I figured in discussing the content of prayer, we’d use the Lord’s Prayer as an example. There’s a story I’ve heard about a seminary professor that had a student in his class open up each class with a prayer and when they were done praying, the professor would grade the prayer. One wise student when called upon one day said the Lord’s Prayer to which the professor replied afterwards, “That’s cheating!”
Sometimes, I just think about the words of the Lord’s Prayer though and dissect each of them for as much meaning as I can. There is much beauty in this prayer and while I’m not for vainly repeating it, (Isn’t it interesting that Christ warns us against vain repetition and we go and vainly repeat the Lord’s prayer.) I do think the attitudes that are in the prayer are helpful ones.
On an interesting note, when the Jesus Seminar wrote “The Five Gospels,” the words “Our Father” were the only ones in red, meaning those were the only ones they believe were definitely said by Jesus.
Before we get to the Father, let’s consider that Jesus says “Our.” Note that he is teaching his disciples how to pray. Never when speaking to his disciples or anyone else does Jesus speak of “our Father.” In fact, John 20:17 has him saying “my father and your father.” He is the Son by nature and we are sons and daughters by adoption.
“Our” though points to a community. This prayer was meant to be used by the disciples as a whole. I’ll admit I’m one who gets antsy sometimes during group prayer. I recall being in a service once and hearing the prayer and when done we wondered if there was anything the guy saying the prayer left out.
In Bible College once, I was told a story about a young man who approached a friend of his and asked for prayer support in a problem concerning a girl. This friend started to pray and he went through every book of the Bible saying what God did and the way I heard it, I mean every book. He went through both testaments and this young man who asked I’m sure is wondering what the heck is going on.
As if that’s not enough, after he goes through the Bible, he starts going through church history and finally, when they get to modern times, the friend who is praying says “And now Lord, X here would like your help with a girl.”
Something about group prayers can make me nervous. I always think that the person praying is praying what’s on his heart and it isn’t necessarily on mine and I find it hard to join in. Then, my theological side is often listening to the prayer and sometimes think “Whoa! Hold on! That wasn’t theologically accurate!” Unless it’s outright heretical though, I don’t speak. Fortunately, I haven’t had to yet.
But there is a place for group prayer. We need to return to it in many ways. Christianity is not meant to be an individualized religion but a religion in a community. Go through the Bible sometime and see how many times you see in the epistles especially the words “one another.” We are to do things in a community and that includes prayer.
Father. This is a hard word for some. Some people grew up with a father who was not a father. For them, we must be careful when we speak of God as Father. For better or worse, the way you view your earthly father does tend to shape the way you view your heavenly Father. Some good theology can help you overcome that, but your first idea of the heavenly one usually comes from the earthly one.
God is your Father though if you are a child of God. If you have made Jesus Christ your Lord and savior, you can call him your Father by adoption. Now he is your creator by definition, but you are not part of the family by being created, but by being born again. The Father through the Son invites you to partake of the fellowship of the blessed Trinity.
Let’s keep this in mind also. This is prayer to a person. God is not just some higher power or the force of Star Wars or a pantheistic concept. God is personal and in Christian thought, there are three persons that partake of the nature of God. This means you are approaching someone who has a mind and a will.
And yes. You can approach. You are loved and you are welcomed. You are even told to approach many times. Take advantage of it. It is amazing that we Christians have the right to enter the throne of God and so rarely take advantage of that. It is we who are deprived when we refuse to do so.