Our relationship with our own dad affects the way we relate to God. As discussed in our previous blog post, Jesus the Son called out to God the Father using the term “Abba” which roughly translates to the word “daddy” in the same way my son calls to me. Each of us have our own set of images and memories embedded in our brain when we hear a reference to the Father. In God’s goodness, He Himself is our perfect Father: always faithful, providing what we need through Jesus Christ, and never abandons His family. It is this father that Jesus is speaking of us he answers the disciple who said “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
1Now Jesuswas praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2And he said to them,”When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4 ESV)
And there it is: the model and proper perspective for prayer as given by Jesus roughly 2000 years ago. It begins with acknowledging God Himself as our Father, placing us in the position of His own children. In context, He is our perfect loving Father, wanting our best, blessing each of us, providing what we truly need through Jesus Christ and His empty tomb, and being faithful to us for all eternity.
Knowing God as your father should make prayer more simple and open. Though speaking to the God of the universe may seem complex and even frightening or stressful if you really think about it, speaking to your dad should not. It is here that the imperfections experienced in your own fathers must be overcome and the opportunity to have what you always wanted in your dad is to be accepted.
Father… With God as your Father, it is important to know He is in authority. He created you. He named you. He knows you. He provides for you. He loves you. He knows more than you. As His children we are heirs and therefore inherit blessings different than cash money. We are freed from the decay and destruction of death and resurrected to life.
Hallowed be your name… God is to be honored and is set apart from all creation. He is God, we are not. He is perfect in power, presence, and holiness, and we are mortal, sinful, and dying. The One who hears us in grace is far different than the one who is praying. He is to be the object of our prayers; we are to heap praise on Him, not just ask for a cost of living wage increase, a better house, and other stuff we’re convinced God owes us. We heard God provides for our needs and therefore He needs to come through with some stuff. Never mind people suffering and being killed around the world for their Christian faith. It must be something else going on there…
Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven… Life is about Him, not us. Whatever God wants, we want… no matter what. This is not real easy to pray if we’re going to be honest with God and ourselves. Then again, what legacy do you want to leave behind on your way to meeting God face to face?
Give us this day our daily bread… A small portion of our prayer is to be about our own needs and agenda. And what else is God to provide? He has already given us a way out of death and destruction through the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ. We must be careful not to misunderstand what He means about providing our needs. If we interpret God providing all our needs by expecting Him to pay all our bills and give us the job, home, neighbors, kids, and everything else we want, then we are saying He has abandoned and outright lied to everyone ever persecuted for their faith.
And forgive us our sins… We are most in need of forgiveness for sin. Our need for forgiveness is greater than our need for food and water. Without the grace of God we’re destined for the destruction of our bodies and forever suffering in isolation from the love of God’s Spirit. Sin leads to death, and death leads to a decaying corpse and an unnatural severing of the physical body from the immaterial soul. God is not fair, He is faithful, and that is how we are forgiven. Jesus took our sins to the cross, and left them in the grave.
As we forgive those who have sinned against us… The life of a Christian reflects the heart of God. We casn’t hold on to grudges. So many church people I know engage in a constant exchange of bitter thoughts and speech regarding their church leaders, the conduct of others, and perceived slights. Folks like this are gluttons for self indulgence, and morbidly obese in bitterness and contempt. So many churchgoers have never truly been victims and yet wear their self painted wounds like Halloween costumes to make up their own lack of effort in personal responsibility, Spiritual growth, and sharing the Gospel where they have been placed to do it. A sign of God at work is forgiveness towards others. Bitter loudmouthed excuse making gossip/drama queens tempt my rage. And that is why I must forgive.
And lead us not into temptation… Praying against our weaknesses and sinfulness is a daily excercise. We are all sinful and must pray desperately to transform daily into a reflection of the person of Jesus Christ. As we pray daily for deliverance from the temptations we face each day, we grow stronger and able to withstand them, whatever they are. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is after all about the defeat of sin and death.
But deliver us from evil: Some translations contain this addition to the Lord’s Prayer. We place our faith in this world in God, and though we will face hardship here, we place our faith in God to deliver us from sin and death.
“Pray without Ceasing…” This key phrase is found elsewhere in Scripture when Paul says “pray without ceasing” to the believers in ancient Thessalonica. To pray without ceasing means to pray continually and perpetually as a part of our life. It means to pray so freely and so consistently it is as common as a breath of air. We must never stop praising God and praying for His plan.
Practice this model of prayer from Luke 11:1-4 today. Praise God for being your perfect Father. Point all the glory and all your success to Him. Focus on His will; map out your world according to His word and not just a bunch of ideas in your head.
Trust Him and He will not lead you the wrong way. We’ll discuss this in my next blog post…
The above entry has been reposted and edited, and is part of a four part series called “Elemental: The Elements of Spiritual Life.” It is a reflection of what I have learned over time as necessary components to a growing Christian life. It is not an all inclusive formula of three steps that when followed will lead to a measurable and intended result. It is simply an observation of three elements told in four abridged segments that are always present in the lives of Christians that are growing closer to the Lord, and always absent from those who describe their lives as “not growing” spiritually. The intended audience is clearly people who identify themselves as Christian people, though not limited to them.