(Prayer, part 2)
My father was the kind of man who didn’t think twice about leaving me and my mom. Sometimes, my dad would hit me.
So, what do you think of my dad?
Is he cruel? Mean? A deadbeat?
I want you to know that my father did this every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (unless we were on vacation). My dad would leave me and my mom and go to work. When I disobeyed him or my mom I was punished with a spanking.
Now what do you think of my dad?
Many people do this to God, calling Him cruel and mean. They have this idea that God is vindictive, an ogre who just can’t wait to see what kind of pain He can bring to my life while He blesses the socks off of others. To many, God is an abusive or wayward father.
Truth of the matter is the picture one has of God is often incomplete. People confuse their own conceptions of God with the true and living God.
In Matthew 6, Jesus is moving us from the attitude of, “I’m going to give and pray religiously so I can feel good about me,” toward right thinking and action concerning God that begins with this thing called “prayer.” God is not some a grand-fatherly kind of wish-fulfiller who sits around in sweaters, perched on the edge of a cloud with a magic wand raised in anticipation of granting someone’s whim.
God is our Heavenly Father. We are not allowed to impose our concepts of “father” on the Heavenly Father, because each of our dads is so different—and imperfect. One person may see his or her dad one way, while other people see their dads differently. This is why we can’t call God our Father with venom. God, our Father in Heaven is not like my dad or yours, hence the qualification, “heavenly.” Further clarification is necessary:
1) God is the father of unbelievers only in creation. “Spiritually, unbelievers have another father. In His severest condemnation of the Jewish leaders who opposed Him, Jesus said, ‘You are of your father the devil’ (John 8:44). First John 3 clearly characterizes two families: the children of God and the children of the devil. The former do not continue to commit sin; the latter do. The Apostle Paul made a clear distinction between the children of light and the children of darkness (Eph. 5:8). There is simply not just one spiritual family of mankind under one universal fatherhood of God. Second Peter 1:4 says that only those who believe have been made “partakers of the divine nature.” It is only to those who receive Him that Jesus gives “the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Thus we can go to God as His beloved children.”[i]
2) God is OUR Father: only those who are believers in Christ, have been born again and have received their adoption as sons (and daughters) are able to call God “Father;”
Consider this: when we pray to God our Father in Heaven, we pray as a child in full dependence on the one who has all the resources in all the heavenlies in Christ Jesus; furthermore, we pray with our arms around others, as God is “our” Father. Suddenly we find difficulty in coming to God with selfish interests.
I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself;
I cannot say “father” if I do not live as His child;
I cannot say “in heaven” if I am not laying up my treasures there.
Look how this kind of praying is backward from pagan prayer. Eugene Nida makes this elaborate and sensitive observation:
“For the ancient philosopher and priest of esoteric cults, steeped in the traditions of Classical Greek, the grammatical forms of the Lord’s Prayer seems almost rude. One does not find the optative forms of polite petition so characteristic of elaborate requests made to earthly and heavenly potentates. Rather than employing such august forms, the Christians made their requests to God in what seem to be blunt operatives. This does not mean that Christians lacked respect for their heavenly father, but it does mean that they were consistent with a new understanding of him. In the tens of thousands of papyri fragments which have been rescued from the rubbish heaps of the ancient Greek world, one finds the imperative forms used constantly between members of a family. When the Christian addressed God as ‘Father,’ it was perfectly natural therefore for them to talk to Him as intimately as they would their own father.”[ii]
See if you can grasp this:
- Light travels at 186,000 miles per second;
- The unit of measure we apply to the “known universe” is the light year, or how far light travels in one year: 5.88 billion miles;
- The main disk of our Milky Way galaxy is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 light years in diameter and about 100 light years thick. As a guide to the relative physical scale of the Milky Way, if the galaxy were reduced 80 miles in diameter, the solar system would be a mere 0.08 inch in width.
- Our sun is approximately 26,000 to 35,000 light years from the galactic center. [iii]
- I can’t tell you how many billions of stars there are in our galaxy alone, but I hear that if you were to count 1 per second, you could be busy for the next couple thousand years.
At first, I get the idea that the known universe is not only huge, but a very noisy place, with all those stars being born and destroyed; matter flying about everywhere and stuff burning and freezing all over the place. If there is anything to be concieved of as “angry” or "ogre-ish" it would be our galactic neighborhood. And that’s just in our corner of all we know that exists.
Second, consider why why the Bible has so many geneologies. Why does God bother with all those names? The reason is because God wants us to know:
- That He cares for His children. The most distant point that most of us will ever get into outer space is the distance of our head from the surface of this pale blue dot we call home—the same place Neil Armstrong blotted out with his thumb when he held his hand out at arms length on the return trip from the moon;
- That He knows people by name;
- That God is a loving Father that wants us to rely on Him, as He cares about little things.
[i]MacArthur, John. Alone With God. Includes indexes. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1995.
[ii] Nida, Eugene. God’s Word in Man’s Language. New York: Harper & Brothers, c1952.