When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he began simply with, “Our Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9) He is Almighty God. He is Sovereign of the Universe. He is head of the Trinity. But Jesus taught the disciples to pray Our Father. One of the most powerful and helpful realities of prayer is that prayer is relational. This doesn’t mean that we should pray flippantly or irreverently, but he is our Father.
This assumes an important truth—that God actually is your Father. For God to be your Father, Jesus has to be your Savior. Before believing in Jesus, God is not relationally our Father in the truest sense. He is our Judge. He is our Jury. He and holy justice are our Condemners.
After believing in Jesus—who bore the death we deserved on the cross for us—in the most remarkable reversal of fortune, God our Judge becomes God our Father. Now he relates to us as a Father to his children. This is not a metaphor or illustration. We are actually adopted children of the eternal God. So the first question in prayer is not, how do I pray? but who am I before God? Is he my Judge or my heavenly Father? Our Father who art in heaven.
Do not miss the significance of this. God has arranged the universe in a way that when we communicate to God in our hearts or minds or verbalize those in spoken words, what I say here is heard there. Prayer is talking with God here (heart) or here (mind) or here (mouth) and the God of heaven promises to hear our prayers. God doesn’t just listen in to our prayers like the NSA listens in to our phone calls, but he really listens like I do when I listen to what my daughter says.
My daughter turns five months old this week. Did you know she is already talking? She is. This is one amazing little girl. She is so verbal and so effective at communicating, particularly at such a young age. For example, when she is tired, she says, “Waa!” When she is hungry, she says, “Waa!” When she is scared, she says, “Waa!” She has a highly developed phonic language. At five months old, she is a brilliant communicator.
Why is “Waa!” effective? Is it because of the richness of meaning in the word or the fluent way she says it? Is it her eloquence? Is it her intelligence? No. “Waa!” doesn’t work because of her; “Waa!” works because her parents love her. We hear her mostly selfish communication, her I want my-needs-met motivations, her I-am-the-center-of-the-universe demands, and interpret them through a grid of parental love that sometimes gives her what she wants, but always gives her what she needs.
It is the same with our prayers to God. They are often only slightly better than, “Waa!” Our prayers are often as whiny and self-centered as any baby’s cry. Even our most articulate prayers do not in themselves require the movement of the hand of God. Our prayers are not effective because they are logical, eloquent, long or short, deep or wide. They are effective because our heavenly Father loves us.
God knows what we need before we ask him. We are not informing him of anything nor do we impress him with our prayers. We are simply crying out to the God who loved us in Jesus and who promises to listen, to give us the joy of fellowship with him, and who will sometimes give us what we want and always give us what we need.
You may not be able to pray like Jesus. If that’s the case, then pray like my daughter. God loves you and he rejoices when his children talk with their heavenly Father.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2013 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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