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Thursday, 14 June 2018

What You Should Know About Prayer

Prayer, while a simple thing in many ways, is also at the same time challenging for us.

Consider the disciples who grew up praying in the synagogue. Even though they had likely prayed their whole life and probably knew certain prayers in the Bible by heart (such as those in the Psalms), they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. 
Perhaps they saw how he withdrew from them on a regular basis to seek his Father in prayer. Perhaps they heard him pray, not in rote memorization, but in belief, trust, and confidence. Perhaps they witnessed firsthand the results of his prayers. 
Whatever their reasons for asking, Jesus did teach them to pray by giving them what we call the The Lord's Prayer:

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.a
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil." 
(Matthew 6:9-13)

For many believers, The Lord's Prayer is something we can recite in our sleep. Many of us learned it as child in Sunday School. Some of us say it in church every Sunday. It's also a prayer that forms and shapes our personal prayers — using it as a model to help us include the important elements of prayer such as praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.

Sometimes, when we know something so well, we take it for granted. We recite it without paying attention to the words. We overlook its meaning and significance. When that happens, we need a fresh reminder of why we say it to begin with.

In the case of The Lord's Prayer, do we know how significant it is that we get to pray that first line, Our Father in Heaven? Do we understand the privilege of coming before God as our Father and laying our requests before him?

Through faith in Jesus' perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection, we are saved from sin. We are justified. God looks at what Christ has done for us and declares us righteous. This is a legal act. Upon our salvation, we are also brought into right relationship with God. We are adopted into his family, the church. This adoption concerns our relationship with God. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can "with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

When Jesus referred to God as Father in this prayer, it is translated as Abba. It was the name Jewish children used to refer to their fathers. Some compare it to our own children referring to their father as "Daddy." Because of our adoption as God's children, we get to pray Our Father. Just as our children can run to their own Daddy when they are hurt, curl in his lap and find rest and comfort, praying Our Father means the same for us. It is an intimate, familiar, and familial reference. It denotes trust, security, and love. In praying, Our Father, it reminds us of God's great love for us. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1).

To pray Our Father means that we have a familial relationship with the God of the universe. The One who flung the stars across the sky, who holds the earth in the palm of his hand, who controls the wind and mighty oceans, is our Abba. He cares about every detail of our lives, down to the number of hairs on our head. He hears our every cry and knows our every need—before we even speak it.

J.I. Packer asserts that adoption "is the highest privilege that the gospel offers." He wrote in Knowing God, "Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship — he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship."

Jesus didn't simply pray, Our Father, he qualified it with, "in heaven." This phrase tells us that our Father is in heaven. It reminds us that God isn't just any father, he is also the Sovereign God who rules and reigns from his throne above. "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19). This means he is far above and beyond any earthly father. He is a father who is holy, perfect, right, and true.

Prayer is a privilege. How amazing it is that we get to come into our Father's presence!

[written by Christina Fox]


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