PRAYER BEGINS WITH A RELATIONSHIP
Prayer is a way we can connect with God. It starts with a relationship. It includes communication, and it’s an invitation to partner with God in what He wants to do in this world. Through prayer we can know God’s heart, align our hearts and lives with His purpose, and access God’s incredible power and amazing promises for ourselves, the people we love and this messed-up world.
When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Jesus didn’t hesitate.
He responded by sharing with them a model for prayer that has become one of the greatest, most famous prayers in history. We call it, “The Lord’s Prayer.” It could really be called, “The Model Prayer” or “The Disciple’s Prayer.”
Jesus began his crash course in prayer with seven simple words…
Pray like this: Our Father in heaven…
That statement is amazing! It’s incredible!
The Old Testament covers thousands of years! And throughout it, God is only called “Father” SEVEN times. People didn’t think of God in those terms. They thought of Him in other ways.
They thought of Him as Creator, Master, the Almighty, God of Angel Armies, and the Most High God. But in the Old Testament people didn’t regularly think of or see God as Father.
Then along came Jesus and when Jesus’ students asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” He said, “Okay, begin like this… Our Father in heaven…”
Jesus said, “Call him, Father…” It’s the Aramaic word, “Abba”. It’s a very tender and intimate word. It’s a word that little children and adults used. The closest word we have to it is our English word “Daddy” or “Papa”.
Of all the names or titles God uses for Himself, “Abba” / “Father” / “Daddy” is His favorite title.
How can I say that? Because Jesus used that expression close to 200 times to refer to God!
When Jesus said begin with, “Our Father in heaven…” He’s saying, “When you pray, take a moment and remember who you’re talking to…”
You’re not talking to some distant, aloof, disconnected creator, leader or deity. You’re talking to your Dad.
Jesus is smashing all the stereotypes. He’s letting his disciples and us know: God is not some angry tyrant! God is not some kind of cosmic cop! He’s not the universal killjoy! He’s not some impersonal force. God is PERSONAL! He wants to have a RELATIONSHIP with you! He created you to have a RELATIONSHIP with Him!
I only have three people on this earth who call me “Father or “Dad” and that single word probably gets my attention quicker than any other word in my vocabulary.
If I pick up the phone and I hear the word, “Dad?” that establishes a context between me and the person who’s speaking to me that is stronger than iron. And everything else they say, any requests they have or confession they may make, takes place within the context of the relationship that’s expressed by that one word, “Dad” or “Father.”
At this point, some of us have problem, because for some, the word “father” is a negative term. It stirs up a lot of bad memories. In fact, there are people, who, the moment they hear, “Pray like this: Our Father in Heaven…” immediately think to themselves, “If God is like my father, then, ‘No thanks, God!’”
I realize that some human fathers can make “home” a living hell. I realize that human fathers can be moody, abusive, controlling, violent, absent, cruel, distant, unreasonable, unreliable and neglectful. I realize that the phrase, “Our Father…” carries a lot of baggage for some people who were failed by their earthly father.
If you were hurt, wounded, abused or neglected by your earthly Dad, I am so sorry.
But, please listen:
GOD IS NOT LIKE YOUR EARTHLY FATHER! He’s not like “any” earthly dad. Yes, some earthly dads may be a beautiful reflection of our Heavenly Father because their heart is to honor God and love their kids... they will still fall short.
God, on the other hand, is a PERFECT FATHER.
- Your Heavenly Father CARES
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
- Your Heavenly Father is CONSISTENT
“I am the Lord, I do not change…” (Malachi 3:6)
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change…” (James 1:17)
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
- Your Heavenly Father is CLOSE
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18)
“The LORD is close to all who call on him…” (Psalm 145:18)
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you…” (James 4:8)
- Your Heavenly Father is full of GRACE
“…the God of all GRACE…” (1 Peter 5:10)
“My grace is sufficient… My grace is really all you need… My power works best in weakness…” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
- Your Heavenly Father is GENEROUS
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:9-11)
This is why Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this: Our Father in heaven…”
Remember the relationship, this is your Dad you’re talking to.
Paul, in Galatians, insists:
You are not a slave.
You are more than a servant.
You are not an orphan.
You are a son or daughter of God!
You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. (Galatians 4:6-7 MSG)
You are part of the ROYAL FAMILY.
You have some amazing PRIVILEGES.
You are an HEIR of God, a JOINT HEIR with Jesus Christ.
Do you know what that means?
To be an HEIR OF GOD means that everything that GOD OWNS belongs to you, as well, because you BELONG TO GOD!
We can have this kind of relationship with God because of what Jesus did for us when He died for our sins, in our place. What Jesus did on the cross and through His resurrection has made it possible for people like you and me to have DIRECT ACCESS to God and become part of His FOREVER FAMILY.