When you pray, who are you talking to? Your answer to that question says a lot about what you believe in, how well prayer is going to work for you, and what’s going to happen next in your life. Your ability to interact with Spirit, to experience miracles, to have a life that works for you is mediated, constrained, or empowered by two factors: how big your concept of God is, and how worthy you are. If you truly believe that all things are possible for God, that there’s no place where God is not, and so on, but you’re pretty sure He doesn’t like you very much, your prayer process is going to be compromised. Similarly, if you know that you are a Spiritual being, partaking in all the Life, Love, Wisdom, and Power in the universe, but that God is small, egotistical, angry, or subject to physical or material understandings, there’s not much point.
If you’re experiencing challenges in your prayer life or your spiritual path, take a minute and think about how big your God is and how worthy you are. Where you’re at with those two concerns won’t change God, as you know, but they have direct bearing on your ability to experience God in your life. A big part of the prayer process has to do with simply getting out of the way and making space for God in our minds, hearts, and lives. That’s why this series of seven articles and videos is called The Upper Room.
This time around, the theme is direction. Where do we look, so to speak, when we pray? In this post, we’ll take a look at the answer that Jesus gave us:
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.’” (Matthew 6:9, NASB)
We start with Our Father. Both of those words are very important. A pretty big hunk of modern religiousity is informed by ideas of hierarchy and exclusion; there’s a lot of time spent on figuring out who’s in, who’s out, who has the secret teachings, and where they can be purchased. There is exactly none of that sentiment here. Here, as is always the case with Jesus, we are all in this together. God is our Father.
No matter what kind of relationship you do or do not have with your biological father, you know in your heart what a good one is like. Isn’t it interesting, by the way, that even if you don’t have a direct experience of love, you know what it is? That says something about what you’re made of. One way or the other, you know that a good parent loves their children unconditionally, doesn’t give them something harmful when they ask for something helpful, and isn’t fooled by appearances. You know that parents and children partake of the same family resemblance. You know, most importantly, that you are the loved image and likeness of Love itself.
If you know your Bible, you probably know that Jesus probably didn’t say "father," though. When He talked about God, Jesus used the word "Abba." This is about two thousand years before Fernando was written, so He was talking about something else. Abba is a kid’s word, a baby talk word. It’s something like "daddy." There are no barriers here, not even ones of formality.
We know a little bit about Who and What God is, who and what we are, and our relationship. We know Who we are talking to when we pray. So where do we look?
The next line of the prayer reminds us that God is in Heaven. Jesus talked about Heaven a lot; He compared it to a seed, a pearl, a net. When He discussed location, however, He didn’t imply physical, temporal, or any other kind of distance:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!' or, ‘There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21, NASB)
Right here. Right now. For our prayers to be uplifting and effective, they must start with a concept of God that is Love itself, in and through all of us, and never for a moment separate.
Prayer begins with a consciousness of the absolute immanence of Spirit, and to that we can add the idea of transcendence. When we say “Hallowed be Your name,” we are acknowledging that the Presence is Holy, more than physical, unlimited. The two concepts work together to proclaim that God is here, but that here is holy ground. This is the beginning of prayer that moves mountains.