How should we then pray?
I've seen a lot of change and pain and hurt in my short years on earth. But as I've reached what some kindly call "middle-age" I find my own roles changing. Even though I still have a career and plenty to keep me busy, I think I am more aware than ever of our great need to pray. But what does that mean? Do we simply recite rote prayers several times a day? Do we repeat the same words, almost as a mantra, hoping by our repetition to be heard? Does God hear prayer? And if He does, what should we pray for?
I want to explore this with you over the next few weeks, as time allows. I hope you will participate and give me some feedback. But for now, here is the first thing Jesus said about prayer:
When His disciples asked Him, "Lord, teach us to pray," he began with these words: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name." Other versions use "holy" in place of "hallowed."
But let's break it down a little more than this sentence. He begins, "Our Father." Think about that for a moment. He was talking to His disciples, those who presumably believed He was the Christ, and that He'd come from God.
In the Old Testament, God was not often referred to as Father. Once in a while He is referred to as their Father, their Creator, or when God made a promise to David about his son, he said, "He would be a father to him." But most of the time, God is referred to as "the God of our father, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" or the God of our fathers.
Jesus also used the word "our". He, being God's Son, could have said, "My Father", but he was including His disciples, showing them that God was their Father too. There are places where God calls Himself a Father to the orphan or fatherless, showing us a very caring side of His nature.
So when we pray, I think it helps to stop and ponder a moment what God as our Father really means. Is He everyone's Father? In a Creator sense, yes. But in an intimate sense, no. He clearly shows us in various Scriptures that through Jesus we become adopted into God's family. He becomes our "Daddy" when we get to know Him.
Some people never know their earthly fathers, or perhaps they had terrible examples in them as to what a father is meant to be. God isn't like human fathers, though the best of them are meant to reflect His character. Plenty of fathers in Scripture were examples of what not to be as a father. Some showed favoritism, others couldn't discipline when discipline was necessary, still others were absent or pre-occupied with their own selfish pursuits. None were the kind of Father God was and is.
Only one time in Jesus' life did He ever cry out to His Father, feeling betrayed by Him, and that was when He bore our sin on the cross. His Father had to look away because He cannot look at sin, and Jesus had become sin, bearing the load of it all on Himself. That separation from the fellowship He constantly knew with His Father, was, in my opinion, the worst thing He endured on the cross.
But He did that so that God could be truly "our" Father as well as His. Not by nature of our birth, but by nature of adoption, of choice.
How should we then pray? We can start, by getting to know our Father.