I was thinking about prayer last night. Maybe many of you are like me and you get a lot of your praying in at night. I started pondering that the reason God asks us to pray is that it does make some sort of difference. I do not believe God would ask us to participate in an exercise of futility. God wants us to pray. I don’t think it’s always to change the external world directly. It could more change the internal world that will in turn change the external world.
My mind immediately cries out then that it would be great to know the best way to pray. I immediately think then that we have been told how to pray. I do not believe the Lord’s prayer is a prayer that we repeat vainly. (Interesting isn’t it that we are told to avoid vain repetition, yet we vainly repeat the Lord’s Prayer often.) Thus, I want to spend the next few blogs looking at the Lord’s Prayer.
It begins with “Our Father.” (Interestingly, the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that the Jesus Seminar put in red in their five gospels work.) What does it mean to how we pray when we are told that we are to begin with “Our Father?”
The first thing to notice is that this is an address to someone outside of ourselves. Meditation is spoken of in Scripture, but it is not in the sense that the Easterners would consider it. In pantheistic systems, meditation is more for looking inward. For the Christian, meditation and prayer are focused on that which is outside ourselves, which would be God.
I also notice that this is done in a community context. This is not saying “My Father.” This is saying “Our Father.” Unfortunately, we don’t tend to do well with group prayer. The only time I see a real group prayer usually is with my Bible Study group where we’re all close-knit. In other cases, we’re too rushed and we just give a general prayer. (How many times do you think you could just quote the prayer that will be said at Thanksgiving?)
If we are to pray biblically, then we need to be open with each other. Of course, this is hard for us to do today. What if somebody thinks less of me? How do I know I’m not the only one going through this? Won’t I be embarrassed? Does anybody really care about what I’m going through?
Considering that last one, if no one really cared, first off, you wouldn’t care. Secondly, why should you pray because that assumes that God cares. Thus, you already have two that do care. Why are you to automatically assume no one else cares? Finally though, if God does care about something, it seems that everyone else who thinks something doesn’t care is wrong.
Thus, we need to be with our community. When we are with our community, we also need to be praying. Could this be one reason why churches don’t grow though? There really is no connection? You can walk into a room with your “church family” and feel like no one knows what’s going on.
Who are we to pray to? Our Father. This is a truly amazing claim. Jesus is the one who told us to address God as Father and he used regularly the term “abba” which would be “Daddy.” This was reserved for intimate conversation. Indeed, prayer is intimate conversation.
We are told the Father loves us. We are told the Father cares for us. However, one thing we need to remember is that the Father wishes for us to be like him as well. We are not naturally his. We are his by adoption. He did not have to save any of us. He chose to save some of us though. That can be believed whether one is a Calvinist or Arminian. None would be saved unless God wanted to offer salvation.
Maybe we need that image in mind when we pray. God is the Father and not the grandfather. A grandparent might often spoil their kids, but a Father doesn’t. The Father loves us, but he also disciplines us. He’s love, but he’s also holiness. We don’t have command over the Father. The Father has command over us.
Thus, we have two words in a prayer. So much more could be said. I believe a whole volume could be written on these words. I hope I’ve said enough tonight to get you thinking though.