Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do We Know How To Pray?: Part 2

In my last blog, I gave a general overview of the Lord's prayer. Today I want to start looking more in depth at what this prayer is really saying, and how Jesus is teaching us to pray. The Lord's Prayer opens with these wonderful words: “Our Father…” In this opening salutation, Jesus wants us to understand that we should call to God in a very personal way; we should know God in a very personal way. The word “Father” is the Aramaic word “Abba.” This word is very personal and intimate, because it can be translated as “daddy.”

In our culture today, one of the first words a baby speaks is the word “daddy.” In Jesus’ time and culture, that word was “abba.” This was a society in which the father was expected to be the spiritual leader of the entire household; a society in which the father provided for the majority of the needs of the family; a society where a family’s identification in the community was established primarily through the father.

When Jesus used this word “abba,” father, His purpose was to establish, to clarify, and then to invite each one of us to celebrate the wonderful relationship God wants to have with each one of us. Now this was a very new way of praying. This was not how the religious people of that time were accustomed to praying. One Christian writer remarking about this new kind of intimacy said: “What an incredible revolution Jesus started when He used this word ‘abba’ to describe our relationship with God.” For a community whose prayers had always reflected great distance between themselves and God, Jesus introduced to them the immediacy, and thus the intimacy of a caring God.

God is no longer to be thought of as someone who cannot be reached. God is to be thought of as a loving parent. As a parent, I would be greatly distressed if my children kept distant from me. It is the same with God. God created us, and loves us, and wants to have a special relationship with us. Jesus tells us straight out that this relationship is to be intimate and special like you should have with a loving earthly father.
But along with using such a personal name as
“abba” to help us understand the personalness of God, and of this prayer, this opening “Our Father” also seeks to help us understand the focus we are to have in our prayers. The focus is to be on God. Just as Jesus offered His prayers to the Father, so He tells us to direct our prayers to the Father. Our prayers are to be to the Father, through the Son (that’s why we close prayers “in Jesus’ name”), by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in praying this way, we are reminded that the focus is not on ourselves, but on the God to whom we are praying, and seeking, and relying on.
Next time I will continue on the relationship between praying to "our Father" and being selfish.