The Joy of Praying to Our Father

Bill Trasher
Mark Ashton-Smith, a thirty-three year old lecturer at Cambridge University, capsized in some treacherous water while he was kayaking off the Isle of Wight in England. As he clung to his craft, his first instinct was to call his dad. At once his father relayed his son’s call for help to the Coast Guard who had an installation less than a mile from his son’s accident. Within twelve minutes a helicopter rescued Ashton-Smith.

When you are in serious danger, is your first impulse to call upon your heavenly Father? The answer to that question depends upon your perception of His character.

Dr. Paul Vitz is a professor of psychology at New York University. He has written a book Faith of the Fatherless to describe his theory of the “defective father hypothesis.”

He believes that the atheist has a deep psychological need to reject God because of their bad relationship with their earthly father. Their disappointment of rejection of their own father unconsciously justifies their rejection of God.

When Jesus' disciples came to Him and made their requests to teach them to pray, our Lord's first words were, "When you pray say our Father" (Luke 11:1,2).

Your view of God will coulor your experience of prayer.

The entire Christian life begins with the experience of coming to know God as our Father. Listen to Galatians 4:5-7:

So that He might redeem those who are under the law that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

"Abba" is an Aramaic word that speaks of a very endearing and intimate relationship between a child and his father. It is found on the lips of Jesus when He is found talking to His Father in Gethesemane (Mark 14:36), and it is also the relationship into which the Spirit of God seeks to lead every believer (Rom. 8:15). Jesus links the experience of prayer to knowing God as our Father.

Now suppose one of your fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? If he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? Luke 11:11-13

If any of us project the imperfection our earthly father on to God, we will reach some wrong conclusions.
I remember reading the testimony of a woman who was raised by an alcoholic father and a mother who could inexplicably erupt in anger like a dormant volcano. She found it even difficult to sit through a sermon because of her feelings of condemnation and guilt. In her mind, God was not righteous, faithful, and true but unreliable, irrational, and unpredictable. She never knew when she would get hugged or slapped and could not figure out the reason for either one.

George MacDonald had a wonderful childhood and found great refuge in his loving father. However, he gave some profound advice for those who find no pleasure, warmth, and love in the name “father.” In The Heart of George MacDonald, he states, “You must interpret the Word by all that you have missed in life. All that human tenderness can give or devise in the nearness and readiness of love, all and infinitely more must be true of the perfect Father—of the maker of fatherhood.

All of us need to take seriously this advice, for there is only one Perfect Father — the Lord God. Go to Him to be healed from your hurts and of your past. Let His truth uproot the lies so that you can view yourself as one for whom God gave His greatest sacrifice — His Son, in order to have an intimate relationship with you. When we begin to see Him for who He really is, our relationship with Him is what gives meaning to every aspect of our lives and is what will enable us to begin to experience the grace of prayer.

Zach is one of my former students who grew up in what many would call tragic conditions as he was raised in the inner city project housing. God's grace found him and so transformed his life that one day a man approached and asked, "Who is your father?" The idea behind the question was, "If you are a chip off the block, I would sure like to meet the source." Zach replied, "I have never known my father, but Jesus is my daddy."

Christ has truly fathered this young man who became not only the first in his family to graduate from high school but also from college and attend seminary. Today he is not only seeking to father his own children but has also founded a Christian school in the inner city of Chicago to help educate and father others.

My own dad never really knew his father who died when my dad was only one year old. Because his mother was forced to go to work to provide for the family, he went to live with an aunt.

When the aunt became pregnant with her own child, he was transferred to the home of the aunt's sister-in-law. It was here that he fell into the arms of his heavenly Father. Bernice Lewis ("B"), who had had several miscarriages embraced him with great tenderness and love and enabled him to overcome the traumas of childhood and become a successful man. He would run home from the playground after hearing the taunts of the other child who said, "You have no Mama. You have no Daddy." As he ran home, he would grab B's legs and say, "You are my mama, are you not?" She affectionately responded, "Yes, I am your mama," and pointed him to the heavenly Father.

As a boy, I benefited from the heavenly Father's care of my dad. One day in his childhood, he saw a little red-headed girl and said to B, "Let's get one of those." She was a little hesitant, so my dad insisted for her to tell Daddy Willie (her husband), to buy us one. She told him that it did not work that way and that he should pray about it. A few years later, he rode his bike twenty miles to the hospital to meet his new red-headed sister, Sylvia. God had given B a baby, and she was a wonderful sister to my father and later a wonderful aunt to me.

It is essential that each of us ponder our own pilgrimage with eyes of faith and the wisdom of God. As you respond correctly to the unique heritage God has given you - whether tragic or blissful - this is what God will use to open your eyes to the revelation of Himself - the one perfect Father. It is my prayer that God will help you ponder the trials of your heritage and that He will help you see the truth of Himself as the source of every blessing - including the gift of being fathered.

 Used by permission from Dr. Thrasher's Book How to be a Soul Physician

Bill Thrasher

Bill Thrasher has served on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute since 1980 and on the graduate school faculty since 1990, where he oversees the Master's Program in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship.

He is a frequent speaker in churches and retreats across the county. He has written numerous books and articles on a variety of subjects related to Christian living. He is married to Penny and they have three sons - Will, Michael, and David.