Our Father in heaven,
Since prayer is, at its core, speaking to God, it is crucial that we first understand the God to whom we are praying. Out of all the various names or titles that Jesus could use in dialoguing with God, He chooses our heavenly Father. Jesus is, thus, setting a precedent for His disciples to follow that our primary relation to God is now as father and children.
This seemingly simple thought is actually one of the greatest benefits of the gospel in our lives. In the Old Testament, God was fatherly to His people; however, the references are fairly infrequent. When Jesus arrived on the scene, He used Father more than any other term for God (about 65 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 100 in John). Though the term for father, Abba, is not likely so informal as “Daddy” like some have suggested, there is still a distinct level of intimacy to it with God that is virtually unimaginable in the Old Testament.
Or to put it more plainly: by calling God His Father, Jesus showed a personal relationship with God.
As shocking as it might have been for Jesus to refer to God as Father, Jesus’ invitation to join Him in doing so is even more staggering. Christ goes from calling God His Father to calling Him our Father. This is only able to happen through the gospel, as Paul explains in Galatians 4:4-7:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Or Paul offers a similar case in Romans 8:14-17:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The implications of this are a vast multitude; however, let us focus on the primary one—in Christ, we are loved and adopted by God as our Father. This fact should impact every aspect of our prayer lives. We pray to God knowing that He loves and has our best interests at heart. Even when He seems silent and when life is difficult, we know that He is fully sovereign and that He will work things out, ultimately, for our good (Romans 8:28).
Since Jesus and the Holy Spirit are fully God, it is completely right for us to pray to them as well; however, the normative pattern of the Scriptures seems to be that we should pray to the Father. Even when praying to the Father, this does not mean that the Son and the Spirit are sidelined; rather, true prayer requires Trinitarian aid. As the verses from Romans and Galatians above show, we cry out to the Father in prayer only because Jesus’ atoning death has made us into sons of God, and we can only pray to God as Father because “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” “by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
We pray to the Father, knowing that Jesus stands as our high priest and mediator, with the Holy Spirit within us causing us to cry out to the Father.
Meditate upon the significance of God being our heavenly Father.
Pray to the Father with the full confidence of the gospel, knowing that you are adopted as His child in Christ.