“Our Father”

(Happy Father’s Day! We here at Next Level Worship are grateful for godly dads, and even more grateful for our Heavenly Father! Please enjoy this powerful lesson about “Our Father” from Dwayne Moore’s new book HE. WE. THEY. The Life-Altering Formula of the Model Prayer)

Week 2, Day 1: Our Father

Have you ever tried to describe to someone a beautiful vacation spot where you’ve never been yourself? It’s kind of hard to explain a place you have never seen or experienced, isn’t it? In the same way, it is not enough to talk about prayer or dream about prayer. Like S.M. Lockridge said in his famous sermon That’s My King, “You have to pray in order to pray!”

In a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer, C.H. Spurgeon said, “It seems to me that Christ gave it as a model, whereby we are to fashion all our prayers… It is a map; but a man is not a traveler because he puts his fingers across the map. And so a man may use this form of prayer, and yet be a total stranger to the great design of Christ in teaching it to his disciples.”

Our purpose in going through this study is to avoid being strangers to God’s great design for prayer.

In last week’s lessons we overviewed the Model Prayer or the “map,” as Spurgeon called it. We learned about the three divisions or steps of the prayer model: HE, WE and THEY. We ran our fingers across the map, so to speak, and we now know the course we must take. This week, we will set out on that great adventure! And the first leg of our exciting journey is a “heavenly highway” that can lead us straight to the Father.

*** Before we start today’s lesson, let’s first stop and pray and ask the Lord to show us how we might improve our prayer life. Pray now and ask the Father to open your eyes to the amazing truths he wants to show you in his Word this week.

The Model Prayer begins “Our Father, who is in heaven.” Everything else about this prayer is dependent on us grasping these first, all-important words. They are key to getting us on the road to a life of powerful prayer and fellowship with God.

To help us better appreciate the impact of Jesus’ opening words, we need to look back to some of the prayers from great prophets and saints in the Old Testament.

  • Hezekiah began his prayer with “O LORD, God of Israel…” (2 Kings 19:15).
  • Solomon also prayed “Lord, the God of Israel…” (2 Chronicles 6:14).
  • King Asa started with a simple “LORD…” (2 Chronicles 14:11).
  • Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and said, “O LORD, God of our fathers…” (2 Chronicles 20:6).
  • Daniel prayed, “O Lord, the great and awesome God…” (Daniel 9:4).
  • Nehemiah prayed similarly “O LORD, God of heaven…” (Nehemiah 1:5).
  • Ezra’s prayer was more personal. He began his prayer with “O my God…” (Ezra 9:5).
  • Like King Asa, Habakkuk simply started with “LORD…” (Habakkuk 3:2).
  • At the beginning of Psalm 25 David prayed, “To you, O LORD…O my God…”

What do all of these verses have in common? They are all prayers directed to God. Yet none of them addressed him as Father. In fact, there’s not one prayer in the Old Testament that refers to God in that way. Isn’t that interesting?

Paradigm Shifts

Did you know the first recorded prayer which calls on God as “Our Father” does not happen until the New Testament? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, in his Model Prayer, addressed God as Father for the first time in Scripture.

Talk about a shift of paradigm! Jesus came on the scene and, boom, he did something few had done before: He addressed God directly with a word which, up to that time, had rarely been uttered when calling upon God. “Father” is used for God only 15 times in the entire Old Testament! Most people today are accustomed to hearing God referred to as Father. Many of us grew up quoting the Lord’s Prayer and hearing him addressed as Father; so perhaps we don’t find it to be so shocking. But imagine how the disciples must have felt. They weren’t as familiar with that title for God as we are.

Yet now, as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he spoke directly to God and called him “Father.” What’s more, he instructed his disciples to do the same. It may have been quite startling for them to hear Jesus begin his prayer in such a unique and intimate way.

But addressing God as Father in the Model Prayer reflected more than just a shift in the degree of intimacy between God and his creation. Additionally, using the word Father for God signaled a huge divergence from what had traditionally been emphasized by the religious rulers of the day. Think about the prayers we read a few moments ago from the Old Testament. The emphasis in those prayers was on God’s greatness. Religion in the Old Testament and during the time between the Testaments was more about God’s holiness and “the fear of the Lord.”

Jesus, however, brought a new perspective. When he came, he moved the focus away from religion and toward a relationship. By telling the disciples to address God as “our Father,” Jesus invited his followers to share in the same relationship with God he had. In Galatians 4, Paul writes, “… God sent his Son…to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children” (v. 4-5). Imagine that! We can be adopted into God’s great big, awesome family. We can call him “our Father.” What a privilege!

Jesus, however, brought a new perspective. When he came, he moved the focus away from religion and toward a relationship

Great Benefits

Why is it so important to acknowledge God as Father? Let’s consider some blessings that go along with this amazing, vertical relationship.

First, if God is our Father we have authority to approach him in prayer.

*** Please read John 1:9-13. Notice verse 12. What has been given to those who have believed on Christ and accepted him? According to verse 13, how do we become children of God?

God wants to grant us the right to be called his children. Unlike many seem to believe, being his child is not automatic. We are not all God’s children. Only those who are born of God can be called his children, only those who put their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. In John 14:6 Jesus made this clear: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Those who are God’s adopted children can enjoy a second incredible benefit: accessibility to his throne of grace. In the Old Testament, only the Levite priests could go into the Holy of Holies. But now, adoption as his sons and daughters grants us complete access to God, any time of any day! Listen to what Hebrews 10 says about that: “We can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (v. 19-22a).

In one of our recent mission trips, we had the privilege to meet a distinguished member of the Zambian Parliament, the Honorable Dr. Martin Malama. We met Dr. Malama at a radio station in Zambia where we were doing an interview about NLW’s leadership training in Africa. He invited our team to eat with him at the Parliament headquarters. We could hardly believe we had been given such an opportunity!

But now, adoption as his sons and daughters grants us complete access to God, any time of any day!

When we arrived, we were ushered right in to where several dignitaries were enjoying lunch. After the meal, Dr. Malama asked us to go with him to the Parliament prayer meeting being held in an adjacent building. We walked through several guard checks, but no one searched us or asked us questions. After the prayer meeting, Dr. Malama invited us to go with him into the chambers where Parliament was meeting with the President of Zambia. Again, no one stopped us or questioned us in any way. We simply showed them our passports, logged our names in their record book, and proceeded right into Parliament. It was that easy.

Why did they allow us into their high-level meetings? It certainly wasn’t because of any credentials we had (we had none!). It was only because we were with Dr. Malama. To anyone who asked him about us, he would simply say, “They’re with me.” We had total access because of our relationship with this high-ranking government official.

And so it is with us, as God’s children. We are with Jesus! Jesus is our Brother. And through the blood he shed for us we have access to the very presence of the Father.

Prodigal Prayers

It is important to note that this access is not dependent on our own righteousness and good works. I think some Christians feel they have to clean up their act before they can pray to God. But that is not what the Bible teaches.

*** Look at Hebrews 4:14-16 now. Pay special attention to verse 16. How and why are we to come to God’s throne?

We don’t need to confess our sins first, and then come before God. According to Hebrews 4:16, we come boldly to him in order to receive mercy. It is when we bow before him in his throne room of grace that he shows us our sins and faults. It is there that he grants us mercy and forgiveness.

At some point in our lives, we can all probably relate to feeling a little like the prodigal Jesus talked about in Luke 15. Listen in verse 20 to how the father responded when his renegade son finally decided to come back home: “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Access to God is based entirely on our relationship with him as our Father. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or not done. It doesn’t matter how foolish we may have acted or how offensive toward God our thoughts have been. We are still his children, and our Father still loves us just the same. Do you see now why it is so vital that we understand and embrace God in this way as we start our prayers to him? Knowing and acknowledging God as Father is truly the gateway to everything else we will pray in the Model Prayer and in our lives.

Praying the Prayer

We don’t have to be perfect when we come to God, and neither do our prayers. I love what Spurgeon said: “Our prayers are little broken things; we cannot put them together, but our Father, he will hear us. Oh! what a beginning is ‘Our Father’…since he is my Father, he will, he must hear my prayers.”

What is it about God as Father that makes you glad? Take a few minutes to journal a prayer to God thanking him for being Father and Lord. Pour out your broken, less-than-perfect prayers to him as you pray through the steps in the Model Prayer today.

HE – Vertical

Remember to try not to refer to your needs and personal concerns as you journal this first stage of prayer, which is your time to honor and adore the King and surrender yourself to him. Keep it vertical, focused on the Lord.

WE – Personal

Write down something that concerns you right now. It could be a financial problem or an issue at work or at home. Share your needs as a prayer to God.

THEY – Kingdom

Pray for someone besides you and your family. It might be your neighbor or someone you go to school or work with. Pray for other people’s needs instead of your own now.

Living the Prayer

Are you certain God is your Father? Do you know for sure that you have a relationship with his Son, Jesus, as your Savior?

If not, pray to him now. 1. Admit you are a sinner. 2. Believe in your heart that Jesus died for you and that he rose again and is alive today. 3. Confess your need of him in your life. Ask him to forgive your sin and come into your life and save you.

If you prayed that prayer for the first time, he just saved you! “For all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Be sure to call or message someone today and let them know of your decision.