Jesus taught His disciples and us how to pray to God. All of you are very familiar with the Lord’s Prayer.
Look at the first two words of that prayer, “Our Father.”
Why did Jesus have the prayer begin in this way?
It tells us to whom we are praying. We are praying to God. But we are praying to God Who is our Father.
One thing Jesus is teaching us is that when we pray, we should begin with a form of address.
There are many different names of God which we may use to begin our prayers. When we want to think of God as the One Who is perfect and has all perfections in Him, then we use the name “God” to begin our prayer. When we think of Him as the Sovereign Ruler over all things, then we use the name “Lord.” When we want to be intimate with Him, then we call Him “Father.” When we are reminded of how God is faithful to His people, then we address Him as “Jehovah.”
Jesus taught the disciples to give God a form of address. To pray to God without any form of address is disrespectful. Do you know of any prayers recorded in the Bible which do not have a form of address? If not every prayer, then the vast majority do contain a form of address.
The reason why an address is so important in prayer is because the address of the prayer determines our attitude throughout that prayer. Thus the address of our prayer is to us a reminder of Him to Whom we are praying. What we will say and how we will say it is determined by our attitude. That attitude will be, by’ the grace of God, corrected and/or directed, if we listen to the address of that prayer.
Some say that it is too formal to include an address in prayers. They say that prayers are to be intimate. They are the expression of our heart and we should not let anything get in the way of that expression. These people believe that to include a form of address makes the prayer too formal. To include a form of address takes away the spontaneity of the prayer so that it can no longer be the expression of their hearts.
The opinion described above is like a young man who wanted to be a great artist. But he wanted to be a great artist without learning how to paint. He did not want to take any art lessons or go to any classes. The reason he gave for this refusal to attend any art classes was that he wanted his paintings to be a reflection of himself. He was afraid that painting lessons in which he would be taught how to paint, would hinder and prohibit all creativity and all free expression of his feelings.
Well, that young man became an old man, but he never became a great artist. He never learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to paint. He wanted his paintings to be an expression of himself, and they were. They revealed an undisciplined and rebellious man who was a poor artist.
There is a right way and a wrong way to pray. The wrong way is to deny that God exists. Also it is wrong to think that we are equals with God.
To refuse to learn the right way is rebellion and sin.
The right way does not keep one from expressing his innermost thoughts. It does not keep one from telling God what is in his heart. In fact, it helps him to pray.
The right way to pray does prohibit and hinder self-expression. To give God a form of address does hinder self-expression. But do we not want our sinful self-expression to be hindered?
If we are reminded that the One to Whom we are praying is the Perfect One, Who can have no sin before Him, we will be careful and keep sins from our prayers.
If we are not reminded by the name “Jehovah” that God is faithful to us in all things, will we not question the way He deals with us? Will we not be inclined to ask rebelliously, “Why?”, if we are not reminded that Jehovah is faithful to His covenant?
And will we not refuse to judge God’s fairness, if we call Him “Father”?
To learn the right way to pray is to give ourselves guidance in the spiritual art of prayer.
Another thing Jesus teaches us with the Lord’s Prayer is to address God as our Father.
God IS our Father. If Jesus did not give God that name we would be afraid of Him. Is there any more intimate way to speak of our relationship to God than with the name “Father”?
Jesus made us God’s children and God our Father. He did so by cleansing us from the guilt of our sin. Our adoption papers are signed with the blood of the Lamb of God. And we actually become God’s children by regeneration. We are children of God.
We look like children of God. The effect of the death of Jesus Christ was such that we are given righteousness and holiness. By walking in that righteousness and holiness we look like our Father.
So far this is all very comforting. In the midst of every trial and problem we know that God is for Jesus’ sake our Father. Therefore He will provide us with every good thing. Therefore He will avert all evil or turn it to our profit. Therefore He so cares for us that we know that we are perfectly safe.
The hard part is that when we realize that God is our Father, that makes us children. Or maybe it would be better to say: little children. A little child has child-like faith.
Now who wants to be a child? Who wants to be called a little child?
As young adults we like to reason. A young person has flexed his mental muscles and has found out that they work pretty well. And so he prefers to use his reason. He prefers to figure things out and thus decide for himself. Usually this is good, but sometimes it can get him into trouble. Often reasons gets in the way of child-like faith.
A little child does not challenge the position of his father or mother. In his mind there is no question as to who is superior and who is inferior.
When he becomes older he begins to argue. He begins to challenge the wisdom of his parents and to criticize their judgment. He doubts their good intentions and desires to seek his own welfare.
No more child-like faith!
No more respect!
It is impossible to separate respect from faith.
Our Father puts our fathers over us. Our Father puts over us all who are in authority.
Our attitude towards those in authority over us shows what our attitude is towards Him Who has placed them in authority over us. When we have no attitude of respect for them, then we must not have any respect for Him.
Jesus teaches us to address God when we pray. We must address Him. It is an expression of our attitude, of our respectful attitude. It is an acknowledgement on our part of our humble position.
If we must address Him, should we not also address our earthly fathers, whom He places over us? Do not our fathers represent to us our Father? Would not an expression of respect and faith to our fathers also be an expression of faith and respect to our Father? If we express our proper attitude to our Father by addressing Him, is not the same required in our relationship to His earthly representative?
Is a form of address necessary every time we speak to our fathers?
We know that our day is characterized by much disrespect. In fact, there is more disrespect today than there ever was before. And does not that disrespect also affect us?
Would it not be a constant reminder to us just who our fathers are? To be in the habit of addressing our earthly fathers (and mothers) (and teachers, who stand in the place of our fathers), would help us to keep a proper attitude towards them. It would always remind us that they stand in the place of our Father Who is in heaven.
It is so easy to rebel. It is so easy to speak against our fathers. Without even thinking we can talk back and argue wrongfully.
Would it not help us to be respectful to our fathers to address them as fathers before we say what is on our mind? Should we not use every help we can find to aid us in a proper walk on this earth?
Not to address our fathers can give us the unconscious impression that we are their equals. Or worse yet it can deny their position of God-given authority.
Think about it. I am sure that you never thought of it this way before. In fact, I am sure that most of you never thought of it at all.
Could it be that the refusal to address our Father and our fathers is just another way the devil works? Without our being conscious of it he undermines, even in the smallest ways, God and His authority. I think that the devil is happy when he hears young people refuse to speak respectfully in every possible way of their Father and of their fathers. I think he delights to hear us say that a form of address to them is not important.
Jesus taught us the proper way to speak to our heavenly Father. Does He not at the same time tell us how to speak to those on earth who stand in the place of our heavenly Father? Let us so pray and so speak.