Papa and Friend

How challenging and rich is this: We have a Father and Friend who longs to give us His joy.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and he asked for my input on prayer. If you wrote a theology on prayer, what would you say? When he asked I silently prayed (imagine!) and my mind was drawn to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. We never went further on that prayer than the first two words, “Our Father.”  God seemed to be saying even at the noisy table: Prayer is first of all based upon a relationship with the Father.

This is a precious thought: God offers a personal relationship with us and, once established, then we get to have intimate, constant conversations with Him. Scripture urges us to “pray without ceasing.” The humorist in me wants to ask: I have no problem with this in the shower, but what about when eating Cheryl’s fabulous cheesecake?

The Bible initially portrays our relationship to God in prayer as: He is Father and we are His children—“Our Father.” John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of God.” Though we are also called to spiritually grow up we never stop being dependent, affectionate, trusting children of God.

Do you struggle with the idea of God as Father because of your earthly father? I did for years, since I never knew mine. But I am no longer resentful after years of studying God’s attributes and seeing them—Him—instead of focusing on earthly, deficient models. Additionally, I have been helped by spiritual fathers within the church and, especially, through my father-in-law. Thanks again, Dad.

The portrait of the Father in Romans 8 is piercing. There, as a result of our salvation, “you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs…” Abba is a term of endearment like “Daddy” or “Papa.” This makes me think of my young daughters, jumping into my arms when I came home from work with endless stories to tell and asking me to kiss their injuries and make them all well.

Another powerful New Testament image is of Christ who no longer calls us His servants, but friends (John 15:15a). Friends communicate and reciprocate many things with each other (15:15b), and Jesus’ goal in our friendship with Him is His joy, and “that your joy may be full” (15:11). In context, joy comes from having a relationship and then in responding to the Father and Son by a continuing obedience—following—in “whatsoever I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

I struggle with prayer. I am glad my friend asked me about it, and that I could linger on this amazing truth: It starts with God who is Father—Papa—and Friend, and who longs to give me His joy. Now that is a sweet, sweet truth and gift.

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