Learning to Pray the Jesus Way: (A blog series on The Lord's Prayer) Part 2: A Father in Heaven

Learning to Pray the Jesus Way Blog Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples--The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.

In Part 1 we established a fundamental truth about prayer that will place the rest of this series in its proper context.  

The truth about prayer is this:

God gave us prayer in response to our very great need for it.  

It is something He did for us, not something we do for Him.  

Yes, the God of heaven and earth, who made and designed everything--who knows how everything fits together and works-  tells us to pray.  But not because He is lacking something we can somehow provide Him through prayer.  

He tells us to pray because He designed us to work this way--to function and thrive in relationship with the God who created us. 

We need prayer not because it’s the means through which we get more things from God.

We need prayer because it is a means through which we get more of God.  

And through prayer, because of the great work Christ accomplished on our behalf, we have full access to Him.  

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:19-22

Through prayer, we get to draw near to God.  This is no small thing. 

What's more is that within the Lord's Prayer Jesus reveals exactly how we are to approach God when we pray.  And the one detail that should rock your world even more than being given full access to God is that Jesus says when we do so, we should approach Him first as our Father.  

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, 
“Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven...  Luke 11:1-2 NKJV

The very first thing that Jesus teaches us in regards to prayer is that we get to approach God as our Father.

This is a jaw-dropping notion that the American church might not fully grasp.  

Chances are, you grew up fully acquainted with the idea of God as your Father.  It was probably taught to you in Sunday School and preached to you from the pulpit.  

But when Jesus first appeared on the scene with this familiar introduction to God, He was purposely shifting the manner in which we related to God.  You see, although Jews at the time acknowledged God as their Father, their theology emphasized God’s convent relationship with the nation as a whole, not the Father of each individual Israelite.  

However, one thing that differentiates Christianity from most of the world's other major religions is that Christians believe there is potential for God and man to be in very close, personal relationship.  

When Jesus began His prayer with "Our Father," he wasn’t merely giving God His just due as our maker and creator, but Jesus was saying you are talking to the one who knows you and loves you on a very individual basis.

When Jesus cried out to His Father in prayer, he wasn’t crying out to a distant Father who was far out of reach.  He cried out to an Abba-Father, always within arm's reach.  Jesus wasn’t merely calling out to “The Father” of Israel; He was calling out to “My Father.”  Personal, near, intimate.    

In crying out to God this way, Jesus crossed a line the Jewish religious elite of the time had drawn in the sand.  They thought, “Who is this guy that he could be so presumptuous as to interact with God in such a personal way?!”

And the answer to that question is key to unraveling their dismay--because really, who is this guy that He could be so presumptuous as to interact with God in such a personal way?  

You see, on some level, the Jews recognized what so many of them refused to believe--that Jesus had every right to interact with God in such a personal way because Jesus was the son of God,  the actual Son of God.  

Jesus was claiming the right to introduce us to God as our Father because that is the very spirit in which Jesus had come--as a means through which the people of God could once again and now always and forever draw near to God as their Father.  

This is a topic to which many of the New Testament writers attest.

From Paul:

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Romans 8:15-16

From John:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1

From Luke:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”.  Luke 12:32

From Matthew:  

In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.  Matthew 18:12-14

The Disciples, Apostles, and first-century followers of Christ got the message loud and clear.  God is not just a father, or the father, He is your father.   

In opening The Lord's Prayer this way, Jesus was emphasizing that a knowledge of who God is to us is central to the act of prayer.  Not just a vague acknowledgement of who God is in general, but a very personal knowledge of who He is to you.

This is foundational because if we don't have a right understanding of who God is to us, we will fill in the blank with an improper understanding of who He is.  To pray correctly, Jesus knew we had to first settle the issue of who God is to us.  He is our Father.

The first two words of The Lord’s Prayer set the tone for the rest of the prayer and for the entirety of our Christian lives as well.

How we view God will dictate how we relate to God, which will dictate how we talk to, hear from, and respond to God.  Our understanding of who God is to us even dictates how we view His actions towards us.  

So when Jesus begins by praying "Our Father, " He was setting the scene for the act of prayer.  He was stressing the importance of your relationship to God.  Jesus was declaring that this is where you have to begin--you have to begin by knowing God as your Father.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

This week, I encourage you to look up references to God as our Father in the Bible and write out some of the actions He takes toward us in His role as our Father.  I’ll be back in a few weeks with more on The Lord’s Prayer.

Learning to Pray the Jesus Way Blog Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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Learning to pray is a foundational discipline of the Christian faith.  In this blog post series on prayer, author Summer Lacy gives us insight into the practice of prayer using the model Jesus taught His own disciples--The Lord’s Prayer.  This simple, unassuming prayer Jesus gave us lays the foundation for a fulfilling life of prayer.