When you listen to believers talk about the Christian life there is a common theme: prayer is important and difficult. This is not a new phenomenon, even the earliest disciples requested some classes on prayer (Luke 11:1). Therefore, it is encouraging and instructive to hear Jesus' teaching on how to pray from what is called "The Lord's Prayer."
What is interesting to me is the way he begins: "Our Father..." (Matthew 6:9). In this Jesus calls us to the family room for a conversation with our heavenly Father. Before we go further, however, it is important, even imperative to acknowledge and overcome a major obstacle that this opening presents.
We all have the tendency to project a concept of fatherhood upon God instead of to receive the image that he projects. This is obviously due to the fact that we all have fathers. Some are or were better than others but none are or were perfect. All of our fathers had significant shortcomings—even on their best day.
As a result, we often see God in this light or at least with influence from this light. I have seen it over and over again in counseling: we project our thoughts of our earthly fathers upon our heavenly Father. As you might imagine, this causes major problems in the prayer closest. If your father was demanding and lacked grace then you see God this way. If your father was cold, distant, and uninvolved, then you see God this way. If your father was unable to deliver on his grand promises, then you see God this way. If your father did not keep his word then you see God this way. This is the spiritual equivalent of having your shoes tied together by some pesky kid before getting up from the table. It halts you at the starting blocks of the race; you are not going to go very far.
As Christians we must not project our image of God upon God but rather receive the one he supplies us in his Word. We come to the Lord's Prayer and we see that Jesus lays a heavy emphasis upon the Fatherhood of God. Evidently everything that follows flows out of the fact that God is a Father, and a good one at that. Therefore, understanding God as Father is essential not only to our knowledge of him but also our relationship to him.
Let me provide a few sparkling jewels from God's crown that showcase his Fatherhood. These jewels draw us to pray.
1. God's Loving Nature.
The best praise that we can give a person is to say that they are loving. It agelessly attractive to be a loving human. However, when we talk about God being loving we are not saying that like "Joe is a generally loving guy." No, God is quite unique. God is not only loving he is love (1 John 4:8). This passage in 1 John reminds us that this love is chiefly understood not in terms of a feeling but an event! God's love is displayed through the giving of Jesus Christ for us and our salvation. If you ever doubt God's love for you then you need to remember the cross. It is the great if...then argument. If God has not spared his Son then he will give you everything you need, with abundance (Rom. 8:32). God is love at his core! Everything that God does and says flows from this glorious source. All of the rivers of his thinking and doing and saying flow from the same source water, the ocean of God' love. We should note that we can say this not because what God says and does is evaluated by some third-party source or some love-o-meter as loving, but rather it is loving because the God who is love has done it! It is this God who is your Father! He invites you to come to him to receive and rejoice in his love. This draws us to pray.
2. God's Infinite Knowledge
Many parents have been stymied by various circumstances involving their children. Our heavenly Father knows of no such dilemma. He has never scratched his proverbial head. He is the "only wise God" (1 Tim. 1:17). There is no limit to his wisdom or counsel. As a result, we can come to him with our needs (he knows them already—Mt. 6:8), our future (he ordains it Ps. 139:16), our pain (he comforts it 2 Cor. 1:3). This draws us to pray.
3. God's Listening Ear
If God were inattentive it would stop all prayer. This is not true, however. God does hear he is listening. He hears the righteous (Prov. 15:9). He hears our pleas and accepts our prayers (Ps. 6:8-9). Solomon was told that God in fact had heard his prayer (2 Chron. 7:12-13). Elijah was someone with a frame like ours, says James, and God did amazing things in response to his praying (James 5:16-18). To embolden this truth, God also never sleeps. We learn from the Psalmist that he never sleeps or slumbers (Ps. 121:4). Wake up at 2:00 AM with a nightmare, he is there ready to listen and comfort. Call upon him at 2:00 PM after a problem at the office, he is there. His eye is continually upon you listening and protecting.
Sometimes we need to just remind ourselves of who we are dealing with.
Doubtless Jesus, who knew his heavenly Father intimately and infinitely, was pulling a pretty substantial trailer filled with a rich theology of God the Father. He bids us to come behind him to learn. Learn by reading the Word and learn by experiencing his blessings. As you do continue to look at the image of God your Father as projected by the Scriptures and not your experiences. This will bring a daily celebration of Father's Day.