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I wish that I was more of a pray-er. I think I’m sincere in that wish . . . but, sadly, I don’t often apply myself to grow in my life in prayer. (So, how sincere am I, really?) I’m not sure how to explain my prayer life–rather meager overall but punctuated with deep and life-altering moments. I have moments when I taste delight and fruitfulness in prayer . . . only to then go for long stretches where prayer is fairly perfunctory and shallow. So I continue to think about prayer and talk with the Lord (some) and others (a bit more) about prayer.

Sitting and thinking about it, I have been drawn back to what we call “the Lord’s prayer,” wondering if there just might be more there than I have seen before. Jesus offers this “index prayer” in answer to the disciples’ request for him to teach them about praying. (An “index prayer” was something like a template for prayer used by rabbis to teach their students what kinds of things to consider in praying and what sorts of requests to make.)

Jesus said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'” (Matthew 6:9-12)

Jesus didn’t intend for his disciples to simply repeat these words (as is evident from what Jesus says in Matthew 6:7 about meaningless repetition). He was offering this as a way to think about what we pray and how we pray. And it begins with how we think about God in approaching him in prayer.

Our Father. Two things strike me about these initial words. First is the idea of intimacy and familiarity, the other is about the corporate sense of approaching God in prayer.

Listen to how people pray–listen to your own praying. (I’ve noticed my own praying over the past few days.) How do we address God? How do you speak to him? Although it is not wrong to address him as “God” or “Lord” and “Almighty” or any one of a number of titles and names found throughout the Scriptures, Jesus invites us to address the Sovereign God with a term of intimacy and affection.

There might be times in prayer when a particular facet of God’s character or nature comes to the forefront of our thinking and we find some other name or title capturing that dimension of our life with God that makes addressing God differently a proper fit (think, for example, of how the church prayed to the “Lord”–not the common word translated “Lord” in the New Testament, but a word meaning “despot” or “absolute dictator”–when facing persecution and longing to affirm God’s sovereignty over all that was happening). However,  Jesus’ words here suggest that the common, normal, typical way we should speak to God is in terms of “Father.”

I’m not sure that I have grasped the magnitude and magnificence, the wonder and the delight, of approaching God that way. Sure, I might say that word in prayer, but I am quite sure that I don’t always approach God, simply and whole-heartedly, as “Father.” Clearly, the way I think of God and the way I address him in prayer is going to impact my praying.

The other thing here is the awareness that this God we speak with in prayer is “our Father.” What is hinted at in that single word? That we do not have exclusive claims on God. That God is not a personal, local deity. That the life we have with God is something we share with others. That in approaching God in prayer, we are speaking with Someone who is concerned about more than just our little corner of the world but he is orchestrating a grand and glorious symphony that embraces all of life. Sure, if you press me, I will readily admit that God is “our Father,” but I am quite sure that I don’t always approach God, simply and clearly, with that kind of broad awareness of his “our-ness.” Clearly, the way I think of God’s broad concerns for us and not just me is going to impact my praying.

So, today, I will try to anchor my praying in two simple thoughts: God desires I approach him as “Father,” and in approaching him as Father I am invited to think beyond my own personal concerns and to be aware that he is the Father of a multitude he longs to bless.

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2 Comments

  1. To often I’ve skipped to “Father” without noticing the unity and community”our” relates.
    Our > Personal community (with us)
    Father> Paternal identity (for us)
    which art> Positive reality
    in heaven > Positional superiority (above us)
    ….

  2. That “model” prayer is soooo rich………..the subject matter and implications of each phrase,when analyised with an open mind free of traditional church influence, have some really question raising components to them, such as “what if I don’t pray to be delivered from evil, or what if I only half heartedly forgive others ?”…………I makes you wonder..


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