Short Meditations on the Lord’s Prayer: 3. Relational Praying
Mt 6:9b This, then, is how you should pray, “Our Father in heaven.”
A little while back I was meditating in Jn 6 and was caught by a little phrase in a verse: “Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.” (Jn 6:23) It was those last three words that John added; something about the way Jesus prayed had stuck with John so later when he is recounting the feeding of the five thousand, he remembers particularly the way Jesus prayed and gave thanks. It wasn’t merely the fact of giving thanks, it was the way Jesus communicated with his Father because that is what he had done when he prayed.
It is this same thing we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, that prayer should be the loving expression of child and Father. Yes, let’s add that in – the loving expression that can only come in the closest of relationships. This is why I never like hearing people praying, “God will you…” It’s like me addressing my human father (before he passed away), “Human will you buy me a bike for my birthday.” Do you see how impersonal that is?
How we address God reveals what we feel about Him. “Lord” emphasizes greatness – fine. “Lord Jesus,” emphasizes the ruler over the kingdom, our Savior – fine. “Father” emphasizes our relationship, child to the one who brought me into the world, provides for me and protects me as His child. Yes, it emphasizes the difference between us and that is right and proper, but it also highlights the relationship that involves intimacy and it is an intimacy that comes with love and warmth and care – any my recognition of that.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mk 14:36) The Hebrew ‘Abba’ is ‘daddy’, the most intimate of father and son interaction, of the small child dependent on its father. Paul noted it as we recognize our adoption (Rom 8:15), the natural cry of the Spirit from within us (Gal 4:6).
“in heaven” Yes, this is our Father, different from any human father – so don’t ever link human father negatives to Him – a supernatural Father who created all things who brought us into being (Jn 1:12,13) who watches us from heaven, who waits for us in heaven. This is who Jesus says we are to address. Jesus always sought to give glory to his Father (Jn 17:4) and although it is not wrong to address Jesus directly (and I often do), yet it is more wonderful to be able to address the Father Himself as the Supreme Authority and yet wonderfully as one who reveals Himself to us in this incredible imagery, of a dad who is there for his kids. Amazing, wonderful! Thank you Father.