It is mortifying to admit, but I don’t know my wife’s mobile phone number. Siri does, so I don’t really need to, right?
The implications of this ineptitude are a tad unsettling. For instance, if my smartphone died and left me stranded in some hairy predicament, even with the fortuitous arrival of a good Samaritan offering me unlimited use of his phone, there is still no one whose number I could recall. The solution is simple: invest a few moments in memorizing at least one contact number as a lifeline.
I take some solace in my suspicion that I am probably one of many who has similarly been lulled into electronic over-dependence by the mesmerizing convenience of voice-activated communication.
I also suspect that many Christians are equally nescient about how to communicate effectively with God in prayer. We all pray. Hopefully, we do it all the time. In that sense, we feel as though we have God’s line loaded on our speed dial. But could you explain to a new believer the correct way to pray? Could you account for the way you pray, the way you address God, or the types of requests you make? Are your prayers automatic, or could you talk someone through your method of praying?
Last Monday we saw that there is a wrong way to pray. Today we begin our short series on the correct way to pray, the way Jesus presented to his disciples.
Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”
5 implications of calling God our Father
God likes to be called Father
The opening words of this prayer would have jolted the Jews like an offensive electric shock. Addressing the Almighty Adonai with familiarity and intimacy would have seemed highly distasteful, if not disgraceful. In the entire 39 book corpus of the Old Testament God is referred to as “Father” only fifteen times, and none of those are addressed directly to God in prayer. To these religious Jews, the words, “Our Father,” would stick in the throat like a splintered chicken bone.
But after Jesus arrived, the name Father is used 165 times in the four Gospels alone! And in every prayer of Jesus he always addresses God as Father (except once, on the cross to emphasize their separation, Jesus said “My God, my God…”).
So, calling God our Father in prayer was… in a word… new.
But, according to Jesus, God wants you to call him Father.
God must be your Father
You can only call God your Father if you are, in fact, one of his children.
But, you may ask, aren’t all people children of God? Well…yes, and no.
There are two senses in which people can be children of God: ontologically and practically. Or you could say physically and spiritually.
All humans derive their being, their existence, from God. So, in that ontological sense, all humans are his children. Paul acknowledged that the Greeks were offspring of God in this physical sense:
Acts 17:26-29 And he made from one man every nation of mankind … ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone…
But we also need to become the offspring of God spiritually.
John 1:12-13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Everyone is a physical child of God, but if you are an unbeliever God is not your spiritual Father. In that crucial sense, you are not a child of God. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5-6 …Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
To call God your Father, you need to repent of your sin. You need to be born again.
God himself hears your prayer
We do not pray through saints, we do not pray through Mary. Catholics sometimes describe their practice this way: “When you want leniency from your Dad after deserving a hiding, you ask your Mom to go to him and soften him up on your behalf. Your Dad is more likely to hear from your Mom because she’s not the one who made him angry, you are.”
But this is a misunderstanding of God’s goodness and mercy and lovingkindness for us, as established by the work of Christ on the cross. As if Mary could be more loving and merciful than God the Father! Also, our bold approach of God’s throne of grace is made possible by the mediating work of Christ alone, and no other saint has any advantage over you and me.
1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
The fact that God hears your requests himself—and they are not relayed through a secretary or voicemail—should affect your prayers because you are speaking in real time with the Father.
God alone is our spiritual father
There is a verse that, out of context, may cause some confusion about Father’s Day.
Matthew 23:9-10 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
This verse doesn’t mean we need to be like Scout when she calls her father Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird. It means that in your spiritual life, you are not to ascribe to any human the credit and reverence and authority that belongs to God alone.
We call our church leaders pastors, meaning the blue-collared worker who tends sheep, but we pray “Our Father,” to our only spiritual Father.
God desires intimacy with you
The Greek word for Father here is Pater, as in paternity. But there is another word for Father used by New Testament believers: the word Abba.
Abba is an Aramaic colloquial term of endearment, like “Daddy” or “Papa”.
And this affectionate name for our Father is encouraged for all believers by the Spirit himself.
Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Intimacy is the hallmark of great prayer. When you approach God, don’t focus on prayer, focus on God. God desires intimacy with his children.
So this week, experiment with intimacy, enjoy calling God “Father”, or even “Dad”, and pray as much as you can, knowing that God loves to hear from his children.
If you are not a child of God, today could be your birthday: be born again by the blood of Jesus. Cast yourself on his mercy and Jesus will wash you clean and present you to the Father in him as a co-heir, a brother or sister, an adopted child of God who then gets to cry out “Abba, Father!”