Jesus begins teaching his disciples to pray by giving them a worked example. It’s not the only prayer, but it models prayer. And he begins with how they address God. How does he start? “Father”. It’s family language. The way a young child addresses their dad. It’s not over familiar but respectful, it flows out a trust and assurance of welcome. Every disciple can speak to the Almighty Creator God as Father. Isn’t that amazing?
Prayer is an outworking of the disciples relationship given in Jesus. It is Jesus righteousness and relationship and acceptance gifted to the disciple that enables them, and us, to pray like this. Jesus always address God as Father in his prayers in the gospels. Except for once, can you think when that was? It was as he hung on the cross and bore the wrath of the Father for sin, there he prays and gasps “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” rather than Father. Jesus in that moment experiences the agony of the separation from God that sin causes so that we never need to. We can pray Father because he gasped “My God, My God”and bore the separation and wrath we deserve. And that means we can always approach God as Father because we relate to him in Jesus.
Prayer is founded on knowing God and our standing before him, in relation to him, in Jesus. Our Father is revealed in this prayer to be holy and worthy of all glory and worship. His kingdom is coming and his purposes will be fulfilled. He generously provides, graciously forgives sin, and protects and shields his children. And we have the privilege of speaking to this God as our Father accepted in Jesus.
Prayer is the disciples approaching God the Father resting in their identity in God the Son. All prayer is built on what Jesus has done for us. That liberates us to pray because it’s not about what we’ve done but what Jesus has done. We’re not welcome or acceptable because of our righteousness but because of his and our faith in him. That means that there’s never a barrier stopping us speaking to our Father. It doesn’t matter what today, or yesterday, was like. It doesn’t matter if we feel our prayer life is feeble and a failure. We aren’t accepted because of that. He isn’t our Father because of that. We’re not his children because of that. We can come and speak to our Father because Jesus has done everything to secure our welcome and adoption.
Prayer is always a realisation of grace not a reminder of guilt. Isn’t that helpful, isn’t it freeing. Prayer is hard but we can pray because of grace. Prayer is hard but our Father welcomes us because of Jesus. Prayer is a reminder, a realisation that God’s favour has been won for us in Jesus. Prayer is putting grace into action. We don’t pray to earn God’s favour we pray because he has shown us his favour in Jesus.
Maybe you’ve realised that you can’t pray like that, because you don’t know God as your Father. You pray without knowing God, it’s in hope that God hears. It’s not based on grace but you hope you’ve been good enough to earn a hearing, the equivalent of a divine Mars Bar answer. Prayer doesn’t make us right with God, it flows from being made right with God by grace. If you want to pray, the first step is to know the Father through the Son. Jesus wants you to know him. He has died for you, so you don’t need to strive, he will forgive if you will confess your need of him and his salvation and then you can pray like this, knowing you are welcomed.
Disciples pray because Jesus has done everything to make prayer possible.
But what do we pray? We’ll think about that tomorrow.