Luke 11:1-2a (CEV)
1 When Jesus had finished praying, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his followers to pray.”
2 So Jesus told them, “Pray in this way:
‘Father, help us to honor your name.
Pray … (Part 1)
What do you say about that most famous prayer in Christianity that hasn’t already been said?
Somehow the point of this prayer is to teach us something about who God is – about how we connect with God – about what it means to follow Jesus. This is Jesus’ answer to his followers request for a “best practice” on prayer. John had apparently taught his disciples how to pray (and a couple of Jesus’ disciples had started out as John’s disciples – probably Andrew and John) and now they stand here asking Jesus to do the same thing.
And apparently this was an acceptable question for Jesus. There’s none of his characteristically opaque answers; no question for their questions. He just simply tells them to pray this way:
First, pray to your Father. This is not a prayer to some distant, far-off God who has no interest in what is going on in their lives. This is a present Father – someone who desires a deep, life-giving relationship with those who follow Jesus. In fact, theologians talk about this concept called perichoresis – a “divine dance” of interrelationship between the Father, the Son (Jesus), the Holy Spirit and those who choose to enter in to this Kingdom Story.
Of course, for some of us, this idea of Father is more challenging than for others. Some of us have had difficult, broken, challenging relationships with our dads. When we hear this ‘father’ it can be difficult for us to hear the kind of love and beauty and shalom and wholeness that this word is meant to capture. But that’s not true for all of us. Some of us have awesome, wonderful relationships with their dad’s. Dani’s song ‘Pumpkin’ is an incredible testament to a Daddy-daughter relationship like the one we’re talking about.
And the amazing thing about a good, whole Daddy-daughter relationship is that the relationship starts entirely with the onus on the dad. No newborn baby starts by reaching out in loving, life-giving relationship to their dad. That would be ridiculous! They start – at least in my house – with a baby who spends the night screaming unless their dad gets out of bed, picks them up, and walks and rocks and sways and sings to them for hours every night. A daddy-child relationship starts with an exhausted father giving when he has already given everything he has, but digs one layer deeper than he thought was possible and gives even that, because it’s what his child needs.
And when the relationship is like that – beautiful and whole and full of all that relationship was ever meant to be; coming from God, before we even knew or understood what was going on, then the next bit “help us honour your name”, isn’t nearly as hard as we might have thought. Honouring someone who is disrespectful or demanding or shaming of us is difficult. That takes effort. That costs way too high a price.
But honouring someone who honours us at every turn? Honouring someone who treats us with great grace and great love and seeks to bring us to the best possible version of ourselves? Well, that’s kind of the obvious outflow of that kind of a relationship, isn’t it? That’s the little kid bragging on the playground that their daddy is the best daddy in the world! That’s my daughter bragging that Google tried to hire my dad! It honours all that is precious in the relationship – sees our Father for all that he has sacrificed and given, and all that we would be without if it wasn’t for him.
In the old King James Version and the New International Version that I was first introduced to these words in the word is ‘hallowed’, which is another word for holy. And so I always thought of this word as a word of separation – a word that removed “God” from “me”, creating this impossible gap between us that would forever be insurmountable. But honour – this is an appreciation for all that is good about God. This is a response of love that flows out of the experience of love that we have first tasted from God. And that changes this word completely, at least for me.
- What does the word ‘Father’ bring to mind for you?
- Take some time to journal about your experience of your dad. What was that relationship like for you? Are your memories full of grace and beauty and love? Or are they full of pain and brokenness? Or are they a complicated mix of the two?
- How has your relationship with your dad affected your view of God the Father?
- If you’re struggling with this ‘Father’ word, I really encourage you to listen to Dani’s song … hear the love and the hope and the connection and the honour in this song. Let this idea of Father permeate into the center of your being and change how you approach prayer.