This is part 1 of a study on the Lord’s Prayer by one of our members, David Carrico. We are printing this to help spur one another on towards godliness and to stoke the fire of our affections towards this great God we have. It is also a great example of different parts of the body using their gifts to build up the whole. We hope you will read it and be blessed.
As believers, as followers of Jesus Christ, as those called Christians after Him, we are supposed to be a people of the Book (the Bible, in other words), and a people of prayer. That means we should seek God in His revealed word, and we should seek Him in prayer. I am convinced that none of us do enough of either one, but for the next few blogs I’m going to focus just on prayer.
There are many scriptures, of course, that refer to prayer, and that point us to the need for prayer on a constant basis in our daily lives. Just picking one almost at random, listen to the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:18:
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”
Pray at all times. Pray constantly. But pray with a focus.
It’s not for nothing that Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1a)
So a review of Jesus’ first teaching on prayer is always in order. I’m old enough to remember when everyone called it ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, although today it is usually referred to as ‘The Model Prayer’. Turn to Matthew 6:9.
Jesus begins with:
“Pray, then, in this way: Our Father…”
Let’s consider just that bit today.
Christians refer to God as Father all the time. It’s almost endemic in us. It’s part of our culture, and even for us Baptists it’s become a part of ritual. (And yes, even Baptists can have rituals. We just don’t call them that.) I knew a guy at a church I once attended who didn’t seem to be able to pray without saying “Father” at least three times in every sentence.
Why do we do that? Because Jesus taught us to do so, in passages like this one. And when you stop and think about it, it is a very awe-inspiring thing to be given the right and the privilege and permission to call the God of the universe “Father.”
Or at least, it should be. The problem is that when we human beings do things over and over again, we all too often slip from a reasoned understanding of what and why we’re doing them to a rote routine mentality. In other words, we do it because we’ve always done it. We do it out of reflex. We do it because it’s programmed into us at some point and it doesn’t require any thought. We become flippant and matter-of-fact. We approach God casually. And in doing so, we are disrespectful to God.
We need to be more aware of the majesty and awe of God. The Jews certainly were; so much so that God is only called “Father” once in the Pentateuch (books of Moses), and only seven times total in all of the Old Testament. (Deut 32:6; Psalms 89:26; Isaiah 9:6, 63:16, 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4, 19) In contrast, Jesus calls God “Father” 17 times just in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7.
“But,” you say, “isn’t the word translated as ‘Father’ in this verse the word ‘abba’, and doesn’t that mean ‘poppa’ or ‘daddy’ or ‘dad’?”
Yes, that’s true. “Abba” is Aramaic for the informal form of endearment that is most equivalent to “poppa” or “daddy.” (The Hebrew form is “avi”, for you trivia buffs.) But a familiar form of a word is not equal to a casual or flippant treatment. And certainly there is nothing in the Law that God gave Moses almost 4000 years ago that indicates God considers casual/flippant to be a good thing. On the contrary, look at the following verse:
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12
You recognize that as one of the Ten Commandments, I’m sure. So God considers all fathers worthy of honor, so much so that there’s an implied curse there on those who don’t honor them. How much more so is God the Father worthy of honor? And this verse:
‘Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:3
So God the Father considers all fathers worthy of reverence. Then in the next breath, He commands that His sabbaths be kept. Do you think that is a coincidental connection of the statements? I don’t think so. This verse can be read to say that reverencing fathers is of as great an importance to God as the worship of Himself. And finally this verse:
‘If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him.’ Leviticus 20:9
If these are the things that God commanded in the law He gave to Moses about earthly fathers and how they are to be treated, about how they should be revered and honored and respected, how much more do you think He feels is due Himself?
I don’t think it’s a very good thing to be disrespectful to God. We need to rethink our attitudes about how we approach God. After all, we’re talking about the God whose mind contained the basic design of the universe and the plan of all history before the universe was created. We’re talking about the God who had a plan of salvation for fallen man already in place before the events of Genesis 1:1. We’re talking about the God who sacrificed His own Son to accomplish that plan of salvation.
Don’t you think that that God, Who is and did all those things, is one who should be approached with awe and respect?
The miracle about prayer, to me, is two-fold:
1. First, that we are allowed to approach God at all in any way, shape, or form. By rights, God in His holiness should not allow it. That we can is an expression of God’s mercy.
2. Second, that we as believers are allowed to address God as “Father”. That God gives us that privilege is an expression of His grace.
Calling God “Father” is a gift, a grace, a privilege; and it is something that we do not deserve and should never take lightly. When you talk to God in prayer, always keep that in mind. He is awesome. He is worthy of awe and reverence and honor, and we should always approach him that way, even when we begin with “Our Father….”
Peace and grace to you.