The term kindness can be really helpful when thinking about God the Father. Let the word play on your imagination. God is kind. He shows us kindness. Substitute it for other words you might use. Instead of saying, “God answered my prayer” say “My Father has been kind to me by answering my prayer”. Or substitute, “Clara was a great help on Saturday” say, “God kindly sent me Clara to help on Saturday”. Each day reflect on how God is being kind to you. And think of Jesus as the Father’s kindness in person.
Our Father will never stop doing good to us (even if life doesn’t always feel good). And he doesn’t do us good simply because it’s in his “job description”. He will rejoice to do us good! He does it with all his heart and soul. One kindness of the Father is that he welcomes us into his presence through prayer. He delights to hear his children talk to him. He rejoices to do us good in response to our prayers.
Praying with Jesus
Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the Sermon on the Mount and he focused on teaching them about seeing God as our Father. Seeing God as our Father radically changes your attitude to religious duties. It turns religion into relationship.
But the most astonishing phrase in Jesus’ teaching is the use of “our Father”. The point is that we pray with Jesus and with Jesus we say, “Our Father”. Your Father in heaven is the Father of Jesus. The relationship that Jesus has with God the Father is now the same relationship that you have with God the Father.
Imagine the scene. The disciples have watched Jesus pray. They’ve sensed the intimacy he has with God. They can see that Jesus has a unique, close relationship with God. What they don’t quite realise is that Jesus is God: eternally sharing one divine being, eternally loved by the Father. For Jesus, the intimacy of heaven is continued here on earth in the intimacy of prayer. And then Jesus walks over to one of them, puts an arm round his shoulder and says, “This … is how you should pray: ‘Our Father.” In other words: Pray with me. Share my relationship with God. For you are loved as I am loved.
Praying by the Spirit
God sent Jesus, the Son by nature, so that you could become a son or daughter for adoption. But God wasn’t finished. It’s not enough for him to make you his child. He wants you to feel like his child and live like his child. So God sends the Spirit so we can feel the intimacy and confidence of being his children (Romans 8 v 14-16).
If you don’t know that you’re a child, then you’ll live with a sense of obligation and a fear of rejection. So God the Father sends his Spirit to lead us. “Because we are his children”, says Paul in Galatians 4 v 6, “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, Abba, Father”. Notice how he describes the Spirit as “the Spirit of his Son”. Remember the principle of three and one. The Persons of the Trinity are one being so to encounter the Spirit is to encounter the Son. This means the experience that the Spirit gives us is nothing less than the experience of the Son. Through the Spirit we experience what the Son experiences: the joy and love and confidence of being a child of God the Father.
The Joy of Adoption
Without the Spirit of the Son we wouldn’t pray. Christians routinely do something preposterous. We ask the King of heaven to give us gifts with every expectation that he can and will hear us. Why? Because the Spirit of God testifies to our spirits that we are God’s children and prompts us to call on God as our Father. We pray because we believe our prayers don’t simply hit the ceiling and bounce back down. However distant God may feel in the moment, we pray because we have some sense that God hears us. That is the work of the Spirit. The Spirit connects us to the Father, assuring us that he’s our Father and that he delights to hear our cry.
The Spirit’s Mighty Work
Here’s the amazing thing: the Spirit’s work in our hearts is so mighty that we hardly ever think about it. We pray without a second thought. We take it for granted. There’s a sense in which every time we pray we ought to hesitate. “Can I really do this? Can I really approach God? Can I really ask him for things?” That would make sense. After all, we’re approaching the one before whom even angels hide their faces. And yet we don’t hesitate because the Spirit testifies to our hearts that God is a kind and generous Father who delights to hear our prayer. The irony is that one of the most powerful works of God is so powerful we barely notice it!
Our prayers are never a burden to God. He delights to hear us and he is honoured by our prayers. We glorify both God’s power and love for us by praying. We mustn’t think of prayer as a task we need to perform. It’s a way of relating to a person and enjoying our relationship with them. God is a loving Father who delights to hear us, and prayer is an opportunity to spend time with him. You might find it helpful to think of prayer as a place to be with God. Think of God as your Father and then just talk.
- Last week we ended with a challenge to thank God for sending difficult things to make you more like Jesus. How have you got on?
- How do you think of God the Father? Do you think of him as kind?
- Look at the Lord’s Prayer – the prayer Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6 v 9-13). What difference does it make to see each line as a request from a child to their Father?
- List the reasons why someone might hesitate to pray to God.
- List the reasons why, wonderfully, we don’t need to hesitate to pray.
Each time you pray this week, start by saying “My Father” or “Our Father”. If you are already doing this, then try to pause as you say the word “Father” so you truly relish being a child of God.