“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven…’” Luke 11:1-2 (NKJV)
Pastor Mark Driscoll often says, “Prayer is just talking to dad.” That is basically how Jesus starts His teaching on how to pray. 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 8:15). 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 it will significantly influence our prayer lives. 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. It will move beyond that to become a time when I am talking to my Heavenly Father. This will absolutely free my prayer from the realm of awkward and uncomfortable and moves it to the realm the deep and passionate.
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 transcendence. The transcendence of God refers to Him being other than us. He is different that we are. He is bigger than we are. He is higher than us. Think about God telling us in Isaiah that just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
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 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. When we understand that our Heavenly Father is omnipresent we will take great comfort from our times of prayer because we know that God is with us.
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 can do anything. He is all-powerful. When we understand He is our Heavenly Father, and He 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.
Prayer starts by recognizing who 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 such a great privilege.
To understand that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father is the most important thing we can understand about prayer. Do you really see prayer as talking to your Heavenly Father? When you pray do you really see yourself talking to your Heavenly Father who loves you with a perfect love, knows and cares about all your needs, concerns and burdens? Do you really believe that your Heavenly Father is actually with you no matter where you are or what is going on in your life? Do you really believe that He is all powerful and able to do anything that needs to be done?
This is important because when we truly grasp that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father, then everything else Jesus talks about in this prayer will be natural and easy for us. If we truly grasp that prayer is talking to our Heavenly Father then finding time to pray probably won’t be a problem for us. While I don’t guess I could prove it perfectly, I would venture to say that most problems in our prayer lives flow out of problems here. Not that we aren’t saved. Not that we don’t know that God is our Heavenly Father. Not even that we don’t start every prayer with, “Heavenly Father…”
It’s just that there is something about God as our Heavenly Father that we don’t completely grasp or maybe accept. It could be that I have problems accepting that the Great God of the Bible really loves me with a perfect love or cares about everything that is going on in my life. If I don’t think God really cares I certainly won’t be motivated to pray. It could be that I have problems accepting that God is with me and really is listening to my prayers. If I don’t think God hears my prayers I certainly won’t be motivated to pray to Him. It could be that I are uncertain about God’s power to do all things. If I really don’t think that God can help then there really isn’t any need to spend time asking Him for His help. Everything else Jesus talks about in this teaching will be fairly natural once we’ve truly embraced God as our Heavenly Father.