Jesus said, "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."We pick up today where we left off yesterday. This is the central part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching about the three central acts of Jewish devotion: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. It is in this context that Jesus gives his disciples a model prayer to pray, one that we have come to call The Lord's Prayer.
But first, this text raises the question: "If the Father knows what we need before we ask, then why should we pray?" We actually addressed this question yesterday and saw C. S. Lewis' answer. We pray because in prayer we submit ourselves to be known by God, we "unveil" ourselves, we present ourselves as persons so that we may know God in a personal way.
The Lord's Prayer begins in the most personal way possible, with the words "Our Father". Jesus called God "Abba" which, as you probably know, is the Aramaic word equivalent in intimacy to our English word "Daddy". Through Jesus we are drawn into an intimate relationship with God and invited to call him "Father".
Many years ago, when I was going through a difficult time in my life, I got to a place where I found I could not even pray in my own words. And so I ended up praying the Lord's Prayer every day. One day, as I was praying this model prayer, given to us by Jesus, a mental image came into my mind. As I prayed the words "Our Father", I thought of how my youngest son, who was four at the time, liked having me carry him in my arms with his face toward mine. And as I thought about that image, it was as if the Lord said to me, "Will, let me carry you like that through today, and keep your gaze upon me."
I believe that is what God wants to do with each of us. He is our heavenly Father. He wants to carry us through both the good and the bad times in life. And he wants us to keep our gaze steady upon his loving face.