Jesus gave his disciples a prayer. We call it “the Lord’s Prayer”. Since Jesus said, “pray like this…”, I suspect it is actually a model for us. Over the next number of months, I want to centre our thoughts on this model. I believe we can glean some good reminders from it.
The prayer begins with two simple words, “our Father”. Just two words! Yet what a depth of riches. We could spend a lot of time unpacking those two words. More than we have space for here.
Maybe the most applicable reminder that grows out of “our Father” is simply this; prayer is about relationship and family
When Jesus used the address, “Our Father”, he actually flipped the prevailing perception of God on its head. No Jew at the time was addressing God in such down to earth ways as “Abba” (word in original language). The overwhelming tendency was to address God with titles that would display his greatness, sovereignty, or glory. This title was a stark contrast that brought God close and familiar. I have often joked that we need a Grover-like understanding of God. You remember Grover from Sesame Street? He is the Muppet that made “far” and “near” famous.
He was trying to draw a contrast between the two words, but always used them together. I think we need to put them together as well, but not as a contrast. When we pray, we like the far aspect of God – he is big, bold, great, sovereign, over-all. We appeal to that because we desire God to act in ways that we cannot. However, we must hold on to the nearness of God. He knows us, cares for us, longs for the best for us, desires to be deeply involved in our lives, and even celebrates over us like a proud dad. We need this “near” picture of God.
I suspect Jesus gives us this picture because we naturally default away from it. We are fiercely independent. We are human after all. We really don’t want God messing about in the stuff of our every-day lives. We often turn to God only when things are too problematic for us to fix. And then…we want the big bold God who can soar in like Superman, not the close intimate one that shows up to care for us like dad. Yet, Jesus reminds us we get both.
There is one more aspect that I want to add in here. Its not, “my father”, although that would be true; but “our father”. We have the same father. We are family. In the family, we care for one another. Well, we ought to. Sadly, Christians all too often are outraged like the rest of our world, instead of being graciously Christ-like. Open Facebook or Twitter and you will see Christians screaming about the smallest things. Recently one pastor in the States got in trouble from some of his fellow pastors because his large church cancelled services one Sunday of the year, and he tweeted that the congregation should spend time worshipping at home with their families. The horrible assumptions and personal accusations that were thrown his way for this choice were ridiculous.
May it not be so among us EFCCers, please! We are able to lift up brothers and sisters to “our father” and let him care for them in ways we never could. Let us make the most of the opportunity.