The Father and Prayer
One God in Three Persons
In discussing God the Father, let me make a few comments on the doctrine of the Trinity. Scripture teaches that there are three Persons and one God. That's very easy to believe if you don't try to be simplistic. Logical arguments based upon how we are constituted when applied to the Trinity collapse under their own weight every time. But it's very easy to understand three persons who are one God as long as you don't try to make God analogous to human beings who are only one person and one nature.
Scripture is pretty straightforward in presenting three persons as divine in both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament presents a Father God, a messenger or Angel of the Lord, and a Spirit of God. Each is presented as divine. The New Testament presents a Father God, a Son Jesus Christ, and a Holy Spirit. Consistently throughout the Old and New Testaments, one God is manifest in three persons. In fact, the New Testament declares even more than the Old Testament that only one God exists.
Practically speaking, a person cannot learn Trinitarianism by taking a course in theology or philosophy. One learns Trinitarianism by having a well-defined picture of God the Father, a well-defined picture of God the Son and a well-defined picture of God the Holy Spirit. We also learn Trinitarianism by reacting and acting in a healthy way with each of the Persons of the Triune God.
The early church practiced Trinitarianism long before they figured it out. They responded to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as individuals doing separate things. They worshipped three Persons as one Deity.This practical Trinitarianism is based upon the Person of God the Father as shown in Scripture. Ephesians 3:14-15 emphasizes this important point:
On account of this I am bowing my knees to the Father, from whom every family in the heavens and upon the earth takes its significance, or its name.
Every family that exists derives its form from God as a Father within the Trinity. God did not say within Himself, "Since the earthly family already exists, and in order to communicate with humanity, we are going to pretend that I am a Father, Jesus is a Son, and the Holy Spirit is the conformer of the character." It was not that way at all. God was not going to pretend that, He was that. Instead, He said, "When We create the universe, it will be based on a family pattern, like Us, where there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit."
The question naturally arises: Where does the female gender fit in? Genesis chapters 1 and 2 give the answer. These chapters teach that God the Trinity has both feminine and masculine characteristics. The feminine aspects were created into the woman, while the masculine aspects were created into the man. Both man and woman are absolutely equal in worth, value, intelligence, and will. One is feminine and one is masculine, but both reflect the nature of God. God has no problem saying, "I am like a nursing mother to Israel." Moreover, to have a true picture of what God is like in the Trinity, we need to have persons of equal worth and significance in relationship, like a husband and wife.
The church has had no difficulty assuming that God has feminine and masculine characteristics. In fact, believers should have no problem with the following statement: God is far more compassionate and nurturing than the most compassionate and nurturing of women, and God is far more courageous and purposeful than the most courageous and purposeful of men. Christ’s compassionate courage has won the loyalty of our hearts, and the Father’s nurturing discipline has won our allegiance. Think of the most compassionate and nurturing woman you know and the most courageous and purposeful man you know. Now envision these as you try to grasp God’s feminine and masculine characteristics.
How have you personally experienced these qualities of God at work in your life?
Discovering God the Father Through Prayer
The first thing of significance about God as a Father is that He is supposed to be sanctified or set apart in our thinking and in our relationship to Him. The Father should not be confused with the Son or the Holy Spirit. Christians are Trinitarian, not Unitarian. Trinitarianism is theologically a very significant belief, because it is based upon the reality of the relationship among the three members of the Trinity.
In Matthew 6:8, Christ introduces to the disciples how to set God the Father apart in prayer. The passage has been called the Lord's prayer. Christ begins in verse 5 by telling his disciples where to pray. In verse 7 he tells them not to use pointless repetitions as the heathen do:
Don't then, be like them [heathen who use a lot of words]. For God the Father knows the needs that you have before you ask Him. Therefore then, you are commanded to be continually praying this way.
An interesting side note about prayer:
In the New Testament, communication to God is never built around time. In fact, no Scriptural teachings exist regarding the amount of time a person is supposed to spend praying. God is not a timekeeper in this regard. He is far too sophisticated and much more concerned about what a person understands and believes and trusts than the amount of time he prays. A person could pray eight hours a day and still be in trouble with God if he didn't believe Him once in all of those eight hours. Or a person could pray for only two seconds, trusting God, and God would be delighted and bless that person. God's pleasure in a person's prayer doesn't correspond to the amount of time spent praying, but rather to the quality of faith invested. Jesus' prayer is not designed for verbal word-by-word repetition. Instead prayer is designed as a set of issues which should be faced every time a person prays. New Testament prayer is issues-oriented and not time-oriented.
Five issues exist in this prayer, and the first issue in verse 9 gives us instruction about setting God the Father apart:
Our Father, the one in the heavens, let your character, works, and reputation be set apart by me.
Jesus is saying that the way to approach God the Father in prayer is by asking Him to help us separate out (because that is what the word sometimes translated as "hallowed" means) His name, character, works, and reputation. Christ was teaching His disciples to define a picture of God the Father. He wanted his disciples to make an issue out of the Father’s character, works, and reputation, and to let them be sanctified. Sanctification simply means to be separated unto something. He wanted them to separate the Father in their minds, to have a clear picture of Him. Often as I pray I make it a practice to address the issue of God as Father. I'll talk it over with Him and work at it until I have a clear picture. Prayer does not revolve around time, but a sincere grappling with issues, such as the significance of God as our Father.
Take a few moments right now to pray and address God as ‘Heavenly Father.’ Ask Him to help you see Him more clearly as your ‘Father in Heaven’ and yourself as His deeply loved son or daughter.
This study is based on Becoming What God Intended, Chapter 3, Reading 2