“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, starting your prayers with the words ‘heavenly Father’ (or some similar variation) may have become so customary that you don’t think about it much. If you’re not a Christian, the idea of referring to the Creator as ‘Father’ may seem bizarre, even wrong. And if you’re a new Christian, maybe you haven’t got your head around this name for God and you’re still defaulting to safer options like ‘Lord’ or just ‘God’.
I guess that covers just about everyone. Calling God ‘Father’ when we pray has the potential to be a strange, confusing, or empty Christian habit. But it should never be any of those things. Instead, we should pause daily and reflect on the mind-blowing idea that we can call the God of the Universe ‘Father’.
This is an idea with massive, far-reaching implications. We’ll spend the next few days teasing out some of these ideas. For starters, I love the way Tim Chester starts his new book on prayer, You Can Pray:
“So many books and talks on prayer make prayer a discipline that we need to work on, so we can become good pray-ers. Prayer then becomes something we achieve. But it’s not. Prayer is a child asking her father for help – nothing more, nothing less.
“The disciples ask their question because they see Jesus praying. Jesus has a relationship of intimacy. He is the true Son of God, as Adam and Israel were intended to be. Moreover, he is the eternal Son of God. He has always been in an intimate, loving relationship with his Father. He is the one and only Son, eternally begotten of the Father. He speaks only what he hears from his Father and does only what is his Father’s will. He honours the Father, and the Father honours him.
“All of that is way beyond our experience of God – except that Jesus now invites us to share that relationship. By faith, we’re united to Christ. We’re ‘in’ him. His relationship with God becomes our relationship with God. His intimacy with the Father becomes our intimacy with the Father. The Father will no more reject our prayers than he will reject the prayers of his own Son, Jesus. Amazing.”
“In many ways, it’s a mistake to focus on prayer itself, as if prayer was some kind of skill to be acquired. We’ve seen that prayer is the act of a child asking her father for help. And you don’t have to teach a child to ask for things! All that a child needs to know is that she is needy and her father loves her. And all you need to know to pray well is that you’re needy and your heavenly Father loves you.”
“When you pray, you may hear a voice accusing you, saying. ‘That’s not a good prayer. You need to try harder. You need to do better.’ This is the voice of Satan. Satan is like the grumpy onlooker who remains resolutely unimpressed by the first words of a small child. The difference though is that Satan’s intent is far more malign. He never wants you to talk to your Father. Don’t listen to Satan. Rather, listen to your heavenly Father who applauds even your faltering, jumbled attempts.
“God gave his own Son for this very reason, so that you can call him ‘Father’, so that you can pray. Prayer is a gift and an opportunity we’re given through Christ. It’s nothing more and nothing less than a child asking her father for help.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for the incredible privilege of calling on you as my Father. Please help me to depend on you utterly for everything. Thank you for the gift of being able to simply and humbly bring all my requests to you. Help me to listen to your voice and trust your promises. In Jesus’ name. Amen.