Speaking to God as our Father

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
-Philippians 4:6

Luther teaches in the  Explanation to the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer,

“God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children,
so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

Some people may relate to God the same way they relate to Abraham Lincoln. They have studied Lincoln’s life, memorized some of his words, and admire him and his principles, but they do not have a relationship with Lincoln as if he were alive and desirous of a loving relationship with them. Prayer is a believer’s time to connect and converse with a wonderful, loving Father. And our prayers are heard by the King of the universe!

Prayer is also connected to our relationship with others.  We’ve often heard, and in fact may have often said, “I’ll pray for you.”  However, we fall short of our good intentions when we fail to view prayer as a discipline to be learned, practiced and developed. We don’t know (or forget) how to pray. Even Jesus’ own disciples asked Jesus how to pray (Luke 11:1“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”). They saw something in the way that He prayed so fervently and intimately to his Father that made them long to do the same. Lord, teach us to pray!

How is this done?

While it won’t be the same for everyone, here are seven specific actions that may really help your prayer life mature.

  • Set prayer apart –  Build it into the pattern of your day in any way you can: set alarms, leave notes, put it into your smart phone or day planner. Prayer is a great part of our day, and we should train ourselves for it. And not just in our times of need.
  • Learn to withdraw – Pull away from the distractions – the phone, the computer, the TV, the constant chattering of modern life – and find a way to separate yourself. The COVID pandemic has caused many of us to be shut in on a daily basis. We should find a way to be “shut in with God.” This can be a challenge but make it a priority. Your car on lunch break, a quiet corner of the workplace, a closet in between preparing meals and naptime, or simply the quiet of your heart if that’s all you can muster. Follow Jesus’ example of finding solitude to pray (Luke 4:42“And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,”,5:16” But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”,22:41“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,”).

Path Toward Maturity

  • Have a posture of prayer – Do what you need to be able to focus on your prayer. Kneel, stand, close your eyes, look to the heavens, whatever gets you focused on prayer. When your body is focused, it’s often easier for your soul to follow. If able, pray out loud. If a whisper helps you to focus, that’s often enough to keep your mind from wandering. C.S. Lewis once said, “The body ought to pray as well as the soul. Body and soul are both better for it.”
  • Pray Scripture– What a great way to start! If you have kids, do you remember what a joy it was teaching them to talk? What a joy it is to our Father to know that His children hear His words, cherish them, believe them to be true, and then speak them back to Him.” Many of our prayers may be “plagiarized” Scripture, and they become the words of our prayers, sometimes because the beautiful promises make our hearts sing, and sometimes it’s because all we can do is desperately cling to His words. “Show me Your glory” -Exodus 33:18. “Turn my eyes from worthless things” -Psalm 119:37. “Show me a sign of Your goodness” -Psalm 86:17. “Let no sin rule over me” -Psalm 119:133. “You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing” -Psalm 16:2.
  • Pray fervently – Praying should be active. Struggle in prayer, wrestle with it, and let the Spirit move you (Luke 18:1-7). Answers to prayer are a blessing, but prayer in and of itself is meant to be a blessing.
  • Pray specifically – Not that we can never be general, just not at the expense of praising God’s specific attributes, confessing specific sins, or thanking God and asking Him for specific things. We may pray specifically and boldly trusting God as our dear Father, while at the same time being completely submissive to God’s will.
  • Pray for and with others – Prayer is meant to knit together God’s children, sometimes people we’ve never met. We share a Father; we are family; we should bear each other’s burdens in prayer. We become invested in each other’s struggles and triumphs. We start to care more about other people we pray for and less about ourselves. What a beautiful thing to come before our Father with the same appeals out of love and care for each other (Galatians 6:2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”). Prayer binds the church together.