Growing in Prayer Part 2: Learning to Pray to Your Father - page 3

 


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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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  I grew up in a home where my earthly father was greatly respected. One of my fundamental motivations in life was to bring him honor, to make him proud of me. I wanted to please him. And I grew up with a sense of security in the love of my father. I knew he would take care of me; he would be there in my time of need; he would come to my rescue. This is what sonship means—having a sense of dependence and trust resulting in a ready obedience with a desire to bring honor to one’s father.
  My father was not perfect—no earthly father is. All fathers make mistakes; our motives are mixed and our actions are sometimes foolish or worse. Some people have wounds from their earthly fathers. But even those wounds are pointers to what a father ought to be—and therefore what God really is. He is a Father who always acts for our ultimate good, which also corresponds to His ultimate glory. He disciplines His children in perfect love; He never responds to us out of frustration or petty anger. His will is always wise beyond measure. He can be trusted, so He is worthy of our obedience. And He longs for us to come to Him in prayer.
  That’s the relationship Jesus had with His Father—”The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing” (John 5:19). “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28). “Abba, Father”—this is the God to whom we pray.
  Put aside all desire to develop a reputation as one who prays. Beware of the dangers of the hypocritical ones who want to look good to others so that they may think well of themselves. The one you should think well of is God, your Father in heaven. And from Him you shall receive a reward—the hidden reward of knowing the fatherly love of God almighty, of having your soul refreshed with His presence, experiencing the peace that surpasses comprehension as you entrust your cares into His hands. There are rewards in prayer for those who pray to the right person—who pray to your Father in heaven.

Pray with the Right Understanding

  Continuing our look at Jesus, He says in Matthew 6:7–8, ”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.”
  Not only must we pray to the right person, but we must also pray with the right understanding. If the sin of the hypocrite is selfishness, the error of the heathen is mindlessness.2
  The pagan approach to prayer is one of empty words: they “babble on” or they “heap up empty phrases” (RSV). Prayer must be thoughtful, Jesus says, engaging the mind. Avoid Eastern mystical meditation which seeks to disengage and empty the mind. That’s not Christian prayer at all. Empty words don’t mean anything to your heavenly Father.
  Nor do a multitude of words. Prayer is not magic. We do not manipulate God by some incantation. We can’t twist His arm by overwhelming Him with verbosity. “The pagans imagine that the more they say, the more likely they are to be heard”; it isn’t so, Jesus says. That is a misunderstanding of what Christian prayer is all about.

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