parted the Red Sea, put the earth into motion, and holds all things together by the power of His word, how dare anyone reduce this God to “Father”? And yet Jesus did exactly that.
But let us consider for a moment the weight of these two words, for in them lie the secret to having good prayer lives, flourishing spiritual walks, and comfort second to none. “Our Father.” Oswald Chambers said once “Prayer is about getting to God and not the answer,” and if we remember that, above all else, God is our Father, then everything else that comes after these two words fall into place.
In his book “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” Andrew Murray says this about these two words:
“This invocation places us at once in the center of the wonderful revelation that Jesus came to make His Father our Father, too.”
The relationship one has with a father transcends most other relationships. It carries with it the sense of both provision and correction. There is both a tender and a firm side to this relationship. But the beauty of it for us as Christians is that we are “adopted sons and daughters.” In adoption, all the effort is on the part of the father, nothing is done by the child. The child is simply welcomed into a new family and immediately receives all the benefits of being a natural born son of the father along with the inheritance of the father.
And this is what we have in Christ. As Murray pointed out, Jesus is the only person who can call God Father, and yet because of His finished work on the cross, He allows us to do the same.
Tim Keller puts it this way: “The only person foolish enough to wake up a king at three in the morning for a glass of water is a child.”
Nothing is so small for God that we can’t go to Him in prayer about it. He is Our Father. Jesus has this to say in Luke 11 concerning asking our Father when asked by His disciples to teach them to pray:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
This offer is made, of course, in the context of asking according to His will; however, what better thing to ask for according to God’s will then to ask for the Holy Spirit! All of us are in daily need of the Spirit, but not just this. We are in daily need of mercy and grace, something we are told in Hebrews 4:16 we can “go before the throne boldly” for.
David has this to say when considering his prayers going before the Lord:
- Psalm 40:1 “I wanted patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry”
- Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”
- Psalm 34:6 “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
- Psalm 66:19 “But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.”
The Lord hears us. He is Our Father. We have a confidence because He is our Father, and we also have a reverence because He is in Heaven. His will and kingdom will come and be done. But because He is our Father, we know that it is for our well being. We have a confidence knowing He will give us our daily bread and forgive our trespasses, and we know–because He is in heaven–He has the power to do these things. We have a confidence knowing He will deliver us from the evil one, and we know–because He is in heaven–He sees all things. Nothing goes unnoticed.
God is your Father, if you are in Christ. Let’s not pray to Him with “vain repetition” (or “useless babbling” as it is defined in the Greek). Let’s not be cold and indifferent in our prayers. Let’s not treat our relationship with God like a business relationship. He is our Father. Go to Him in confidence.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15, NIV )