It is no secret that if you glide your hand along the edge of a great table – even though it be a dozen meters long and the most beautifully polished wood – if you gain so much as a one-millimetre long sliver your only lasting memory of it will be the splinter. That’s because humankind was made for perfection, so we tend to pick up on deviations more than met expectation.
That principle translates into our prayer life. There are those who would be so discouraged by the negative examples and negative experience of prayer with others that they can hardly pray at all. The memory of them sticks – like a sliver in their mind. The mere thought of prayer brings it back up, like the pain of a splinter we got from a beautiful table.
Jesus does not want us to give up on prayer, no matter how how atrocious the examples we’ve heard have been. True, some have used prayer as a tool to intimidate others. True, some have used prayer to show off their vocabulary or their knowledge of Scripture. Some have even used prayer as opportunity to promote idolatrous and gnostic ideologies. Yet Jesus doesn’t want us to give up. He acknowledges our poor learning environment, encourages us to do better, and then does not leave the subject before giving us a better example:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray…”
The model Jesus subsequently reveals is in light of everything He has just told us. That God is our Father, and that He knows what we need. Therefore. Because. “This, then…” In other words, now that we know that He is our Father and now that we know that He knows our need, we can and should pray. These two things form the foundation on upon which the Lord’s Prayer is built.
It is impossible to understand God as OUR Father if we don’t first recognize that He is MY Father. If all we know of God is that the is “the man in the sky” or some nebulous but benevolent force, it will be impossible to meaningfully pray the Lord’s Prayer, or to effectively use it as a template for our own prayer. If you only know Him as impersonal deity, the Lord’s Prayer is just a form. It is nothing more than an incantation.
Let us never mistake prayer for a magic formula. Prayer is communion with Father. The One who created you, loves you and is intimately familiar with who you are.
Some have thought that it is only in the first line of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus reveals God as our Father. But Jesus has spoken to us of God as our Father seven times already. In 5:16, 45, 48, 6:1, 4, 6 and again here in verse 8. Perhaps just as well. It often needs to be repeated, because the idea of God Most High wanting such an intimate relationship with His fallen creation is staggering. It is not the kind of thing someone can tell you once and fully communicate. Like the Gospel itself, the God of the Gospel needs to be thought of over and over, communicated to you over and over, before the full truth of who He is and how relentlessly He loves you can even begin to sink in. That is a truth we’ll need a more than lifetime – perhaps all of eternity – to fully appreciate.
The beautiful relationship that exists between the Father and the Son is a picture of the relationship God desires to have with us.Daniel L. Akin
God is your Father. He knows what you need. Therefore, pray!