"Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen " (Matthew 6:9-13, NLT)
A new missionary travelled to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. Being a Sunday, he intending to visit one of the local churches. Unfortunately he got lost. Eventually he found the Church. Having arrived late, the church was already packed and the service had started. The only seat he could find was in the front row. Being conscious that he was in front of everyone and not wanting to make a fool of himself, he decided to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary clapped as well. When the man stood up to pray, the missionary stood up to pray. When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread. During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look as if he understood all that was going on. After the message he realized that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the missionary clapped too. Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up as well. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.
After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door greeting those who were leaving. When the missionary stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.” The missionary replied: “No unfortunately I don’t. But is it that obvious?” “Well, yes,” responded the preacher, “When you stood up, I had just announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and asked the proud father of the child to please stand up!”
Jesus said “Pray like this: Our Father in heaven…”
In introducing us to this PATTERN OF PRAYER, Jesus points us right at the start to the very heart of all our prayers, our relationship with the God of the Universe. Our prayers are built upon our relationship with God. Jesus at the outset teaches us that God is OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN.
“The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.” (Andrew Murray)
BEFORE ADDRESSING GOD ABOUT
• HIS PERSON - may your name be kept holy
• HIS PROGRAM - may your Kingdom come
• HIS PURPOSE - may your will be done
BEFORE ASKING GOD ABOUT
• OUR PROVISION - give us today
• OUR PARDON - forgive us our sins
• OUR PROTECTION - rescue us from the evil one
JESUS DIRECTS US TO THE HEART OF OUR PRAYERS
• OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD: Our Father
When we pray we come before the One in whom all power exists, through whom the Universe was created and is sustained, but Jesus teaches us that we come before Him as Father.
• “OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN”
Although the Jewish people recognised the Fatherhood of God, it was in the sense that He was the Father of the nation who had chosen Israel from among all the nations, His special people.
Although this relationship of God as the Father of the Nation existed, there is no evidence in the Old Testament that, any one ever addressed God personally as Father. We never hear Moses, or Abraham or David or Hezekiah calling God Father or in any of the great prayers contained in the Old Testament referring to God as Father. What is more through Israel’s perpetual rebellion against God, they lost even the power of the concept that God was their Father.
JESUS REAFFIRMED THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD WITH A NEW RICHNESS
EVERY TIME JESUS PRAYED HE ADDRESSED GOD AS FATHER (over 70 times in the Gospels with one solitary exception as Jesus bore the sin of the world He cried out ‘My God, My God why have you abandoned me?’ It is important to note that as Jesus hung on that Cross during those terrible hours of darkness, He bore your sin, my sin, indeed the sin of the whole world. During this time the wonderful intimacy between Jesus and the Father was cut off… for there can be no intimacy with God where there is sin!)
HE POINTS US TO THIS SAME INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP BY REFERRING TO GOD AS ‘YOUR FATHER’ on more than 29 occasions in the Gospels. Do you recall that incident as the Risen Jesus encounters the distraught Mary at the Empty Tomb? When Jesus had made Himself known to Mary, He tells her to take the glorious message back to the fearful disciples… "“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”" (John 20:17, NLT)
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT GOD IS ADDRESSED over 275 times AS FATHER REINFORCING OUR NEW AND VITAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD …, A new richness that Jesus injected into our relationship with God and in particular in our relationship to the One to whom we offer our prayer!
So in giving us a PATTERN OF PRAYER, Jesus begins by laying down the heart or the basis of our praying by recognising that God the One to whom we address our prayer is ‘Our Father in Heaven’.
The God of all Creation
The God of all Power
The Sovereign Majesty of the entire Universe is the One we have the privilege to address as ‘Father’
To call God in prayer ‘Our Father’… has numerous implications. Today we will highlight four of these implications.
TO CALL GOD FATHER …
• DISPELS OUR FEARS
• DEFEATS OUR SELF-CENTEREDNESS
• DIRECTS OUR DEPENDENCY
• DEMANDS OUR OBEDIENCE
CALLING GOD FATHER … DISPELS OUR FEARS
An atheistic philosopher asked “Is the Universe friendly?” … by this he was in fact asking is God, if there is a God, interested or friendly towards mankind. In Jesus’ day many strange views of God were held by people …
PEOPLE VEIWED GOD AS
REMOTE AND DISINTERESTED (an absentee Landlord … He had created the world and as long as the world paid their dues all was well. But He had no personal interest in what went on!)
CAPRICIOUS AND VINDICTIVE (a heavenly tyrant or dictator, at whim would take it out on people)
ANGRY AND FEARFUL (a celestial policeman someone waiting for you to overstep the Law, ready to pounce and punish.)
Into this scenario where people view God with trepidation, even among God’s people, Jesus introduces a very different picture of God …
JESUS SHOWED US GOD THE FATHER WHO IS
LOVING AND COMPASSIONATE
GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL
DESIRING AN INTIMATE personal RELATIONSHIP with every single human being… That was God plan from the beginning.
Paul says …"God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure." (Ephesians 1:5, NLT)
Do you understand the revolutionary thought that Jesus brought when He said … when you pray address God as Father. It dispelled the fear of the people who saw a deity, an awesome deity who sought not the good nor the interests of mankind but his own capricious unpredictable whim.
There are many today who have this picture of God, even within churches, they see God as a sort of celestial policeman waiting to pounce and punish when they transgress in any way. Jesus said God is our Father; He longs to have an intimate personal relationship. The Bible, however, shows us that the only way we can have such a personal relationship with God is through faith in Jesus, who He is and what He did for us on the Cross.
But what is more, Jesus also pointed us to the fact that we mere insignificant mortals, tiny specks in a vast and complex universe can have access to the God of the universe.
THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS WE HAVE ACCESS TO GOD IN A NEW AND INTIMATE WAY
John said … "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12, NLT)
Paul says to the Roman Christians … "Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us." (Romans 5:1, NLT)
And later in the same letter … "So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”" (Romans 8:15, NLT)
The word Abba is an intimate word that we today would translate as “Daddy”. Jesus strikes the balance…
INTIMACY IS BALANCED WITH AWE…
HE IS OUR FATHER
BUT HE IS STILL GOD OF THE UNIVERSE WHO IS IN HEAVEN
CALLING GOD FATHER … DEFEATS OUR SELF-CENTEREDNESS
The Scripture is very clear God created you and I to be part of His Eternal Family. Do you recall what Paul said to the Ephesians Christians …
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5, NLT)
In God’s family we are connected to every other believer, we belong to each other for eternity. Now there are many benefits and privileges of being part of God’s Family but there are also responsibilities… as members of God’s family we have a responsibility
to love one another
to care for one another
to encourage one another
indeed there are over 50 occasions in the New Testament that speaks of our responsibility to other believers… among them we are told to …
to prayer for one another
There are no selfish prayers in the Bible. Jesus does not teach us to pray …
My Father in Heaven
Give me today
Don’t let me yield
Notice it is never ‘my’ or ‘me’ but ‘our’. By teaching us to pray “Our Father“ Jesus points us to the fact that we cannot pray just for our own selfish needs, our own world but we need to broaden the scope of our prayers to include the Family of God.
CALLING GOD FATHER … DIRECTS OUR DEPENDANCY
Jesus taught us that as a Father, God is the Source and the Giver of all we need and the One who alone can satisfy all our needs.
In the comic strip, Dennis the Menace, Dennis and his little friend, Joey, are leaving Mrs. Wilson’s house with their hands full of cookies. Dennis is not always very considerate toward the Wilsons who are his next-door neighbors, especially Mr. Wilson. Joey says, "I wonder what we did to deserve this?" Dennis answers, "Look, Joey, Mrs. Wilson gives us cookies not because we’re nice, but because she’s nice."
Beloved, Jesus shows us that as our Father, God supplies all our needs not because we deserve it but because of whom He is! Jesus teaches that when we pray … ‘Our Father’ we need to remember that …
OUR FATHER KNOWS OUR NEEDS
At the conclusion of chapter 6, Jesus tells us that we should not worry. Then He tells us why! He draws our attention to birds and field lilies and then having demonstrated God’s care for things that are of lesser worth to God than we are, Jesus makes this incredible statement … He says
"So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs." (Matthew 6:31-32, NLT)
Sometimes, we need to check ourselves in our prayers… We find ourselves striving to inform God of what we need. We forget that as our Loving Heavenly Father, He knows all our needs!
OUR FATHER DESIRES TO SUPPLY OUR NEEDS
Again in chapter 7, Jesus tells his hearers a parable. He reminds us that as human parents we respond positively to our children who ask us for something. He points out the if a son asks for bread, what self-respecting father would give his son a stone shaped like a loaf of bread, or if a son asks his father for a fish what kind of father would give him a snake instead? Jesus then drives home the point He is making …
"So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:11, NLT)
Again, check out your prayers, how often don’t you find yourself trying to persuade or convince God of what you think you need. Somehow as we saw last week, we think that the more we nag God, the more likely He is to answer.
That is not the point of the parable of the Unjust Judge and the Nagging Widow. God is not reluctant, He knows your need and he desires to give you what you need. But we do need to realize that …
OUR FATHER WANTS ONLY WHAT IS BEST FOR US
We all know well that wonderful promise of God in Rom 8:28
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28, NLT)
Do you see it? God wants what is best for us, God does have your best interests at heart, He wants you to succeed, He wants you to become the person He intended you to be!
We as human parents do not always give our children what they ask, because we know that it is not in their best interests. If that is how we operate out of a limited perspective, how much more will God, who knows all things, deny some of our request because He knows they are not in our best interests? When we acknowledge Him as OUR FATHER, we trust that He knows what is best for us!
OUR FATHER IS ABLE TO SUPPLY ALL OUR NEEDS
This is the best of all! Many times when we come to pray, well beneath our superficial level of trust, we don’t believe God has the power to do something about the situation. We forget that creating planets is small change for Him. Yes I believe it in my head. But somehow it doesn’t register in the heart. Beloved, open your Bible, listen to what God has to say!
"And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." (2 Corinthians 9:8, NLT)
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20, NLT)
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19, NLT)
Yes, He is our Heavenly Father, the one to whom we come in all our prayers, He is ABLE …
THEREFORE WE CAN TRUST HIM FOR ALL THINGS
That is why the writer of Hebrews says … "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)
CALLING GOD FATHER DEMANDS OUR OBEDIENCE
Jesus shows us to call God our Father demands our obedience. Jesus by his own example shows us the priority of obedience, something that is central to the fatherhood of God. Jesus said … "For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will." (John 6:38, NLT)
That is why we pray “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Do you see that at the heart of all our prayers is a Gethsemane experience? That goes to God and says this is how I feel, but not as I want but as you Will! That demands obedience. That is the heart of the oft misquoted statement of Jesus suggesting that the Father will give you whatever you ask of Him. Notice what comes first!
"You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." (John 15:14-16, NLT)
When we come to the point where we are prepared to say “Father I will do whatever want, I will obey you wherever you lead, we will get to the point where whatever we ask will be to the bearing of fruit and the glory of God. Not God giving us our every whim but us seeking to do what He wills. It all begins at point of unconditional obedience.
“Father…to God himself we cannot give a holier name” (William Wordsworth)
An old saint said, “True prayer brings the mind to the immediate contemplation of God’s character and holds it there until the believer’s soul is properly impressed.”
The best name we can give God to describe who He is, is to call Him Father. Yes…
• He is the God of the Universe putting stars in their place and naming each one.
• He is the God of all power and incomparable strength
• He is the everlasting God
• He is the Creator of all the earth
But Jesus showed us … He is Father … Our Father! As you address Him as Father in your prayers it will ...
• DISPELS YOUR FEARS
• DEFEATS YOUR SELF-CENTEREDNESS
• DIRECTS YOUR DEPENDENCY
• DEMANDS YOUR OBEDIENCE
A Roman emperor was once in a grand Victory Parade. He triumphantly led his troops through the streets of Rome with all of his captured trophies, and his prisoners behind him. The streets were lined with cheering people; tall legionnaires lined the streets' edges to keep the people in check. As the procession passed the platform where the empress and her family were seated watching the triumphal parade, the emperor's youngest son, just a small boy, jumped off the platform, burrowed through the crowd, and tried to dodge between the legs of one of the legionnaires that lined the street. The legionnaire stooped down and stopped him; swinging the boy into his arms he said, "You can't do that. Don't you know who that is in the chariot? That is the Emperor. You can't run out to his chariot." The little lad looked at the legionnaire, laughed and said, "Yes I can! To you he may be your Emperor, but to me he is my Father."
Yes He is Almighty God but to you … He is your Father!
But this is possible only through a relationship with him
Your faith in Christ is what makes God your Heavenly Father to whom you can pray and who alone is willing and able to answer all of your prayers.