There are not a lot of examples in the gospels of people asking Jesus to teach them something. But in Luke 11, Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Perhaps more amazingly is that Jesus teaches them to pray in just fifty-odd words (about 290 characters by my count – just a little more than a tweet!)
In the next 8 blogs, we’ll look at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. We’ll do this slowly and allow the truths of Jesus’ teaching to shape and encourage our prayer lives.
Our Father in heaven
26th April 2021
J.I. Packer wrote that the key to a great and vibrant prayer life is a wonderful awareness of the greatness of God. He said,
“the vitality of prayer lies in the vision of God that prompts it. Drab thoughts of God make prayer dull”.
When Jesus teaches us to pray, 'Our Father', our thoughts focus on the incredible truth of our adoption as God’s children and the depth of relationship and intimacy that we have with our God. And when he adds the words, ‘in heaven’, we are reminded of the very nature of the God we call ‘Father’. We are reminded that when we pray, we speak to the infinite, self-existing, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God who transcends this world, and whose presence is everywhere.
When we pray, we call out to the one who is utterly different from us. He is not bound as we are; he is not limited as we are; he is not fragile as we are; he is not self-absorbed as we are. A.W. Tozer writes,
"To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him.”
And of course, when we reduce God to our level, our prayers lose their vibrancy and our dependence on prayer disappears. It is only when we seek to behold our God in all his glory and power that we truly appreciate the privilege that prayer is. It is not a form of positive-thinking, it is not thinking happy thoughts, but is speaking to the one who is the author, creator, sustainer, and focus of life and everything. When we look at Jesus, we see the very character of God – the one who calms the storm, walks on water, multiplies bread and fish, heals the lame, raises the dead, and speaks with incomparable wisdom.
This is the God we pray to:
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure (Psalm 147:5)
“For I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6)
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26)
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made (Psalm 33:6)
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)
His splendour was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden. (Habakkuk 3:4)
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Our God is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see … and the wonder is that we can approach him in prayer because He is our Father.
How does this affect us as we pray this week?
As we pray, focus our praise on who God is – you may wish to reflect on some of the verses above or look up other ones. Praise him for who he is and allow our hearts to be filled with awe and worship as we think about our Father. You might want to actively engage with the verses by writing them out, drawing them, or singing them.
Repent of the times when we have reduced God to our level or failed to humble ourselves before his majesty.
Ask that God would increase our vision of who He is – pray this for yourself and for others. Pray that this increased vision would fuel a vibrant and joyful prayer life.
Humble ourselves before our great God, recognise our inadequacies and his sufficiency, and seek God's help to depend on him more and more as we go through each day this week.
Next - 'Hallowed by your name'