He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father…”
It is striking that Jesus’ disciples are asking Him to teach them to pray. They had likely learned at their mothers’ knees how to pray. They would have learned it in their village synagogues known as the beit tefilah, “the house of prayer”. As pious first century Jews their lives would have been immersed in prayer from the time they opened their eyes in the morning till they chanted the Shema at bedtime (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). They literally had learned prescribed prayers and blessings for every occurrence of the day. Some of Jesus disciples had previously followed John the Baptist and would have been taught about prayer by him (John 1:35-42).
Yet they perceive something in the way Jesus prays that makes them eager to learn from Him how to pray. They are not asking Him how to perform miracles, how to walk on water, or how to raise the dead. They want Him to teach them about something they discern as paramount: “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Astonishingly, Jesus answers: “When you pray, say, Father…” With these heaven-shaking words Jesus introduces all of His followers to the secret of Christian prayer. He grants to us the authority to call His Father our Father. We get to talk to the heavenly Father, just like Jesus talks to Him. In the same familial, intimate way as Jesus talks to His Father, so we get to talk to Him too. We address the sovereign God of heaven and earth as “Father”.
Over the years we have perhaps grown accustomed to calling God, “Father”, but never before had people dared to address God as “Father”. (see Joachim Jeremias, The Prayers of Jesus). But because of Jesus, and only because of Jesus, we are granted the unimaginable privilege of talking to God in a whole new way. As our “Elder Brother” (Romans 8:29), Jesus hands down to us the advantage that was eternally His. We can stand before God with the confidence that we stand before Him as Jesus stands before Him. What’s more, the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of the Son”, is urging us, prompting us, to boldly cry out to Almighty God: “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
- Take a few moments to reflect on what it means for you to be able to pray to God as your Father.
- Reflect on Jesus giving to you the authority to stand before the Father just as Jesus stands before the Father.
- Now ask the Holy Spirit to give you greater boldness and urgency in going to Abba Father.
- Finally, talk to your Abba Father about anything that is on your heart! Be bold, be unafraid!
“My identity as Abba’s child is not an abstraction or a tap dance into religiosity. It is the core truth of my existence.”
Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child