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Seeking Things Above

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)

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The Lord's Prayer - Our Father

Matthew 6:9 (ESV)
9 Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
We all have different people we communicate with during the day.  We have our boss, co-workers, friends, spouses, children and our own parents to name just a few.  The way we communicate with each person depends on our relationship with that person.  When I talk to my boss I'm more reserved and professional than when I talk to my wife (hopefully).

I think for prayer to work right, we have to understand our relationship to God, or at least what that relationship should be.  Jesus' first lesson in this prayer he is teaching His disciples, is that God is our Father and God is to be reverenced as holy.

This seems simple enough.  However, "father" can have many different meanings depending on your own experiences.  We all have our own earthly father and part of our perception of a "father" is based on this experience.  You could have a great father or you could have a father that only brought you pain. 

Whatever type of father you have, he's not God.  He's failed you at some point.  If your a dad like me, you've failed your own children at some point, like me.  So what is a perfect heavenly father like?

Our heavenly Father is a Father that waits for us to turn to Him from our worldly pursuits, and we when we do, He rushes to us to pour out His love and grace.
Luke 15:20-24 (ESV)
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.
In this parable, the wayward son finally realizes that the life he has chosen has left him feeding slop to pigs and he would be better off as a servant in his father's house.  What he finds is a father that runs to embrace and kiss him when he sees his son coming in the distance.  He does not find a father that says "I told you so."  He does not find a father that is holding a grudge for ruining his good family name.  He does not get accepted back on probationary terms.  He is received back unconditionally and even has a party thrown in his name.

When I come to my heavenly Father to pray, who am I coming to?  Am I coming as a spoiled child that just wants Dad to fix all of my problems?  Am I afraid to come to Him at all because I know I have disappointed Him?  Am I coming to Him because I'm a rule follower and that's what I'm supposed to do (see big brother in passage above)?  Or, am I coming humbly back to my Father, because I know I cannot do this life on my own?

While it is important to know the mercy and grace of my Father, it is just as important not to forget that He is holy.  How often have I taken my parents for granted?  How often have I thought I was smarter than my old man.  Yes, God is a merciful and gracious Father that His Spirit within me calls "Daddy".  However, He is a holy and righteous God that I should come to with exaltation and praise.
Psalms 99:5 (ESV)
5 Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!
If I want my prayers to move from superficial to real, I have to know with whom I am talking.


brad said...

It is remarkable to me personally that Jesus began this prayer by addressing God as OUR FATHER. If we put ourselves in the context of Jesus' time on earth this was unheard of for the Jews. To them God was Jehovah, King of the universe, the Most High God. They were even afraid to simply speak his name lest he strike them dead. But here Jesus comes along and blows them away by giving them an example of how to pray. By starting with "Our Father" to me he is saying something like this "When you pray I want you to come to God as a trusting child comes to an attentive father who loves you. You may not have had an earthly father that you could trust or approach or talk to, but your heavenly Father is different. Holy is his name. He is separate from every one else and loves you like no one else loves you."

I don't think prayer is a magic formula or only ritual or just a memorized speech. Not that it can't be these things to people at different points in there walk with the Lord, but I think Jesus is encouraging us to look at prayer as a child's tender conversation with their perfect heavenly Father.

Jesus addressed God as "ABBA FATHER" during an intimate moment of prayer in Gethsemane. (Mark 14:36)

The apostle Paul adds some emphasis to our intimate child parent relationship with God by also using the word "ABBA" just as Jesus did when crying out to his Father in Gethsemane.

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:14-17)

ABBA is an Aramaic term meaning father. It mostly known as a word children would use when they addressed their fathers. (more on this) Jesus and Paul only used this word in conjunction with father. Kinda like saying "Father Father". Perhaps like mixing a familiar more intimate term for father with a more formal one. But it is important to note both terms would have been heresy to the religious leadership and teachers of the day.

I think all this goes to what you are saying in your post. I would say God is both our Dad and Father. He desires that we come to Him with both fear and intimacy and only in Christ. Only because of Christ and His sacrifice.

I apologize for getting a little long winded in this comment, but you really got me thinking.

Tony said...

Brad - Great comments. Thanks for adding so much to this topic.

I think the Abba Father (child's loving daddy) combined with a holy fear and reverence are a difficult concept for us to grasp sometimes.

One, as grown-ups we think we've grown-up past our need for a daddy. Two, we think of fear as being afraid of being sent to hell rather than an awe struck notion of "My daddy hung the moon" (literally!).

Grace and peace brother.


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