Questions for Reflection
- Why does Jesus refer to God as our father?
- How is this relationship an invitation to prayer?
- How do you think of God when you are praying to Him?
- How might addressing him as a father change the way you pray?
- How can you work this lesson into your own prayers?
One of the great realities of being human is prayer. Study after study has found that people, often even those who claim no belief in God, routinely pray to him. We can’t seem to help ourselves. Perhaps it’s only for a moment in a desperate plea for help, or in a heartbroken petition of loss, or just humble thanks on a sunny and warm afternoon walk when everything feels right. Prayer just slips out.
But Jesus’s disciples recognized something profoundly different about how he prayed. It wasn’t the occasional and casual request, but neither was it like those long and complicated public prayers of the religious elite. Jesus was constantly praying, but in the most humble and yet intimate ways any of them had seen.
His prayers so moved them that they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray as he did. What Jesus offered them was The Lord’s Prayer, a prayer generations of believers have dedicated to memory and worked into the everyday moments of life.
Perhaps you too memorized it as a child or at least overheard it being prayed by a pastor or grandparent. But I’m guessing you’ve never fully realized the remarkable life-changing power of that prayer. So I want to look at it with you.
It all begins with a simple address: Jesus answered his disciples, “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…'”
Addressing the Father
One of Jesus’s favorite ways of addressing God had always been as a father. Jesus had prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” “Father, let this cup pass from me.” “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
After all, God had called Jesus his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. As the Son of God, it’s no surprise to hear Jesus praying to God as his father, but how shocking it must have been for his disciples to have been invited into that relationship. Jesus told them to begin with “our father.” None of them were used to praying like that.
That depth of intimacy was not something they were used to. God was on a throne. God was in heaven. He was a god of power, and authority, and honor. Would you dare wander up to the president of the United Stated seated in his oval office and casually explain, “You know I’ve always thought of you as a kind of father figure. Do you mind if I call you dad?” You’d be crazy and probably disrespectful. But that is exactly how Jesus taught his disciples and us to pray.
Address God as your father. You are a son or a daughter.
Our culture is too casual with this idea of God’s fatherhood. It’s not uncommon to hear people explain that we are all sons and daughters of God. But that’s not how scripture describes us. We are enemies of God by our rebellion against him. We reject him, and we reject his place as the creator. When the prophets of old found themselves in God’s presence, they didn’t call him dad; they fell on their faces in fear and reverence.
So how do we get by calling God our father? We can do it because Jesus invites us to do it. Jesus extends an invitation for us to be in on the relationship he alone has with God.
An Invitation to Pray
Maybe the first thing you should understand about prayer is that you don’t have the first word. When you pray, you aren’t starting the conversation. You have already been invited into it. You have been given access to it. You have an invitation to talk with God as your father.
When you bow your head to pray, you are already a part of something profound and life-altering, a conversation already initiated by God himself. God is offering you a relationship.
That realization, this opening phrase of prayer—Our father in heaven—fills you with both humility and boldness. You are humbled by realizing that you have not earned this attention but have been given it by God’s grace. And yet you are given the boldness of praying as a child, of praying as Jesus does.
You have been made a son and daughter of God.
You see, prayer is not just some desperate manipulation of God to get what you want. It isn’t some fearful obligation you do to keep him off your back. Prayer is an invitation by God into his family. With that humility and with that boldness, you are well prepared for everything coming in this prayer.
Our Father in heaven.