This essay originally appeared in our newsletter in 1999 or 2000, as we were preparing to leave Texas to spend the rest of our working lives in Southeast Asia (or so we thought). I offer it to you today in honor of my Dad's birthday this weekend. I am so very grateful for the gift of another year with him! Daddy, I'm proud of you. Happy birthday!
Back on my knees confessing my ignorance and impotence in prayer, I asked the Lord, “Teach me to pray.” Almost immediately, the Spirit reminded me of our Lord’s instruction to His disciples, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven. . .’” (Mt. 6:9-13).
Just as quickly, a memory invaded my heart, as has happened so often lately in anticipation of leaving home and family. This one showed me a Daddy, sitting with his oldest daughter on the bed on a Saturday afternoon, teaching her this pattern for prayer. Patiently he would read one phrase at a time, then return to the budget and bills until I was ready for the next. I can still picture the yellow legal pad with his orderly printing. Back then, when I was just in first or second grade, it was mere rote, of course, part of the ceremony of Sunday “grown-up” church. Years later, after the Lord made me His child through faith in Christ, it took on new meaning and became my primer on prayer.
That’s just one of many precious memories of my precious Daddy (and yes, no matter how many years the Lord gives me, he’ll always be “Daddy”). All my life, he has sought out and taken time just to be with my sisters and me, to listen to all the ramblings and dreams of our girl-hearts. Some of my other treasures are the drives with him to and from ballet and piano lessons, and whole summer days spent at his office.
Beyond that, it has long been his delight to plan special treats for his girls according to his unique knowledge of each of us. Even when finances were tight, he usually found a way to give us a vacation, even if it was simply day-trips to do all the tourist things
natives don’t normally do. Other years, we were able to travel – by plane, train, or automobile – to farther regions of the Dallas . On a smaller scale, he vigilantly observed our preferences and favorites, listening for any hints of our desires and remembering them even months later for Christmas or birthdays. From time to time he would surprise us with our favorite treat of the moment, whether tea, candy, fruit, or nuts, just to say he loved us and was thinking about us that day in the midst of his other responsibilities. U.S.
If we had a special desire or need or problem, we always knew we could go to him with it. If he could solve the dilemma, he would; if he could meet the need, he did; if the desire was a good one, it was often granted.
Is my Daddy perfect? Of course not. In fact, it has only been in the last five to ten years that we have seen his life transformed by the grace of God. He is limited in knowledge, ability, and even love, as he would be first to admit.
Even so, his father-love toward me helps me understand how my heavenly Father, from whom every other Father in heaven or on earth is named, loves me. The prayer my Daddy taught me begins, “Our Father who art in heaven,” and through him I can begin to understand what it means to approach God in that way.
Like my Dad, His desire and delight is our pure enjoyment of His presence. He longs to live life with as well as in us. From the mundane details of daily life to the special, extended times of solitude with Him, it is our privilege just to be with Him. The faithful father of the parable told his older son, “You have always been with me, . . . and all that I have is yours” (Luke 15:31, emphasis mine).
From His heavenly vantage point, His knowledge of us exceeds even our knowledge of ourselves. He knows our needs; therefore we can pour out our hearts before Him in simple confidence. We need not persuade or convince Him of our needs: He knows (Mt. 6:8). Outside the prayer closet, His knowledge of us frees us from anxiety about the details of life. He who gloriously clothes the wildflowers and feeds the birds is our Father. How can we doubt His even better care for us?! Surely He will give what is good to His children as we ask (Mt. ), and unsought treats as we seek His kingdom (Mt. -33).
As our Father in heaven, we are also assured of His infinite resources to meet our needs. Our Father is the King of heaven. He can solve our dilemmas, and will; He can meet our needs, and does; if our desires are good (i.e., match His), He promises to grant them. In His Fatherly goodness, He delights to give us what is good; as heavenly King, He is able to do so.
This is not to suggest that He slavishly complies with our petulant demands! His knowledge penetrates our façades to discern true from false and holy from unholy. His wisdom reaches beyond our shortsightedness to His ultimate goal of glorifying Himself and us by conforming us to the image of Christ. As a result, we can say of Him as of Aslan, “Safe? Of course He’s not safe. But He’s good.” Or in the unnoticed profundity of the child’s grace at table, “God is great. God is good.”
Always this great and good God remains Abba Father, Daddy, to all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ. It is this relationship to us which forms the basis of our prayers: “Our Father in heaven. . . .” Perhaps to grow up in prayer, then, we need to go back to childhood, to the elementary simplicity of the Scotswoman’s advice, “Go to the Father and tell Him what you need.” May He impress this truth on our hearts and prayers and teach us to trust His Father-love.
Sharing this also for Bonnie's Faith Barista Jam about Father's Day, June 16, 2011: