An excerpt from my book Purpose of Prayer.
The proper way to start any prayer is with an address. I suppose there are several ways to address God when we pray, but the address in the Lord’s Prayer is the best way—since Jesus gives it to us. Here are…
Four Things that the Lord’s Prayer Address, Our Father in Heaven, Tells Us about Prayer — Matthew 6:9-13
1. That prayer is only for Christians. The words “Our Father” indicate that this prayer and all true prayer is only for those who can truly call God Father. In a general or physical sense, all people can call Him father, because all people were created by Him (Mal. 2:10). But here, “Father” is used in a spiritual sense (Gal. 4:5-6). Hence, Jesus teaches us here that only Christians, those adopted into the spiritual family of God, can truly communicate with God in prayer.
2. That when you pray you are always praying in unity with other believers. The words “our Father,” with emphasis on “our,” reminds us that when we pray we do not pray alone. For the Spirit dwells in all believers; and He moves in all believers to pray the same prayers in unity. Therefore, when you request anything of God be reminded as you pray “our Father” that the whole body of Christ is praying in the Spirit with you and for you. And you also are praying for them. For all who dwell in the Spirit have a deep, loving concern for each other; and so, whenever we bow our head in prayer to the Father, we, even without knowing it, are praying for each other in the Spirit with groaning too deep for words.
3. That pray has everything to do with seeing God as our Father. Whenever you go to prayer let those first words you utter, “Our Father,” bring you to the realization that God is truly your Father and that you are His son or daughter. This knowledge will help you in all your praying. E. M. Bounds said, “God’s Fatherhood gives shape, value and confidence to all our praying.” Andrew Murray has said, “In the knowledge of God’s Fatherliness revealed by the Holy Spirit, the power of prayer will root and grow.”
So what do we see in God’s fatherliness that helps us in prayer? First of all, when we ponder that He is our Father, we begin to see that we are His adopted children, that He loves us and cares for us, and that we are dependent on Him for everything.
This knowledge (of our adoption) is not natural or earthly. It is a heavenly or spiritual knowledge. The apostle Paul has put it this way: as we are led by the Spirit of God, He puts the Spirit of His Son (which is also called the Spirit of Adoption) into our heart; hence, by that Spirit we are moved to cry out “Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6).
What is so significant about this is that those same words, “Abba Father,” were uttered by Jesus when He prayed. We see this clearly as He prayed in the garden (Mk. 14:36). Therefore, we can be confident that when we cry out to God, saying, “Abba Father,” or “Daddy,” it is none other than the Spirit of Jesus crying out in us!
4. That Prayer has much to do with seeing God as our Father in heaven. First of all, I think it would help to understand where heaven is. Some say that heaven is way out there beyond the stars. I think that is true, but it is only partly right. The word translated as heaven here (v. 9) is plural. I think it should read “Our Father in the heavens.” G. Campbell Morgan has reminded us in his commentary that the New Testament speaks of three heavens. First there is the atmosphere encircling the earth. Then there is the area of the stellar space; that is the second heaven. The third heaven is beyond the stellar spaces, where Paul said that he was caught up to, a place he expressed as Paradise, where he heard “inexpressible words” (2 Cor. 12:4). So I would say that God dwells in all three heavens. He is not only far away beyond the stars, He is also very near. Morgan put it this way: “He is in the very air we breathe, as well as far away, infinitely out beyond the possibility of the mind’s comprehension; in all infinite spaces, and in all near details, everywhere.”
I believe that since God is spirit that heaven is a spiritual place. I think also that since God is pure and holy that heaven is a place of perfect purity.
Now, with these things in mind, what can we conclude about God and about what our attitude toward God should be as we pray? Here are four things:
(1) God is omnipresent—He is far and near all at once. Hence, we should remind ourselves of that, and that He has a clear view of our wants and needs.
(2) God is all-powerful and mighty, and He rules over all. The prayer of Jehoshaphat expresses this well: “O Lord of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You” (2 Chron. 20:6)? Also in Psalms 115:3 it says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (NIV). Therefore, when we pray we should think of how powerful and mighty He is and how much He can and is willing to bless us.
(3) God who dwells in a high and holy place (Is. 57:15) is pure. Therefore, when we pray, we ought to be pure. Before you pray confess every sin and make every wrong right.
(4) God is spirit. When you pray be aware of that fact; and make every effort to pray in the Spirit.
Last, let me remind you of our wonderful position in Christ with God. As you pray “Our Father in heaven,” don’t ever think that God is so far away from you. He is not. He is always near you; and you are with Him in the heavens. For since Christ has ascended to heaven, since you are in Christ, you have ascended there too in spirit with all other believers. Yes, He has blessed us all together and made us sit together with Him in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3; 2:6).