Matthew 6:5 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, (THEY PRAY FOR RECOGNITION AND WITHOUT RELATIONSHIP) for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ‘ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The first step to praying effectively is learning to call God “Father.” Everything God reveals to us or asks of us has a relational component to it. He wants to be in fellowship with us, so He instituted prayer. He wants us to trust Him, so He gives us assignments. He wants to guide and direct our lives, so He reveals Himself through His Word. This relational aspect of prayer is woven all throughout the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. This morning, I want to challenge you to see prayer as a way of nurturing your relationship with God as your Father.
Jesus’ instruction on how to pray is as important as the detail He offers about where to pray. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” Jesus isn’t condemning public prayer. We can and must get together for times of prayer. We aren’t to pray to be seen, for sure. But the deeper issue is the need we have to nurture a private relationship with God as our Father. We can’t be effective in public if we aren’t spending time in private talking to our Heavenly Father. We must get alone, close the door and close out the voices that compete for our affection and spend quality time with our Father.
For those of us who have grown up in the church, thinking about God as our “Father” doesn’t seem strange, but customary and ordinary. Let me tell you it was completely unheard of in Jesus’ day and time. It was shifts and changes that Jesus brought like this new understanding of God as Father that labeled Him a rebel and got Him in trouble. Old Testament writers believed in the Fatherhood of God, but it was in the context of God’s sovereignty and under the umbrella of His Creative and Authoritative power. It wasn’t in the context of personal relationship with any individual, but under the notion of God as the Father of nations and groups.
The focus in Jesus’ day was on God’s transcendence which is the concept of God being above and beyond us. The idea of a personal relationship with God was beyond comprehension. It took a Son to reveal a Father. With the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to earth, the imminence of God, the relational aspect of God, the Fathering aspect of God, was revealed.
Revealing God as our heavenly Father was one of the most important missions in the life of Jesus. In the preface to his Gospel record, the Apostle John says,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14 RSV).
When Jesus came, He addressed God only as Father. He never used another name. All his prayers addressed God as Father. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) record his using Father more than sixty times in reference to God. So striking is this that there are scholars who maintain that this word Father dramatically summarizes the difference between the Old and New Testaments. No one had ever in the entire history of Israel spoken and prayed like Jesus. No one!
But this amazing fact is only part of the story, for the word Jesus used for Father was not a formal word, but the common Aramaic word with which a child would address his father—the word Abba. “Abba” is a tender, but reverent way to say “Daddy.” Perhaps more appropriately rendered, “Dearest Father.” No one had ever spoken of God this way. The disciples and all who heard had to be spell bound when in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus authorized His disciples to repeat the word Abba after Him.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus transferred the Fatherhood of God from a theological doctrine into an intense, practical experience, and he taught his disciples to pray with the same intimacy. (Preaching the Word Commentary)
It is this sense of God’s intimate Fatherhood that needs to be nurtured in our lives as we pray to Him. It could have been “Our Majesty,” who art in Heaven. It could have been, “Our Master” who art in Heaven, but it was purposely “Our Father” in order to set up a certain relationship between God and us.
So how does the Lord’s Prayer as our model and this idea of praying to our Father in Heaven help us gain strength, understanding and enable us to draw closer to God?
- Praying to the Father reminds me I am adopted.
Romans 8:15-16 “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.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Praise the Lord, my heart with His love is beaming. I am a child of God! I don’t have to be afraid that I’ll be on the outside looking in. I won’t have to wonder if I’ll be cared for or if anyone loves me. I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! I’m wanted. I’m chosen. I’m adopted!
About this adoption, Bible commentator Charles Barclay offers four interesting facts about Roman adoption which would have been on Paul’s mind as he wrote. Adoption wasn’t a haphazard process. It was taken very seriously.
- The adopted person lost all rights in his or her old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his/her new family. It was legally binding that the adopted child no longer had the old father, but had a new one. The same is true of our adoption. We have a new father. That’s why we can be done with fear, done with bondage, done with darkness-because we have a new father! Any “legal” claim Satan had on us is finished! We are no longer children of the devil, Ephesians 4:17-19. We have been delivered from darkness into God’s marvelous light. I Peter 2:9
- Second, the adopted child became an heir to his new father’s estate. Even if Jethro and Sally Sue were already natural-born children of the father, the adopted child assumed the same rights and became a co-heir with them of their father’s estate. Romans 8:17 tells us the same is true about our adoption! “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” I have an inheritance from my Heavenly Father equal to that of His first-born Son, Jesus Christ.
- The third interesting thing about Roman adoption, the old life of the adopted person was completely wiped out. For example, all debts were wiped out. He/she was regarded as a new person entering into a new life and his or her past had basically nothing to do with them now. If you have been adopted by Father God, the same is true of you. What you were is no longer. The debt you owe is no longer on your back. II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
- And Forth, in the eyes of Roman law, the adopted child was absolutely the son of his new father. There was no doubt. There was no thought or possibility of going back to the former family. It was a done and forever deal. An adopted child may often wrestle with insecurity, wondering if the parents will one day change their mind. The Roman law gave peace of mind to the adopted child that what had just taken place was permanent. Child of God, nothing can separate you from your Heavenly Father. Romans 8:38 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(—Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) I will never have to question God’s love for me. I will never have to wonder if I am wanted. I never have to fear that the Father will change His mind. I am His. I am His! I am His!
You might be a fifteen-year-old orphan this morning. You might be a thirty something orphan, a fifty something orphan or a seventy something orphan. You are missing out on a relationship with a Father who is crazy about you who wants to deliver you from fear and the dominion of Satan and desires to give you an inheritance beyond your wildest dreams. He also wants to spend eternity with you! Let Him adopt you today.
We pray a prayer thanking God that we can become His children.
- Praying to the Father reminds me God meets my needs.
This aspect of God as Father points to God’s omniscience. He knows everything! He knows you’re struggling or hurting or confused. He’s waiting for you to bring those things to Him. He wants you to talk those things over with Him.
“For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8) Isn’t that awesome? That means if you seek something that you need in prayer, you don’t have to convince God that it’s a need. You don’t have to plead some emotional and long-winded case. You don’t have to stand as an attorney trying to argue something in front of Judge God. Father God knows what you need and He won’t withhold it from you if you ask for it!
James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Your Father isn’t moody or fickle. He isn’t sarcastic or mean. He isn’t tired after work or short on time for you. He doesn’t promise one thing and deliver something else. If you need it and ask Him for it, He will give whatever it is to you.
Matthew 7:11 “ If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
This reality that God will meet our needs ought to give us confidence when we pray. We should be able to ask God for anything. What does it mean to us to know that God will take care of us? It’s priceless!
We pray a prayer thanking God that He knows and meets our needs.
- Praying to the Father reminds me that God alone can keep me safe. It reinforces
the truth that there is protection in the Father’s house. Jesus said we could pray, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.” When we are in a right relationship with the Father, we’ll walk in safety, work in safety, and rest in safety.
“Lead us not into temptation is an offensive prayer.” Trusting the Father to lead will keep us from being led astray. It is our relationship with our Father that will keep us safely on the right path. It is easy to be led astray. We are easily flattered, easily seduced, easily enticed, and naturally curious. A boundary line becomes a challenge. Being told “no,” sometimes just makes something all the more attractive. We quickly want what we shouldn’t even seek let alone possess. Nurturing the relationship of God as our Father will help us discern what steps to take and what steps to avoid.
“Deliver us from evil,” is a defensive prayer. The devil is after each one of us, and his agenda isn’t a good one. Satan doesn’t play nice. He wants to seduce you so he can steal your life from you.
Psalm 91 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Do you see the confidence expressed here? The safety the Psalmist feels? The trust that flows out of relationship?
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
We pray a prayer thanking God that He will lead and keep us safe.
- Praying to the Father reminds me I am forgiven.
“Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Recall with me the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 who brazenly, rudely, selfishly and foolishly left the Father’s house. He asked for his share of the inheritance before his dad had even died. It was the ultimate betrayal and slap in his father’s face. In essence, he disowned his father and in the process, he left the protection of his father’s house.
He wound up basically homeless and feeding pigs. I guess you could say he hit rock bottom. He got so desperate that he wanted to eat what the pigs were eating. We read in Luke 15:17, “”When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.”
Interesting that it wasn’t his high school buddies that he thought to go to for help. It wasn’t an aunt or uncle. It wasn’t a neighbor or family friend. When he came to the point where he was thinking straight after no doubt many long and hard thinking sessions, it was his father who came to his mind as the person that could help him. The one he offended and hurt, the one he walked away from, became the person he thought of as his salvation.
He rehearsed his speech. He would ask for forgiveness and propose that he return to his father’s house with lesser status. He would voluntarily become a servant in his father’s house. Somehow he had concluded that would be the only way the father would allow his return.
But before he could present his plan, Luke 15:20 says, “”But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
The kiss, the embrace was the sign that before the son could even ask, the father had already forgiven him.
- You see, forgiveness goes ahead of sinners. The father came toward his son. The father reached out to his son. The father was the embracer of his son. He didn’t wait for his son to reach him. He moved forward and reached out for his son. What has Father God done for us in the sending of His Son, Jesus? He reached for us. He went ahead of us. He longed for us. Before we could ask for forgiveness, He provided it. He bent down and embraced us with the sacrifice of His Son. Hallelujah!
- Forgiveness repairs relationship. The son went into his speech about being willing to be a hired servant. He said, “I’m not worthy to be your son.” In his estimation, a father/son relationship was over. Done. Finished. Not possible. Too much water under the bridge. Too big a breech. His father didn’t even respond to his “I’m unworthy, so I’ll just be your slave speech.” Rather than tell him he was restored, rather than explain to him that they were going to relate as father/son again, the father moved to action to show him.
The kiss was the sign of forgiveness, and the father’s other actions were the sign that the relationship was repaired. After all, “actions speak louder than words.” He had a robe brought to his son. The robe was the sign of honor. As soon as the son saw the robe he would realize that he wasn’t coming back as a servant. Instead, he was going to be treated differently than he deserved. He was going to be given a seat of honor.
Our Heavenly Father has made the same choice. Psalms103:10 says “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” We wear a robe of righteousness that we could never afford. It was bought with the blood of Christ and gives us a place of honor in front of the Father.
The father had a ring put on his son’s finger. The ring was a sign of authority.
The son wasn’t going to be the slave receiving orders, but he was going to be in a prominent place, a place of authority. He hadn’t shown that he was capable of handling any responsibility. He had squandered his inheritance, and yet, the father basically repositioned him in a place of authority. Do you know that when we come home to the Father, we are given authority to do the ministry of Christ? We are given authority over Satan. In fact, Ephesians 2:6 tells us we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies.
The father had sandals put on his son’s feed. The sandals were a sign of freedom. This action screamed, “You’re not a slave. You’re my son! You’re free to enjoy everything in my house!” The same is true of all of us who are in Christ this morning. We are sons and daughters of God. I John 3:1 “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!” Jesus paid the price for our freedom. Because Jesus took our place on the cross, we get to go free.
The father threw a party for his son, not because he had done well for himself, not because he had graduated from a special school, not because he had taken a wife, not for any reason except that the son had come home. The feast was a sign of a joyful welcome. The Word of God says the angels in heaven throw a party every time someone gives their life to the Father through Christ. The life the Father has for us is an abundant life, a party life, a joy-filled life. It is a life of celebration.
We pray a prayer thanking God that we can be forgiven.
Praying to the Father reminds me I am adopted.
Praying to the Father reminds me God meets my needs.
Praying to the Father reminds me that God alone can keep me safe.
Praying to the Father reminds me I am forgiven.