By Allen White
This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven... Matthew 6:9
To clear the air on prayer, Jesus gave us an example of how to pray. The problem is that we know the words of this prayer so well, but we haven’t truly grasped its meaning. Of course, there is value in praying the prayer, but it can be like singing Auld Lang Syne at New Year’s eve. It’s familiar, but what in the world are we singing? (It means “for the sake of old times” in case you were curious).
Our Father in heaven. Jesus called the Father as “Abba,” (Mark 14:36) which would be similar to Daddy or Papa. “Father” speaks of relationship and personality. God is a person in relationship to Jesus and to us. God is not an “it” or a force. But, “Father” is a bit of a loaded word.
The weakness of using the word “Father” for God is that we all have a father. Our fathers run the gamut from “Father of the Century” to “some guy my mom used to date.” There are fathers who do the best that they can. And, there are fathers who are incredibly selfish. Some fathers stick it out for the long haul. Others have never been heard from. The experience with our human fathers skews our view of our Heavenly Father.
All earthly fathers fall short, as hard as they try. But, our Heavenly Father is perfect. He is always there for us (Hebrews 13:5). He gives us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). Our Father provides for all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). Our Father is always with us .
For some, these things are a little hard to believe. If our earthly father was distant or absent, then we tend to think of our Heavenly Father as in Heaven, way out there. He’s real. We believe He cares. He’s just out there rather than right here. But, God is both.
God is transcendent. He is over all things. Yet, God is also immanent. He is as close as the mention of His Name.
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
God is over everything, yet He’s close to each of us.
For others, God always seems to be angry. He’s just waiting for us to mess up, so He can let us have it. Sometimes we feel that we deserve it. Other times, we don’t see it coming. But, our Heavenly Father is patient with us (1 Peter 3:20). There is not a more patient Being in the universe. Fortunately, God is not like people. He can afford to be patient. Our Heavenly Father knows the outcome.
Some of us have been blessed with faithful, caring fathers who gave us the best of what they had to give. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they gave us an advantage in understanding God’s love for us.
When we pray, we turn our attention to the One Being in the universe who loves us more than any other. Our Heavenly Father knows everything about us. He knows all of our victories and all of our defeats – past, present and future. Yet, He is always there for us. There is nothing that we can do that will ever cause our Heavenly Father to turn His back on us.
How has the experience with your earthly father affected your view of your Heavenly Father? What is hard for you to believe about God? Ask your Heavenly Father to prove these things to you. It’s not so much testing Him as it is coming into an understanding of Who He is.