“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” (Luke 18:9-11 KJV)
What do you suppose is missing from this prayer? Quite a lot I am sure. Perhaps even what is in the prayer that ought not to be there. There are two key words that are missing though. Two words that had they been there from the onset this whole prayer would have taken a different direction. Two simple words that could have eliminated the pride. Two words that may not have necessarily needed to be spoken, but certainly needed to be present in spirit. What do you suppose are the missing words? Take a moment to look back to the template prayer that Jesus gave his disciples. It is found in Matthew 6 and again in Luke 11 (KJV).
“Our Father…” Why, “Our Father…”? First the term, “our” is not “my”. Not that God is not my father or your father too, but there is a powerful significance to “our”. There is a community attribute to “our”. There is a belonging in “our”. There is an understanding that those who say “our” are on the same team. There is a shared interest in what is “ours”. At the very least it says plural to a mind that thinks that everything is singular. Especially when he has come with his selfish shopping list, bragging rights, or other piety with him. “Our” best helps us recall the second greatest commandment. “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39 KJV) “Our” helps us to understand that while our prayer closet is important, prayer with those closest to you is also very important. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 KJV)
The term “Father” was best highlighted to me while in the audience of a special guest speaker at Irving Bible Church by the name of Bill Glass. The audio of the lesson “The Blessing” is still available in their online archives (at least as of this writing). Bill spent a great deal of his life doing prison ministry. In reflecting on the countless hours he has spent visiting one prison after the next, his lesson was a reflection on the lessons learned about the essential ingredient of the father. More specifically, the father’s blessing in the course of a relationship. In an age where media scorns the father figure as ignorant, old fashion, stupid, unnecessary, oppressive, and abusive; it was a stark contrast to hear the absolute essentialness of finding that father figure if the real one is not forthcoming. One might consider an elder, a deacon, an uncle, a grandfather, a teacher, a coach, a scout leader, or even a solid friend in those select cases. Developing a relationship with a father figure not only provides quality leadership, experience, mentor-ship, guidance, new skills, and an apprenticeship of sorts in those skills, but it seriously reduces your chances of ever spending time in jail. Recent movies like “Courageous” even touch a little on this subject. Nearly every loose gunman you hear of from time to time in a public setting turns out to have one singular commonality: he has no relationship or a bad relationship with his father. Web sites like fatherhood.org publish the painful statistics for review: (http://www.fatherhood.org/media/consequences-of-father-absence-statistics). The obvious connection is that God is our ultimate Father in the adoption process through Jesus (see Galatians 4:5-7). When we approach God on our knees addressing Him as Father, there is an amazing closeness. Even in the old monarchies, the son generally did not have to wait for the scepter to present his petition. He was welcome anytime. Just to top it off, did you ever wonder how John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Lord? “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6 KJV) Did you notice, “… turn the heart of the fathers to the children…”?
When you combine “our” and “Father” the rest of the model prayer just spills forth. A name that is set apart as Holy similar to the sabbath that was set apart as Holy in Genesis… His kingdom, not ours… Forgive the debtor / trespassor… A daily bread that is allocated by God and His understanding of my situation rather than by my management… Thine power and glory, not mine…
“At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:26-27 KJV)