Over the next few days I want to look specifically how we can use the “Lord’s Prayer” as a model for prayer. Each line of this prayer is a concept of prayer in and of itself. As we use the Lord’s Prayer as several prayer concepts, our prayer life and our relationship with God is deepened and expanded.
My friend and colleague, Rev. Clyde Hodson (President of PrayerMentor), first introduced me to looking at the Lord’s Prayer as a model. At the time, my prayer life was inconsistent and lacked vitality. After understanding this model, my prayer life came alive and my understanding of who God is in relation to life grew exponentially (as did our church, by the way, which doubled in size during the year Clyde and I prayed together three times a week using this model).
The first line of the Lord’s Prayer is:
Our Father, who art in heaven.
We take for granted that Jesus taught us to address God as our heavenly Father. But this was a radical concept during Jesus’ day. Faithful Jews saw God as holy, powerful, the Provider, the Righteous Judge, and the Lord of the angel armies (“hosts”). But the idea of God as Father was almost sacrilegious. God was considered too holy and too far above the human realm to be seriously considered as a “Father.” And no faithful Jew would ever consider themselves as a son or daughter of God. That was a position reserved for someone on the “Messiah” level.
But Jesus taught us to call on God as our Father. Most likely, when Jesus taught this prayer in the Aramaic language (which was the language he used in teaching and conversation) he used the word, “Abba” (meaning “Daddy” or “Papa” – a child’s way of addressing their father).
Can you imagine the shock in the disciples’ faces when Jesus told them to call on the Almighty as “Daddy”?!
What Jesus knew that His disciples didn’t (and that we take for granted) was that God’s truest desire for us is to call Him “Daddy.” God’s deepest desire was not for us to just be His creatures or His servants or even His chosen people, but that we would become His children! This was the whole reason why Jesus came and gave His life for us on the cross, which is why the Apostle John declares, with amazement:
Behold, what manner of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called the “sons” and “daughters” of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
So when I pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” I am stating God’s greatest desire fulfilled: that I am now His precious child through the work of His only begotten, Jesus Christ. I use this part of the prayer to thank Abba/Daddy/Papa for loving me, for adopting me, for making me his child. I spend time reveling in the fact that I belong to Him. I think about how deeply and intensely I love my boys, and transfer that emotion to how God feels about me (and so much more because He is the Good Father). I bask in the safety and protection of my Daddy, who is also Sovereign of the Universe and the Almighty One.
Do you catch my drift?
This is more than a 6 word opening line to a short prayer. This is a portal to inexpressible joy, my friends! God is my Father! God is your Father! God is our Father – who art in heaven.
One last word: Jesus taught us to begin our prayers with “Our Father,” not “My Father.” This means that His deepest desire is not just for me, but for others. He so loves my brothers and sisters in Christ. He so loves those who have yet to discover Him. And so, I, as His child, should love people as my Daddy loves them. Sons and daughters of God need to learn to love as Daddy loves – as Jesus demonstrated to us. (And, boy, do I have a ways to go!)
So when we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” I hope we have a greater sense of what we’re actually saying and what it means to Abba/Papa/Daddy when we pray it from our hearts. It’s the great, noble starting place for our Whole Life Worship.