5 May 2020 – To Whom do we Pray?

All of us have relationships with other people that require us to relate to them in different ways in particular contexts. A woman may be a teacher, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a church member, a friend, amongst other things; or a man might be a footballer, a father, a member of a school Parent Council, a husband, a son, a church member amongst his various roles. I have quickly picked up these examples which are far from exhaustive for both genders.

In fact many of usmight have at least as many roles as the two examples selected here. This is quite normal and expected and we adapt ourselves quite easily, most of the time, to the different roles we play in particular social contexts. Part of growing up is adjusting to the roles we play and this is something that young children can find hard to accept at times.

As Christians we too can find it difficult on occasions to know how best to relate to our heavenly Father. The disciples of Jesus struggled to pray in a meaningful way and on at least one occasion asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Do you have any particular struggles in prayer at the present time?

One thing that was a pressing problem then and now is this: how do we relate to the Creator of heaven and earth? The One who brought the Universe into being by His spoken word and who upholds it by that same power?

We are creatures made out of the elements of the dust of the earth, living in one small part of one planet in one galaxy and even there we are only one of approximately 7.8 billion individuals alive at the present time! How does Jesus want us to relate to Almighty God? The answer He gave shocked His contemporaries as they held a view that God and people were distant from one another and that no-one should dare to attempt to come close to God. This was presumptuous and disrespectful, argued the Pharisees. Yet how does Jesus advise His followers to address God in heaven?  This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven… (Matthew 6:9a).

What does it mean to call God ‘Father’?

(a)It is a special relationship This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven… (Matthew 6:9a).

This is a unique privilege available to children of God. We by God’s undeserved favour have a right to come directly into the presence of our Father in heaven. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews exhorts us in this way: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

We can take this for granted because we know that as Christians we can come directly into His presence. Paul put it this way in Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

Can you remember a time when you entered His family by putting your faith and trust in God through Jesus? Or could today be the day you take that step of faith?

(b) It was a sacred relationship In Galatians 4:6 Paul wrote: 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  

In his letter to the Church in Rome he wrote: 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15);What an extraordinary privilege we have been granted. Abba (a respectful form of Daddy) was the first word spoken by a Jewish child and is an incredibly intimate form of address. We stand on holy ground and should seek to grasp a glimpse of how remarkable this is. How amazing that mere creatures can address their Creator with such tender affection and extraordinary devotion. As a Christian have you retained some sense of this incredible privilege?

(c) It was a social relationship This is how you [plural] should pray: Our Father… our faith although personal is in communion with fellow believers reflecting in pale imitation the communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Western culture we have since the eighteenth century ‘enlightenment’ emphasized the individual and their rights at the expense of the place of the individual in community and their responsibilities to other people.

We have a lot to learn, for example, from Asian or African cultures where there has been retained a much greater respect for elders in the family and other people in the extended family and in other social contexts. Here Jesus assumes His followers are part of a local gathering of His people who worship God together, pray together, share their faith together and serve their community together in an organisation called the local church.

The New Testament assumes each follower of Jesus is committed to a local community of believers – are you? In lock down our contacts are limited to virtual fellowship on line, but we look forward to the day when we can meet together once more to give praise and honour to our Father in heaven.

Our song for reflection today is: ‘Father God I wonder’

Brian Talbot