By Ben Simpson
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Very recently I asked my Sunday school class, “How do we pray?” I was met with silence. Either the answer to my question seemed so obvious that it warranted no explanation or so intimidating that my friends feared getting it wrong. A third possibility exists: we did not really know.
But the question was too important to remain unexplored. I decided to approach it a different way. I asked, “Imagine you had a child, either your own child or someone dear who had been entrusted to your care. Imagine that the child asked you, ‘How do I pray?’ What would you say?”
Answers then came quickly. The gravity of the question set in. Fears were set aside and we began articulating what we knew. If a child desired to communicate with God, we would help. One person in class said, “You begin by addressing the person you are speaking to. You begin with ‘God.’”
When we want to get someone’s attention we begin with a name. We expect the person to hear, turn, pay attention, and respond. In my household each morning my children cry out, “I want breakfast!” I answer, “That is some interesting information. Is there someone who can help you? Do you need something from me?” They then say, “Dad, will you please fix me breakfast?” The address focuses my attention. Communication has been directed to me personally. The relationship is brought to the fore. I am the parent, they are my children. I am present as servant and provider.
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he began by teaching them an address, “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9-13). We address God as children, and God responds to us as a loving parent. Jesus also teaches us we do not pray alone, but rather as part of a community. God is simultaneously my God and our God, the Lord of my life and the Lord of the church. Further, when we pray “Our Father,” we not only pray alongside our Christian brothers and sisters, our prayer is joined with the prayer of Jesus Christ. His Father is the Father of those who have answered Jesus’ call, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19).
The Bible contains many ways of addressing God. God is our Creator, the Almighty God, the Most High God, the Everlasting God, and the Lord of Hosts. God is our Savior, Redeemer, Shepherd, Provider, Sustainer, and Friend. God is our Peace, our Righteousness, our Shield, the Alpha and the Omega, our Master, the Lord. We call upon God as our Helper and Deliverer. We pray to Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, our Rabbi and Teacher, the King. God is Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The names of God teach us concerning the character of God. Our address to God brings the relationship to the fore. When we pray we begin with God, with an address. We call out to a person who has been revealed through speaking and action, through the biblical narrative and personal experience. We speak to a God who is there.
How do we pray? We begin with an address. God hears, turns, pays attention, and responds. Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Call out to God. Address the Lord by name.
When you pray how do you most commonly address God?
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the one God revealed in three persons, you have called out to me, and now I call out to you. I trust that when I call you are near to me. Help me to address you as you are, and not only as I imagine you to be. Assure me of your love and speak to my heart. Direct my steps today, speak through me, and empower me by your grace to do your will. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.