One of the things that separate Christianity from other religions is that our God is both exalted and personal. In most other religions, the focus of that religion is exalted or knowable but not both. There are many ways this difference plays out in the lives of the worshippers but none so dramatic as the prayer life. In religions where the god is exalted but unknowable, prayer is usually consistent but is seen as a duty to perform with little or no expectations of the god actually doing anything. In this type of religion prayer is something that is done to appease the god but has no affect on drawing you closer to the god and doesn’t actually bring about any change as a result of the prayer.
The God of Christianity is high and exalted as well as personally knowable. The great and awesome God of Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 is the same God that came to earth, took on human flesh and became our Redeemer. This same God calls on us to know Him and to have a life altering, genuine relationship with Him. This same God actively works in the world He created and for the people He has redeemed.
Part of what this means for us on a practical level is that every time we pray we are having a genuine encounter with the great and awesome God of the Bible and we have an open invitation from our great God to have this encounter anytime we want. That’s a pretty awesome thought. What makes this even better is to understand the kind of relationship we have with our great God.
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9 (NKJV)
Jesus starts His teaching on how to pray by telling us to address our prayers to our Father in heaven. This would have been somewhat startling to the Jews of Jesus’ day. In the Old Testament, God was seen as the Father of the Nation of Israel but no Jew would have ever called God their individual Father. Yet this is what Jesus is teaching us to do here. When we pray to God our Father we are praying to someone who loves us as a father loves his child.
Once you have trusted in Christ as your Savior you become a child of God. The book of Romans tells us that once we have been saved we receive the Spirit of Adoption and now we are able to call God our Abba Father (Romans 8:14-16). Abba is the Aramaic word for papa or really like dad. It was usually the first word that a child would learn and it was a term of great respect and affection. This is the same word that Jesus used when talking to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).
Recognizing this should change the way we pray. If nothing else this should free us from fear, or the need for formality or any sort of awkwardness that we may feel about praying. Prayer is simply talking to your Heavenly Father. When we truly understand this, our prayer lives won’t be sources of stress where we worry about using right words or religious sounding phrases. Instead, we will talk to our Father who loves us and as we do our relationship with Him will grow deeper.
Jesus also says that our Father is in heaven. The idea of Father in heaven reminds us that while God is our Father, He is still God. In theology, there are two main terms that used to describe God. One is immanence. The immanence of God reminds us that God is with us. He is present in our lives. We have a personal relationship with Him. He is our Father. The other word is transcendent. The transcendence of God refers to Him being other than us. He is different that we are. He is bigger than we are.
It is just as important to remember that God is in heaven as it is to remember that God is our Father. If we aren’t careful, we can take God as our Father too far and end up turning Him into an easy going parent who tolerantly shuts His eyes to our sins and faults. Or we expect Him to be an overindulgent parent that is supposed to grant our every wish. The reality is that our Heavenly Father is none of these things. He is the great and awesome God of the Bible. He is high and exalted. He is holy and just. He is amazing and glorious. He is all of these things and yet He invites us to call Him our Heavenly Father and come to Him any time we want and talk to Him in prayer.
There are three characteristics of God that focusing on Him as our Heavenly Father will help us to remember.
His Omnipresence. Because God is not an earthly father, His hearing our prayers, and working on our behalf is not constrained by distance. Simply put, God is everywhere at once. We live our lives in the presence of our Heavenly Father. This is especially important to remember as we pray. We really are with our Heavenly Father while we are praying.
His Omniscience. Because God is not an earthly father, His knowledge is not limited by what we have told Him. Simply put, God knows everything. When we realize our Heavenly Father knows all things, we willingly submit to His will because we understand that He already knows the perfect outcome to any given circumstance in our lives. This also helps us to be honest with Him about our sins, failures and our struggles.
His Omnipotence. Because God is not an earthly father, He is not limited by strength. Simply put, God is all-powerful and He can do anything. When we understand that our Heavenly Father is all-powerful, our hope will remain strong because we know that it is He who will fight the battles for us. He is the one who will give us the victory.
To understand that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father is probably the most important thing we can understand about prayer. When we understand that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father, finding time to pray won’t be a problem because I will eagerly look forward to spending time with Him. When we understand that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father, our prayer life will never become routine because we will know He loves us with a perfect love and cares about what is going on in our lives.
Prayer starts by recognizing whom it is that we are talking to. We are talking to our Heavenly Father who loves us with a perfect love, knows all of our needs, concerns and burdens. Our Heavenly Father is able to be with us no matter where we are or what is going on in our lives. He is all-powerful and able to do anything that needs to be done. This is why prayer is so awesome and it is such a great privilege. Spend some time today talking to your Heavenly Father.