When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray He answered a question that many of us ask as we grow in our relationship with God and seek a closer walk with Him.
Too often, we feel inadequate when we branch out beyond the prayers in a book or ones we have learned by heart, or when we give God a grocery list of our needs. Therefore, Jesus gave us a good start by teaching us the Our Father. Our problem stems more from our need to know how to relate to God personally, than what prayers we choose to say.
So let us take a moment and visualize our closest friend, the person we confide in the most. How do we relate to this person? We certainly have the expectation of availability, acceptance, encouragement, and participation from this friend. There is also the experience of a loving relationship, a mutual understanding, and a history of trusted loyalty.
There is an old saying that goes, “to have a friend you must be a friend”. The saying applies to friendship with God as well. Treat Him as you would a dear friend, you will find none better. It is interesting, that at the last supper, Philip said to Jesus, “show us the Father and we will believe”. Jesus answers, “Philip I have been with you all this time and still you don’t know Me, to have seen Me is to have seen the Father”. “The Father and I are one”. The apostles were Jesus’ friends and some of them struggled with their relationship with Him. He understands us and wants us to be ourselves with Him. He even sent the Holy Spirit to help us relate more intimately.
The Gospels are full of Jesus’ longing to touch, heal, provide, and relate to everyone who reaches out to Him. He told us that He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks and anyone who opens the door to Him, He will come in and share a meal. Let our prayer be as the conversation between friends over a cup of coffee or a shared meal. He reached out for our friendship first. His love is unconditional, and absolute. He walked among us so that He could live as we live and died to make us free and able to fellowship with Him.
Perhaps, now we can understand why Jesus taught us the Our Father. It is a prayer of unique intimacy and simplicity, yet it covers all of our needs. Each word and phrase pondered and visualized helps us grasp the loving relationship Jesus was teaching through this prayer to God, Our Father. Imagine how He said it. It is the model of all prayer. Keep it simple, talk to your Friend, be yourself, and say it with feeling. Prayer is about the spirit of friendship, honesty, intimacy, respect, and love. Such prayer opens the soul to the realization of God’s abiding presence and the joy and peace that He alone can give.