In the 6th chapter of Matthew, Jesus gives some instructions about how to pray. He cautions against praying in a way that is boastful, or calls attention to the prayer; he advises against using flowery phrases and unnecessary words. We should begin with a proper attitude. Then he tells the disciples to “Pray … like this:
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 lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13
This, of course, is known as the Lord’s Prayer, and most Christians repeat it every week during the worship service.
Today I’d like to focus on the beginning words of this prayer, because they are so important. The first word is not “my” but “our.” This reminds us that just as there is a vertical relationship in prayer(me and God), there is also a horizontal relationship (me and other believers). Prayer and faith are communal. We have brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are meant to be in fellowship with one another. There are no lone ranger Christians.
The second word is “father.” This is the most frequent image Jesus uses to describe God, and that was unusual at the time. God is not a judge to be feared, but the head of our family, someone who loves us. His discipline is not intended to simply punish, but to correct and edify us. He cares for us as a loving parent and his actions are always for our good.
Whenever we pray, begin as Jesus taught. Pray to a Heavenly Father who loves not only you, but the whole family of God.