Our Good Father Hears | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/24

When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 5.7-15

God didn’t leave us as orphans in the world. On the contrary, God created us for relationship with him. Think back to the creation accounts in the book of Genesis. We’re the only creatures made in the image of God, and we’re the only creatures who God speaks to. The late great Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson writes, “What it means to be created in the image of God is that human beings are creatures with whom God can have an active exchange, a back and forth, a relationship.” How do we communicate with God? We pray. Hence, Jenson considers human beings the “praying animal.” Prayer is a relationship with God.

It’s because we have this relationship that we don’t have to manipulate God to ensure he hears us and grants us our prayer. Unlike the pagans whose verbose prayers are a kind of technique to get their deity to hear them, Christian prayer is simply communication with our heavenly Father. There’s no need to get God to hear us because he will hear us as a good Father—even before we ask of him anything he knows what we need. There’s no need to force his hand either because he gives us as he deems best, as a good Father.

Therefore, Jesus Christ the Son gives us a short prayer to be prayed. It’s short but it’s prayer par excellence, the defining prayer of the church that contains profound truth and captures the various dimensions of what prayer should be. Tertullian, an early Christian writer from the second century, says, “Herein is a whole level of wisdom; for not only are all the occasions of prayer included, whether divine worship or human petition but the whole discourse of the Lord is included the whole record of his instructions, so that without exaggeration, a summary of the whole Gospel is to be found in the prayer.”

The Lord’s Prayer isn’t some theurgical formula to bend God’s will to ours. It’s simply an acknowledgment of God and a concise presentation of all our daily needs as Christians. In its succinctness, it exudes a confidence in God’s gracious providence, a confidence which all of his children should have. Hence, there’s no need for gimmicks such as “prayer chains” or “synchronized prayer,” as if these amplify the “power of prayer.” Don’t we risk falling back into pagan techniques with these gimmicks? Our good Father doesn’t need to be coerced. He just wants us to talk to him as his good children.

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