Growing in Prayer Part 2: Learning to Pray to Your Father - page 2

 


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From the Spring 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Growing in Prayer
Part 2: Learning to Pray to Your Father

by Bill Kynes, Ph.D.
C.S. Lewis Institute Senior Fellow, Senior Pastor,
Cornerstone Evangelicial Free Church

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  Let’s briefly consider Jesus’ best-known words on prayer, found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:5–15), as there we will see that the key to praying like Jesus is found in our relationship with God as our Father.
  “But when you pray,” Jesus says,

do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, 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. (Matt. 6:5–6)

Pray to the Right Person

  In His instructions about prayer, the first common problem Jesus addresses concerns who is at the center of our praying. For hypocrites the focus is on self, rather than on God. They would rather be seen by others than be heard by God. They desire the reward of human accolades, and that, Jesus says, is all the reward they will get.
  According to Jesus, performing a prayer is no meritorious act. Who do you think is impressed? Authentic prayer must come from a humble heart, not one interested in exalting itself. Authentic prayer must come from an honest heart, recognizing that God sees what is done in secret, in the secret recesses of the heart—the real you—not some pious mask you wear when you do something religious. Jesus speaks here of prayer as essentially a private matter. It’s a personal conversation, not a talk show.
  Jesus is not ruling out public prayer. He engaged in public prayer Himself. He regularly participated in the worship of the synagogue, which included the public recitation of written prayers. And we need prayer in fellowship with others also. But even in public prayer, the focus must not be on the human listeners but on God.
  When you pray—whether you literally enter into a closet or are among others in fellowship—you pray to God alone. We must pray to the right person. We must see God as our audience.
  The key here is becoming so conscious of God that we cease being self-conscious. That’s why great teachers on prayer through the centuries have agreed that the first step in prayer ought to be what is called recollection; you start to pray by saying nothing, but recalling whom you are addressing.
  Frequently the biblical prayers of God’s people begin with a recollection of who God is. And who is the God to whom we pray? Jesus says to His disciples, to those who have joined themselves to Him in faith, “Pray to your Father, who is unseen.” “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:6, 9).
  This is an amazing statement! Jesus is saying that we are to make His God our God. We are to make His Father our Father. He is inviting us to address God as He did—”Abba, Father.” “Our Father”—He is the one who has graciously adopted us into His family; He is the one who gave His own Son so that we could be His sons and daughters. He is the one who longs to hear our prayer and who desires to lavish us with good gifts. This great God is our Father.
  And He is our Father in heaven. That is, He is the perfect Father, not liable to the failures and shortcomings of all earthly fathers. He is the transcendent, holy, almighty, and majestic God. He is the Creator of heaven and earth; He is the ruler of the nations; not a sparrow falls without His knowledge; not a king makes a decree apart from His will. ”Everything is possible” for Him (Mark 14:36). That great God is our Father, and it is to Him that we pray.
  Praying to God as our Father—that’s the starting point of real prayer. As followers of Jesus, His Father is our Father. And like Jesus, we are to come to God as a Father who deserves our love, our honor, our respect.

 

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