“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven …” Matthew vi.9 NASB
When Jesus’ disciples requested Him to teach them how to pray, Jesus cautioned them against hypocritical and vain practices. He then instructed them, “Pray, then, in this way..” In Jesus, we have the best teacher; who can teach humanity to pray to God better than the One who came from God?
Jesus did not discourage prayer. He did not say, “God knows your needs and He will supply your needs even if you do not pray.” The God of the Bible has ordained prayer for mankind. Prayer doesn’t demean us. It is only fitting for weak and needy creatures like us to be on our knees, presenting our petitions before a loving and caring Creator. Prayer is also a sacred privilege. Unlike the difficult prospect of approaching earthly rulers, we can approach the King of the Universe with our supplications at any time of the day or night.
True prayer is a spiritually demanding exercise. Although we are spiritual beings who are fascinated by anything supernatural or mystical, we are not naturally inclined to pray to the Living God. We would rather be engaged in any other religious activity than pray. For us, Jesus’ “Pray, then, in this way” is a command to be obeyed.
“Our Father in Heaven” – Jesus introduced Yahweh, the God of Abraham, as the Father in heaven. The Jewish readers of Matthew, not to mention the disciples themselves, would certainly have noticed this term of endearment used to address the most exalted God. For them, the holy Yahweh – the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac – was too distant to be called Abba. Jesus’ mission was not just to reveal God as His loving Father but also to make way, through His cross, for the adoption of sinful humanity into God’s family. Jesus’ disciples were well on their way to call this awesome God Abba. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus told Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'” (John xx.17) The greatest privilege on earth is to be called the children of God and to address God as our Abba.
A Christian’s prayer should be, according to Jesus’ teachings, addressed to God the Father. Christians often pray to Jesus because they are unaware of the implications of the Lord’s Prayer or of Jesus’ explicit teaching regarding this. Jesus is our Mediator and Way to the Father. We pray to the Father in Jesus’ Name. It is disheartening to observe the confusion in some prayers addressed to Jesus and concluded with a “In your name we pray.” Why pray to Jesus in Jesus’ name? Jesus had instructed the Twelve clearly, “You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive … I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. (John xvi.24-27 NLT) Thank God for the direct access we have to the Father through Jesus’ name!
“Our Father in Heaven” – If the God of heaven and earth is a Father, he is not the Father of just one person or of one select group of Christians. Each Christian who prays to this God, addressing Him as our Heavenly Father, is reminded of the unity of the larger family of God. If we pray to this Father, we should make sure that we are in good terms with other children of His family.
The phrase “Our Father in Heaven” also reminds us about the importance of corporate prayer. Solitary prayer, as important as it may be, should not be at the cost of corporate prayer. Corporate prayer may be more sustainable for many, given our inclination to give in to the weakness of our flesh.
Besides, some of us use the first person pronoun in prayer even when we lead a group in prayer. It is good to remind ourselves that the expressions “Our Father in Heaven” and “in Jesus’ name we pray” are as holy as “My Father in Heaven” and “in Jesus’ name I pray.”
Did you pray to your Heavenly Father today?