Last week, we started to talk a little bit about prayer. Specifically the importance of prayer for Christians. Over the next few weeks or so, we are going to be looking a little deeper at the prayer we are given as an example of how to pray, the Lord's Prayer. If prayer is something that is commanded, and it is, then we need to understand what that looks like. Fortunately, Christ himself has given us an example. Examples are important. They help us to understand what is going on and what is expected of us. The example of prayer that we are given can teach us quite a bit if we are willing to listen.
One thing that stands out right from the start when looking at the Lord's Prayer is how we are commanded to address God. We are commanded to pray, "Our Father." But why are we commanded to address the Lord as Father? Why not the Lord or God? The Heidelberg Catechism gives us a helpful answer.
To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer: God has become our Father through Christ and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things.
The first part of the answer deals with our attitudes. The attitude that we have in prayer is important. This should not come as a shock to someone who has read the context of the Lord's Prayer, specifically in Matthew's gospel account. The prayer comes in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, which is almost wholly focused on the heart. More specifically, the prayer comes in the section that deals with practicing righteousness and that things like giving, fasting, and prayer are to be done for the Lord and not for men. So, it should not surprise us that our example of prayer starts off with a reminder and acknowledgment that we are to trust and depend on the Lord the way a small child depends on its earthly father.
The Gift of Adoption
One of the most startling realities in the New Testament is that when we are drawn to Christ, we are not only justified that is saved from our sin, but we are adopted into God's family and made his children. Some people would tell you that everyone is a child of God, but the Apostle John makes it clear in 1:12-13 that being a child of God is unique to those who have believed in the name of Christ. Later, in his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul makes the idea of adoption and being a child of God a key point. He writes;
Romans 8:14–17 (ESV)14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The reality that God is our Heavenly Father in Christ is the basis for our salvation and the inheritance that we will one day have with Christ. To be a child of God is to be cared for in a special way and to have an inheritance with Christ. But lest we get ahead of ourselves and think that being a child of God means that everything is going to be perfect, Paul adds the idea that suffering is an inherent part of being a child of God. We are being made like Christ and should expect no less than what he received.
Asking in Faith
More than just addressing our prayers correctly, in addressing our prayers to the Lord, we are to remember how much greater the Lord is than anything we could imagine. Shortly after giving us the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6, we get another encouragement to pray. In 7:11, we get a comparison between earthly fathers and our heavenly Father. It says
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
The idea is pretty simple. If we, that is humanity, that are by nature evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much greater, and how much more so will the Lord who is perfectly good give us what is good for us? Before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to remember that what is good for us is not always what we want or what is most pleasant. A good example of this is food. Often the things that are the best for us are the things that we like the least. I cannot count the number of times I have had to make my children eat their vegetables because they need them to be healthy. As they grow older, they start actually to enjoy the vegetables, but very rarely does it start that way. When the Lord gives us what is good for us, it is often going to be like giving celery to a child. It is good for you, but it doesn't mean you like it. Here we come back to why we are to address our prayer to our Heavenly Father because he is the best possible Father and knows what is best for his children.
Prayer is an amazing gift. In it, we get to communicate with the creator of the universe. We have the privilege of sharing our deepest desires and needs. In it, we are also changed. We learn to depend on the Lord for everything we do and are. The starting place for this is understanding that the Lord is our Father in Christ. We are his adopted children and heirs. If he is not our Father, then we are not Christians and have no inheritance in Christ. We need to be able to come confidently before the throne, not just as a subject of the King but as his precious child. We come as children with our request and trust that the Lord, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, will do what is right and good.
Soli Deo Gloria