“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven…” Matt. 6:9
This is perhaps the most famous prayer in all history. Jesus taught it to His disciples as an example of how Christians are to pray to God. Although there is nothing wrong with repeating the exact words with a sincere heart, it is intended more as a pattern or template for prayer.
Praying is both one of the easiest and hardest things a Christian will ever do. Easy because it is simply talking to God, although it can come from a light joyful heart or a deep burden and heart-felt pain. It is hard because Satan throws every distraction and false idea he can to prevent prayer. Prayer was important to Jesus and that should be enough to show us that prayer is to be important to us.
“Our Father in heaven” is Whom this prayer is addressed to although it is equally legitimate to address prayers to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
God is the ultimate Father. Some people look at their earthly father and imagine God to be like that; however, that is the reverse way to go about things. Even the best of earthly fathers fail. We look to God to see the example of what earthly fathers are supposed to be. If you had a great earthly father you can be grateful that he gave a good but imperfect shadow of God. If you had a terrible earthly father [or one who abandoned you], you can be grateful that you have a True Father in heaven Who is everything you need.
The intimacy of the family relationship is the atmosphere in which Christians approach God. We do not come to Him as outsiders to the Great Ruler of the Universe - although He is that - hoping and begging that He will hear us and grant our requests. We come to Him as our loving Father Who cares about every aspect of our lives. We can approach our Father in heaven with confidence knowing that He has our best interest at heart. Even if He must say “No” it is for our ultimate benefit.
Some Christians, misunderstanding this relationship, are flippant and take God for granted. This is a serious error. While we have confidence as we approach God, we always do so with respect and honour. Yes, God is our loving Father, but He is also the Judge and Ruler of all that is. We need to respect that.
When Jesus said “Our” He was including Himself with us. God was not just the Father of Jesus [although Jesus is uniquely the only begotten of the Father], but He is the Father of all who believe. We come into the presence of God with Jesus and with each other.
We can all feel happy about approaching “our” Father with Jesus, but sometimes we are not so happy when we consider approaching our Father in heaven with each other. We are a family and sometimes there are family fights. Sometimes we don’t get along with each other or we hurt each other. But true a family works at overcoming the difficulties and becoming a unit.
It is so important that we love and forgive each other that several times we are told not to bother praying or that our prayers are hindered if we are not in unity [Matt. 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:7]. Being in unity does not mean that we agree on every point. It does mean that we agree on the essentials and recognize each other as valuable brothers and sisters in Christ. It means that we do not hold offences, but are willing to forgive and move on when we are offended. Our eye is on the goal - the highest goal possible - of becoming like Jesus.
Our Father in heaven, focuses our attention on God not on ourselves. We need to see God as our loving, caring Father if we are to come into His presence with confidence and joy. But Our Father in heaven also makes us realize that this is not just a one-to-One relationship, but we are connected to the rest of the family of God and our relationship with them will also affect our relationship with our common Father. He loves and cares for them as much as us and if we are the ones abusing or trying to shut them out, our Father will not be pleased with us.
So let us come before Our Father in heaven with joy and a clear conscience towards our brothers and sisters. The beginning of prayer is always focused away from us and onto God. He is the One Who is worthy of all honour and praise. He is the One Who is the Centre.