Praying to the God of Fellowship
I think one of the most difficult aspects of prayer is that it feels very impersonal. Can we really commune with the God of the universe...the same God who is creator and sovereign Lord over all things??? Why would God even care about my silly needs when he has wars, and famines, and diseases to worry about? Let's be honest, we've all felt that way. You may even feel that way right now. This is why Jesus' teaching through the Lord's Prayer is so important for us. The first two lines remind us exactly who we are dealing with.
First, we are instructed to address our prayers to our Heavenly Father in verse 9. This is very significant. While many of us may have grown up without a strong, loving, father-figure in our lives (and the collateral damage that often comes with that); we all can probably piece together a picture of what one might actually be like, even if we never got to experience it for ourselves. A dad can provide a steady and consistent foundation for his children. He is a protector, a provider, and a teacher. He is strong and reliable...and when necessary, as warm and cuddly as a teddy bear. We've seen dads like this in movies and shows. We've read about them in books and greeting cards. The luckiest of us have lived in their homes and experienced their love first-hand. However, regardless of our experiences with earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father is so much more!
In the beginning, God created the whole universe and in the center of it all, he created man and placed him in a special place where he could live in constant relationship with God himself. This is how we have always been designed and created to exist...in harmonious fellowship with God...as princes and princesses, living with our father, the King. Sin, however, separates us from God and destroys that fellowship. This is why Jesus teaches us to continue our prayer by asking for the fellowship of that kingdom to be restored in verse 10.
When we struggle to feel close to God it isn't because he has ostracized us, but rather it is because we have fled from community with him through our sin. It is our brokenness that compels us to think that God is too big and too distant to be concerned with our puny, insignificant lives. God himself tells us in his word that this is so incredibly far from the truth.
Scriptures like Psalm 139 remind us of the great care with which we have been created and the intimacy of God's knowledge of every aspect of our lives, even from before our birth. Multiple times we are told to cast our cares and worries upon the Lord because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 55:22, Philippians 4:6, etc.). Most importantly, we are promised, even from early on in the book of Genesis and all through the pages of the Bible, that God is working out this sin problem that separates us form him.
When we feel like God may be too busy to be concerned about us, or that he doesn't really desire to have a relationship with us, it is important that we preach the gospel to ourselves. In Christ, God has reconciled man to himself, not through human effort, but completely as an act of grace and mercy on his part on our behalf and for our benefit. As Cody mentioned in his sermon, we have been adopted as sons and daughters. From a legal perspective, an adopted child shares all of the same rights and benefits as one that is flesh and blood.
This means that those who place their hope in Christ for salvation have been transferred (as Paul puts it in Colossians 1:13-14) to Christ's redeemed kingdom and are a part of his work of making all things new. When we doubt that God cares about us, it is the gospel that reminds us just how much he does in fact care. When we feel distant and separated from God, it is the gospel that assures us of our place as beloved children. Our prayers don't need to feel impersonal because our fellowship with our Heavenly Father has been restored and we once again can enjoy living in community with him (for now in a spiritual sense, but one day in a bodily sense). What greater source of hope and assurance could there ever be?
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Part 2 - Your kingdom come, your will be done...
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. What is God's kingdom?
2. If I'm praying for God's will, can I still pray for my desires?
3. In what sense will God's kingdom come?