“Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy.” – Matthew 6:9 (CSB)
Of all the remarkable statements Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount, none are more important to our growth as his disciple than the invitation to address God as Father. To approach a holy God in such an intimate, relational way is no small matter. Jesus’ audience would have been floored by his statement. Yet this kind of access is precisely what is available to those who follow Jesus. Because we are in Christ, we can relate to God as our Heavenly Father.
Viewing God as a loving Father can sometimes be difficult. Especially if our relationship with our earthly father was troubled or non-existent. But through God’s amazing grace, all of us can learn to do it. And when we do, we will see more clearly that he loves us, delights in us, and genuinely wants the best for us.
Another new year is upon us. That means millions of Americans will make resolutions. I used to set big lofty goals and then fall off the wagon somewhere around the middle of February. So a few years ago, I decided to ditch the resolutions in favor of two steps: reflect and pray.
I reflect back on the prior year and give thanks for all that God has done. I think about the coming year and pray that the Spirit will continue to grow me. It’s a one time event that doesn’t have to be done or started by a certain day. Anytime around New Year’s Day works. It’s also more beneficial than setting a bunch of resolutions I know I won’t keep.
Prayer – no spiritual discipline is more vertically oriented. The intimate act of talking with our Heavenly Father is as personal as it gets in our relationship with him. It’s just me and God. Or is it?
Immediately after the Lord’s Prayer and its request for the forgiveness of sins, Jesus says that we must be willing to extend forgiveness if we expect to receive forgiveness. In other words, our vertical requests cannot be separated from our horizontal actions. To plead for forgiveness from God and withhold it from others is to play the role of a hypocrite. So the next time you pray, ask how your relationship with others might be influencing your relationship with God.