To the Father

As the CU committee meets up to pray together we also want to learn more about prayer so that we can lead the CU in praying better. As part of that, I’m hoping to go through a short series over the next three months looking at what Ephesians 2:18 (in context) means by praying to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. First up, then, is praying “to the Father”. This is roughly what I’m hoping to say on Wednesday – it’s a huge subject so we have to skim over it, but if anything is unclear or I’ve missed anything important do comment!

Say what Ephesians 2:18 says and introduce what we’re going to do over the next three prayer meetings.

If you open up Matthew 6 that’d be helpful. While you’re going there, I should say that this doesn’t mean that praying to Jesus is wrong – in 1 Timothy 1 Paul says that he thanks Jesus – but the vast majority of prayers in the Bible, and the message of the teaching on prayer, is that we pray to the Father. What does that mean? I think Matthew 6:5-8 give us two lessons to learn about this.

Firstly, in verses 5 and 6, don’t be like the hypocrites, pray to the Father who sees. Religious people want everyone to know that they’re praying, so they pray where everyone can see them. And they are rewarded for it, but the only reward they receive is the praise of other men. By contrast, we should pray in our rooms – in private – to the Father. The Bible commends praying together, but coming to prayer meetings should be the tip of the iceberg of our prayer, and most of it is hidden where nobody sees except the Father, who sees what is done in private. It also means that when we pray together we still pray to the Father, not to each other – if the reason you don’t want to say anything out loud is that you’re worried what the rest of us will think about it then your heart may be more concerned with the praise of other people than the approval of God. Don’t be like the hypocrites, pray to the Father who sees.

Secondly, in verses 7 and 8, don’t be like the pagans, pray to the Father who knows. If your God is a distant God rather than a Father, you will think that you need to impress him with your theology or your endurance in prayer. But our God is our Father so we don’t need to twist his arm, we just pray to him. Moreover, God already knows what we need and what’s best for us, so we don’t need to lay out every detail of what we want him to do. Theology is good as it allows us to relate to God more appropriately, but you’ll never convince God by babbling about it. So while we’re praying together, if someone says a really “good” prayer don’t be afraid to follow it with something very simple, even “Father, please would the CU serve you better”. And don’t measure someone else by the length of their prayer – God doesn’t. Don’t be like the pagans, pray to the Father who knows.

Once he’s explained what it means to pray to the Father, Jesus begins his model prayer with: “Our Father in heaven”. Know that your God is your Father, who loves you and knows what you need. Know that your God is the awesome God in heaven so do fear and respect him appropriately. Let’s pray to our Father…

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