The Significance of Our Father

God is always orientated as a Father toward us

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Tim Keller[1] says there are no more important words in the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray then the first two words, Our Father.[2] The importance of these words is underscored by the way we reference The Lord’s Prayer. We sometimes call it “the Our Father”.

Why are these words so important?

Tim Keller says that these words frame our orientation toward God. He suggests that people either have a transactional orientation toward God or a family orientation. Most of us operate on a transactional orientation toward God and others at times in our lives. Some of us live there. Beginning a prayer by calling God, “Our Father”, orientates us the right way.

A transactional orientation is focused on what we must do in order to have a relationship, a connection, with other people. A transactional orientation focuses on what people (and God) can do for us. A transactional orientation is characterized by offering consideration[3] in order to get something in return.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we approach Him completely differently than the way Jesus taught us to pray. We come to Him looking for something for ourselves. We are focused on what we need and want. We feel like we have to offer Him something in order to get what we are seeking. A transactional orientation toward God turns prayer into bargaining.

When we have a transactional orientation toward God, we are not seeking God. We are seeking something from God.

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Prayer That Is Not Over Matched by Every Buzzing Fly

The only remedy for the condition of our hearts is God. We have to go continually to God.

Depositphotos Image ID: 130894040 Copyright: SIphotography

John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, said this about prayer in a letter to a friend:

Our ability to pray is so weak that, if we are sitting in a room trying to pray, we are over matched by the buzzing of a fly.

Tim Keller says that prayer is hard for us for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we have “distance” from God is the due to the fact that we live in a physical world, while God does not. We are absorbed by the physicality of the world in such a way that is hard for us to contact to a non-physical God. What, then, is prayer that we can engage in it, engage God and overcome the obstacles that get in the way?

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Asking, Seeking and Knocking Like Jesus

There is progression of intimacy in the ask, seek and knock passage that is missed if we don’t consider the whole context of the passage.

depositphotos Image ID: 30835131 Copyright: kevron2002
depositphotos Image ID: 30835131 Copyright: kevron2002

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend[1] will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence[2] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent[3]; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

Reading through Luke recently this passage impressed me in a way that hadn’t occurred to me previously. We often remember things out of context, but context is important and provides insight, and sometimes even changes what we think we know of the verse, standing alone.

It seems that the ask, seek and knock passage is often remembered for the proposition that God, our heavenly Father, will give us the good things for which we ask, seek and knock[4] because a natural father doesn’t withhold good things for his children. But that isn’t the central point of the passage.

This passage is beautifully laid out in a progression of intimacy that I had not seen before.

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