Jesus tells his disciples that the way to pray is to our Father. And by Father, he doesn’t mean just another title, but a relationship. So the context in which we pray is the context of family, where we as children approach a loving father. I realise as I write that for some the word ‘father’ falls as a hollow thud, because your experience of earthly fatherhood was not a good one. However, apart from finding release from the grip of that limitation you can, I trust, at least recognise that there is such a thing as good fathering, and that if the Bible is right about God being a father, then he would be a perfect one. Fatherhood means access. In other words, I’m invited. It also means acceptance—I’m welcomed. Furthermore, it means attention—I’m heard. Do you see how praying in the context of the child–Father relationship puts the whole thing on a different footing?
Maybe you’ve always wondered how other people manage to pray with purpose and passion. You’ve heard them, seen them, but your prayer life seems rather sterile in comparison. By praying aright, we can find that purpose and passion ourselves. So here we have opened our hearts to our Father and renewed, as it were, the relationship with him.
When we pray, ‘Our Father in Heaven’, we are talking to one whose power operates from the ground up or the highest point of the heavens down. In other words, there is not one part of the universe we know (and that which we don’t know) that is outside of the involvement and influence of our Father. That must have great bearing on our faith as we pray, realizing that nothing is beyond our Father’s scope.
Notice that there are no singular personal pronouns in the prayer. It’s all ‘our’, ‘we’ and ‘us’. Many of us were brought up with a very individualistic view of faith and Scripture. It was all about me—that Jesus died for me, God has forgiven me, I’m bound for heaven, etc. When we read Scripture in the light of community, we realize that most of it is addressed to us corporately. Obviously that doesn’t take away from the personal, because the corporate is made up of individuals, but it should affect the way we believe, live and pray.