[This post is courtesy of Phillip Jensen, Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.]
When you are little your father is very big; you are weak, but he is very strong; you know very little and he seems to know everything, you feel feeble compared to his powerful presence.
When your father is very powerful, you are able to do so much. You feel safe and secure in his great arms. You are comfortable, if not confident, to ask him for anything. He takes you to places, shows you things, entertains you, houses, feeds, clothes and educates you.
And when you go to school you can boast about how great your father is—how much greater than other children’s fathers.
But when you grow up and become a father, you realise how difficult life is; how weak and inadequate you are; how complex the world has become; how vulnerable you actually are; how few resources you have to care and provide for your family. Though some fathers in this world are very powerful.
The devil is a powerful father. Or so he seems to his children. His power lies in his lies; for he is the father of lies (John 8:44). A murderer from the beginning, he uses his deceit to accuse both God and God’s children. He accuses God of not having our interests at heart; of not being righteous and merciful; of not forgiving the sinner of his sin. He accuses God’s children of the sins that Christ has already paid for. He undermines the gospel message of complete pardon by continually reminding us of our unworthiness while omitting or denying God’s atoning mercy. Alternatively, he assures us of our own moral righteousness so as to turn us away from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He accuses God of narrow minded judgementalism in finding fault with such wonderful people as we are! Sometimes he even claims that if God was loving, he should understand that nobody is perfect and so accept us just the way we are. Whatever the lies he uses, the devil is a powerful father in the way he brings people into his family of slaves and leads them on to death.
Yet the devil as a father is not in the same league of power when compared to our Heavenly Father. Such a comparison is more of a contrast than a comparison. For though they are both fathers – one is of love, the other of hate; one is of life, the other of death; one is of truth, the other of lies. Their power is not to be compared for the devil’s claim to power is part of his lies. His power is a derivative power – he derives it from his children. Whenever his lie is not believed or denied it is stripped of its effect and of its power.
It is not so with God’s power. Our Father in heaven is inherently powerful. Indeed our Father is none other than “the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). And as James (1:17) says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” That is why we can always approach him with our requests because, as Jesus taught: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)
Prayer is child’s play. It’s not just that children can do it—it is that prayer is essentially what children do; they ask their father for things and depend upon their father for everything. Prayerful dependence on the Almighty Father is not only expressing our child-like faith but also expressing our confidence that our Father is the most powerful being in all the world. However, while prayer may be child’s play, it is what all men are called upon to do: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling” (1 Timothy 2:8).
In response to this command, some of the men in the Cathedral congregations are developing a pattern called 1,2,3. Straight after church they are meeting in small groups of 3, to pray with each other. They are following a simple pattern: each one is sharing a Bible verse they have read in the past week, or one point from the sermon they just heard. They then share with each other one prayer point from their lives. Finally they pray briefly for each other. It only takes a few minutes. They are looking to expand by expanding the number of groups of 3. They keep inviting other men to join them – but when they get to 4 members they split into 2 groups of 2 and seek to find a 3rd member to join them. You don’t have to be asked to join, you can start your own, or ask to be part of a group. You don’t have to be a father to join one of the men’s 1,2,3 groups, but if you are a father you will know how important it is for children to keep in touch with their heavenly father.
Little boys compete with each other about most things even who has the most powerful father. But nobody has a more powerful father than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who welcomes our prayers—it is in our dependence upon him that we have any power to father our children.