When you pray, remember God’s closeness. In “Our Father in heaven” the word for “Father” that Jesus uses was the Aramaic word “abba,” a term of endearment with which a child would refer to his or her loving father. It can be translated as “poppa,” “daddy,” or “dear father.” We have this closeness, love and relationship with the God of the universe.
Someone tells the story about economist E.F. Schumacher, a young statistician working on a farm. Each day he would count the 300 head of cattle and then turn his attention elsewhere. One day an old farmer told him that he shouldn’t count the cattle. The young man thought that was just a superstition until one morning one of the cows died. He asked the farmer about it and this is what the farmer said: “Don’t count the cattle. Know the cattle. Look them in the eye and study the sheen of the coat. You may not know how many cattle you have, but you will save the ones you do.”
Jesus says here, “God doesn’t just count you as another of his creatures. He looks you in the eye. He cares. He is your Father.”
There was only one time in all of history in which God the Father treated a child harshly. It was on the cross. But by turning away from his only begotten Son, he became your Father. At the cross, the floodgates of a Father’s love were poured out on you. Your heavenly Father loves you.
When you pray, remember God’s distance. We are to pray to our Father, “hallowed be your name.” The word “hallowed” is related to the word “holy,” with the basic meaning of “different” or “separate.” God is different. He is holy. He is in heaven.
Don’t you just get tired of people who act as if they have God in their back pocket? One time the Emperor Augustus dismissed an employee in his service. The man came to him and said, “But sire, what will I tell my father when I go home?” Augustus answered, “Tell him that you didn’t find me to your liking.”
At the cross, the floodgates of a Father’s love were poured out on you. Your heavenly Father loves you.
For most people, when they discover the real God, he is often not to their liking. We want to be autonomous. We want God to be our advisor…he is not an advisor and refuses to play that role. We want him to be our soft place…he refuses to be only a soft place. God is a Father…but he is God and that makes him, on occasion, a scary Father.
When you pray, remember God’s authority. When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are saying, “All right, I’m taking my hands off the steering wheel.”
For the Christian, it is not a matter of God’s power; but rather, God’s authority. One time G.K. Chesterton, in discussing philosophical matters, described the difference between power and authority as this: “For example, if a rhinoceros should break through that door right now, we would get out of his way because we would respect his power…but he would have absolutely no authority.”
Let me give you a biblical fact. Those who do not recognize God’s authority now, will know his power later when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.
Being a Christian is not getting what you want. It is recognizing God’s authority to give you what he wants. That is the bottom line and in that authority is abundant life.
When you pray, remember God’s benevolence. In the fact that he asked us to pray for “daily bread,” Jesus affirmed two things that God is benevolent toward our material needs and God is adequate security.
I’m glad that Jesus reminds us about this. Bread is important. I have a family and a mortgage payment. Those things aren’t just spiritual. They are real needs for which I need help from the Father.
I’m not big on food. I eat because when you’re hungry, it’s hard to do something else. And so, even though I will miss meals, eventually my stomach starts growling and I can’t concentrate on work until I get something to eat. That reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s hard to forgive, to ask God’s will or to be obedient when your stomach is growling. God is practical. He is concerned with your income taxes, your bills, your food and your life. Go to him often…not just about “spiritual” things but also about everything.
When you pray, remember God’s holiness and righteousness. The Psalmist wrote, “Against thee and thee only have I sinned.” I never understood this before I was a Christian. I would do something bad to somebody and then I would ask his forgiveness. I would think, All right, if he forgave me, why do I still feel guilty? I still felt guilty because my sin was primarily against God.
If you take sin out of the gospel, it is no longer the gospel. Paul wrote, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” Why do we need to be reconciled? Because God is holy and we are not. That gulf is unbelievable. If you have never felt uncomfortable when you prayed, you have never prayed.
When you pray, remember God’s power. Jesus said that when you ask “not to be led into temptation,” you are making an affirmation of your own weakness.
There is no sin of which I am not capable. Jesus says, “Pray for God not to lead you into temptation because you are weak and he is strong.” It’s all here: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.”
When you pray, remember God’s enemy: “Deliver us from the evil one.” That, by the way, is the proper translation of the Lord’s Prayer. Not “deliver us from evil”; but rather, from the personal evil of the “evil one.”
Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” That is interesting. We forget that prayer (and, as a matter of fact, everything we do) is a supernatural work, not a natural work. It is a supernatural battle…one that God wins.
Time to Draw Away
Read Matthew 6:5-15 & Romans 8:26-27
Do you know the God you pray to? Prayer is simply going to your loving Father and having a conversation. Sometimes you talk. Sometimes you listen. Often you cry or laugh or yell. Always, it is a way for God to draw you closer to himself.