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Part Four

:
Knowing the Father (2)
Matthew 6:5-9; Luke 11:1
Church in the Boro, Rob Wilkerson

Introduction

Jesus began His teaching with the disciples on prayer by directing them immediately to one
place: the Father. The Father is Jesus’ Father, first and foremost. It makes complete sense
then, that Jesus would direct His disciples to the only One He Himself went to in prayer. In this
way, Jesus is the Master Discipler, doing what He sees the Father doing, doing what He is told
to do by the Father, and then teaching His disciples to do just the same. And the only method
by which Jesus was able to know the Father’s will and agenda is that of prayer.

The disciples of Jesus needed to know nothing else. The simplicity of following Him was found
in the simplicity of His following the Father. “Do what I do. Say what I say. Think what I think.
Go where I go.” These are the banners of the discipler, and in teaching them the Lord’s Prayer,
Jesus is summing up all of these imperatives for His disciples. “I do what the Father does, so
you should to. I say what I say and think what I think, because it’s the Father’s agenda. I go
where I go, because that’s where the Father’s priorities lie. So if you pray as I teach you to pray,
then you’ll do just exactly what I do.” That’s the basic summary of what Jesus is after with His
disciples, and therefore with us as His disciples today, when we listen to Him teach on prayer.

Why Prayer is Important

Prayer is important then because it essentially rearranges our agenda, our thinking and plans,
strategies and visions, burdens and desires, long-term and short-term goals. What the Father
thinks is important is what we now think is important. And prayer is a way of getting at what
He thinks is important. It moves us onto His radar, so to speak, rather than having Him on ours,
which is too often the way most of us live from day to day. We can read about His agenda in
the Bible, through the stories of the old and new testaments. And more than that we can hear
it from God Himself in prayer, through the voice of the Holy Spirit reminding us about these
things, and applying them in ways no other human being possibly could. Prayer is a way of
shutting our mouths and minds and choosing to listen to what the God of the universe has to
say about our lives and His will.

Prayer is also important because in rearranging our agenda it weeds out what is not the
Father’s priority. No doubt this causes confusion and frustration many times. It’s hard to jump
tracks and get on someone else’s agenda when you’ve been so busy for years strategizing and
executing your own. Prayer becomes a way then, to continually submit yourself to the Father
for His gentle yet firm work of transforming you and morphing you so that you will become
convinced of His agenda rather than yours. You’re forced to develop patience and humility as

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you regularly talk to the Father and listen to what He has to say to you. He knows it’s not easy
revising and altering and changing and morphing. But He also knows that it is only in His
presence that you will find the calm, peace, rest, and joy in order to successfully make those
kinds of changes that are absolutely essential in order to be an effective citizen of His kingdom.

And it’s there that I want to camp out in here in Part 4. It’s that subtle, gentle-yet-firm, kind-
hearted, soft-handed way in which the Father morphs us in prayer that makes prayer so
wonderful. Jesus teaches us first thing in His prayer to go to the Father because it is the
heavenly Father who can convince us and empower us to do everything else Jesus is teaching
us to pray about and pray for and pray toward. Therefore, it stands to reason that if we don’t
know this Father then we won’t desire to continue to spend time with Him in prayer. Once you
get to know Him and who He really is, you will want to come back over and over again.
Something will pull you to it, almost impelling you from within. It will be strange yet surprising
and delightful. You will find yourself thinking different about your schedule and agenda and
task lists. Changes will be made in your life that seemed so difficult and arduous before, but
now seem like a no-brainer.

How I Used to Pray…and Why I Prayed Like That

This has definitely happened to me over the last several months as I’ve been studying and doing
what I’m preaching to you. I have “weeks from hell” just like the rest of you. Life is no different
for a pastor. There are things, emails, phone calls, tasks, and people constantly jumping on my
plate and schedule everyday just like on yours. And in those honest moments I would really
feel like prayer was that nagging insect, flying around constantly reminding me that I’m not
doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing. I knew I needed to be praying, but for some reason I
was not so totally convinced of it that I rearranged my schedule and the way I do my day in a
second-nature sort of way. It was “another” item on my agenda that I put there because I knew
I needed to spend time with God in order to make sure my day glorified Him.

I Used to Pray Like I Had to

Now, herein lies the problem. When I looked at prayer this way, the way I prayed was basically
already determined for me, wasn’t it? I went in with the attitude that it was another item on
my agenda, performed it like another item on my agenda, but over time saw no real difference
in my life overall. The way I felt about God didn’t really change. I didn’t really sense His love for
me in any greater way. I definitely didn’t sense that my own love for God had grown much.
And after time, if we’re all honest about this together, many days, weeks, months and years of
praying like this doesn’t make prayer time look very attractive, does it? So you eventually just
pray less, or quit doing it altogether…until, that is, a revival, conference, camp, seminar or
special workshop you went to made it all seem alive to you again and try it once more…for a
few more days, or perhaps weeks. Then the cycle starts all over again, doesn’t it? It did for me,
at least.

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Why did I view prayer this way? Why did I treat it like this? Why do you look at prayer and do
prayer like this? There’s really only one reason why. And it just so happens to relate to the
single most important thing you will ever think in your entire life, and that is what you think
about the Father. What you think about the Father completely and entirely determines
everything related to your prayer life. It determines whether or not prayer is something you
look forward to and enjoy, something you have a deep sense of dependence upon, something
you prioritize, and something you derive the most amount of benefit from.

I Used to Pray with a Wrong View of My Father

A wrong view of the Father, or no view of the Father, deeply impacts prayer in the opposite
direction. It doesn’t necessarily change your relationship to Him. It does however change your
enjoyment of that relationship to Him. He still loves you the same. He doesn’t love any more
or less than He already does. In fact, He can’t love you more or less than He already does. But
your ability to sense, feel, experience, and know that love from Him to you is deeply limited by
how you view Him. And that’s really nothing different from any other relationship you and I
have with other people.

When my children remember that I’m a good dad who wants to bless them and guide them and
protect them, they listen to me and do what I say with zero arguing and complaining. When
they forget who I really am, they start in with me. So as a parent I have to go back and review
who I am and why I do what I do with them so that they will get a bigger picture about what’s
going on than just not being able to do that thing they really, really, really, really want to
do…because everyone else is doing it. And when I forget that my wife loves me and wants me
to succeed and prosper and grow and mature, I start to question her motives about why she is
telling me something. I start to think that maybe she’s trying to manipulate me and control me.
Then a power play ensues and a conflict arises. All because my view of my wife was either lost,
rejected, neglected, or ignored.

Likewise when others have desired counsel and guidance from me as a local church leader, the
amount of work they put into really doing what I told them to do is limited to how they view
me. If they view me with suspicion like I’ve viewed my wife before, or like my children have
viewed me before, then they don’t want to follow the counsel I’ve given, and they go off and
make a mess of things. This in turn alters more deeply the way they view me so that now they
think I look down on them, which makes them come to me less often, if at all from that point
on. Meanwhile, I’m aching inside because of the mess and I want to help. But because their
view of me is inaccurate, they don’t desire to be shepherded by my efforts. So we all do this to
one degree or another.

When My View of My Father Changed, Everything Else Did Too

But when my view of the Father changed, my prayer life changed radically. The Father went
from being a God in a doctrinal book, to being my personal Abba, Father, and Dad. As I
submitted myself to pray like Jesus taught (and man, oh man, it was hard at first to switch

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gears), I was repeatedly and immediately struck with the very first words, “Our Father…” In the
Lord’s Prayer we are instantaneously put face to face with THE Living God who claims to be
“our Father.” And what I knew or thought about my Father necessarily dictated how I related
to Him and listened to Him. When I pressed on in submission to Jesus’ teaching on prayer,
however, I relearned who my Father really was…and I still am everyday in deeper and more
significant ways.

Relearning who my Father was deeply impacted the way I felt about Him, and that had the
effect of melting me on the inside. He told me how much He loved me and wanted me. He
reminded me through the stories in the Bible of what lengths He had gone to in order to adopt
me. In fact, He taught me in deeper ways what it meant that His love for me had begun even
before He ever created the world! And then, relearning that His love took the shape of putting
His innocent Son to death for me and others…well that just sent me into an emotional upheaval
of sorts, because honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever been on the receiving end of that kind of
love before. Have you?

This in turn had the effect of making me more soft and pliable in listening to Him. Whenever
you’re simply with someone, it has the effect of softening you. Relationships do that. People
you thought you’d never like before become likable as you spend time with them. God
becomes way more likable. He’s a person with thoughts, emotions, feelings, plans, burdens,
strategies, visions, etc. He wants to share those with me…with you…with us. And in the
process of sharing, we become pliable, moldable. In this way He wins us over so that we are
convinced in our minds and hearts about His agenda, His plans and strategies, His loves, likes
and dislikes, His thoughts and ways. Then we find ourselves wanting to actually do those
things.

That’s the way it happened with me. That’s the way it happens with most anyone who gets
close enough to God long enough to experience what I’m talking about. And what happens
next is amazing. Just as I did when dating my wife, I start trying to find time to carve out of my
schedule in order to be with God. I began just sneaking way for short walks with the Lord at the
GSU Botanical Garden where I spend a good deal of time it seems. It became an immediate
priority to drop the kids off at school and get the office as fast as I could to just sit and worship
God and hear from the Father. My heart became more and more full with His love for me, and
slowly but surely my worries, anxieties, fears and doubts just faded away. Things got pretty
clear for me. Focus increased and distractions decreased. Love for others also
increased…greatly!

What’s more, my agenda and schedule shifted focus. I was able to say “no” to people and
things that I knew were a distraction from spending time with the Father. The more time I
spent with Him the clearer my focus was about what I was really supposed to be doing. So I
scheduled time differently, and ran the risk of offending people by not meeting with them. But
what I found I enjoyed so much was that that constant, nagging feeling that my life was actually
in disarray, even though I kept telling myself I was doing God’s will, eventually was put at
peace. My mind was at rest, finally. The decisions I made became clearer, and I worried less

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and less if I was “doing the right thing.” There was a certainty and rest I came to enjoy because
I KNEW I was doing what the Father was telling me to do. And when stresses, anxieties, fears,
doubts, etc. started to flood my mind, the automatic reflex of my soul was to turn to the Lord,
to pray the Lord’s prayer, and immediately be thrust into “our Father”, which thrust me into His
loving, strong, and enduring arms.

So if that’s where you want to be…if that’s where WE as a church body want to be, how do we
get there? In short, we change the way we think and feel about the Father. This requires
learning and knowing. Intellectual knowledge of God is essential to truly know God. But so is
experiential knowledge. We must worship the Father in spirit and in truth, as Jesus told the
woman at the well in John 4. It’s both-and, not one or the other. And sometimes we need to
face challenges to either side – intellectual and experiential – just like the woman at the well
did. They take various forms, usually manifesting themselves in the dysfunctional or exemplary
models of fatherhood we had in growing up. Terry Virgo has commented,

“Whether we’re aware of it or not, we may find ourselves ‘playing safe’ with God
by being content to appreciate with our heads alone that He loves us. We
somehow avoid experiencing that love in a deeper way. Before we can relate
effectively to God as Father, we need to be released from any negative attitudes
towards fatherhood that our own fathers may, even unknowingly, have caused
us to adopt” (Praying the Lord’s Prayer, p. 22).

When we do decide to open ourselves up to an experiential relationship with the Father then
naturally, and slowly, and surely we will find ourselves wanting to spend more and more time
with Him in prayer. We are filled with His love for us and we therefore want to love Him and
spend time with Him. In order to move us into this experiential relationship with God as “our
Father” let’s build some head-and-heart-knowledge categories about “our Father” so that we
can have a reference point for the experiential knowledge that we’ve either already
experienced, or perhaps have not yet experienced. I’m only going to deal with the first one
here.

1. The Father LOVES Us!
This is the most obvious, logical and biblical place to start when getting to know God as a
Father. And this is because the revelation of God we have about God in the Bible continually
points to God as a God of love. Remember John 3:16? It’s about a God who loved the world so
much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life when we
believe in Him. John was known as “the apostle of love” in his lifetime, and his gospel and
letters really draw this out well. My favorite is 1 John 3:1.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is
what we are!” (NLT).

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Maybe you had a dad who told you this a lot growing up. But maybe saying the words and
actually doing the word looked a whole lot different as a kid. Then again, perhaps you had a
dad who didn’t say, “I love you” at all. Maybe they just did it…just loved you. Or maybe they
didn’t say it or do it at all.

If you had a dad who did say this to you often, you’ve got a great place to start because you can
hear the words of the heavenly Father now and have room for it in your heart right now. If you
had a dad who not only said it but also did it, then you’re off to a great start in learning about
your heavenly Father. But if you didn’t have a dad who said it and did it, then you too are in a
great place to start because that means you can start from scratch and see what love is really
supposed to look like from a father. No matter where you are in your life right now, no matter
what your experiences have or have not been, you are in a great place here and now to learn
how much the Father loves you. And He wants that love to move off the words on the pages of
your Bible and into your hearts where He can come and live and be a Father to you in every
sense of the word.

The Story of the Father and His Two Sons

Perhaps the best place to start when introducing you to God’s love is to use a phrase we’re all
familiar with: unconditional love. That is the kind of love that keeps on loving you fervently and
intimately, even when you screw up…and no matter how many times you screw it up. It is a
level of acceptance you feel inside of you that becomes settled into the safety and security of
the Father’s love for you no matter what you end up screwing up…or doing well. In other
words you can’t work harder to make Him love you anymore than He already does…and you
can’t screw up so bad that you make Him love you less than He does right now. Either scenario
is simply not possible…ever! Perhaps a story will help describe what I mean, and it’s the famous
story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.

Notice there were two sons. One was older and the other was younger. The older was the one
who stayed at home working hard for dad. The younger didn’t like work so much, and he
decided to take his half of the family inheritance and go squander it on gambling and loose
women. Let’s look at the younger son first.

First, he wasn’t satisfied with what his Father had already given him. He was a selfish ingrate.
He only thought about himself, about what he didn’t like about his life, and what he wished he
was doing instead. All he knew is that he had to get out of his current situation and go
somewhere else where he could be…well…happier.

Second, he basically told his father, “I wish you were dead.” As with any other culture, an
inheritance is given after the father dies. So when you go to your father while he is still alive
and ask for your half of the inheritance, you’re basically saying, “I wish you were already dead
so I could get the half that’s coming to me!” How horrible! And that’s just what selfish people
do. Without regard for anyone else other than themselves, they consider everyone an
inconvenience who is standing in the way of their dreams and desires.

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Third, notice the attitude of the Father toward the son. Jesus said, “So the father agreed to
divide his wealth between his sons” (15:12). I read that and say to myself, “What in the heck is
going on here? I would’ve told my son that he’s just S.O.L. and can take a hike and wait his turn
until I do die…which I hope is another fifty years from now just to make him wait a little
longer!” I wouldn’t have had a great attitude. But the father in this story is representative of
the heavenly Father, who doesn’t force someone to do anything. The book of Judges is filled
with stories of the heavenly Father who just lets His wayward sons go and do what they want,
only to end up enduring the horrific consequences of their decisions, and then coming running
back to Him every time. He knows there’s nothing else out there better than Himself, so He’s
content to let you figure it out on your own and let you learn by experience, if that’s the way
you really want to learn.

Fourth, the younger son hung around for a few more days…essentially mooching off his dad a
little while longer after having received his inheritance (v. 13).. So here he is, holding this boat
load of money, but he’s gonna stick around just a few more days so that he can get all the free
food, drink and board he can possibly get before having to spend his own money. And oh, how
often we’ve done this too! Human beings are all moochers, taking anything they can get from
other people for free, before ever touching their own resources. It just reflects even worse on
our selfishness.

Fifth, the younger son “moved to a distant land” (v. 13). That means he moved as far away
from his father as he could possibly get He didn’t want to be anywhere near his father’s farm.
He had had enough of the life of a farmhand, gettin’ up every morning before the sun came up
to milk the cows, clean the stalls, lead them to a different pasture, clean the animals, get them
water, weed the garden, water the garden, harvest the garden, process the harvest, etc. It was
a very difficult life despite the fact that there were plenty of servants to help. But his attitude is
so selfish that he doesn’t want a single reminder of home, so he moves as far away from it as
he can. Ever been there?

Sixth, “he wasted all his money on wild living” (v. 13). He wanted to get as drunk and high and
laid as fast as he possibly could. And how fast that money was spent! He’d spent years at
home and probably had learned nothing from his father about how to handle money. So when
he gets out on his own, he blew it all really fast on worthless activities that produced nothing in
return.

Seventh, just around the few days that his money began running out, “a great famine swept
over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man
sent him into his fields to feed the pigs” (vv. 14-15). Now he’s broke, no money to provide food
for himself during this famine, and he’s hungry…really, really hungry. But he’s a bit industrious,
because he at least looks for a way to make a little money. However, he’s a Jew…and Jews
don’t have anything to do with pigs. Yet here he is in a distant land where Jews probably don’t
even live and where Jewish customs are nothing at all. But he stoops as low as he could have
culturally to mess with animals he was raised not to mess with. In other words, he finds himself

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involved in a work industry his family would be ashamed of. So he’s heaping more shame on
the family name than he’d already done with his previous behavior.

Eight, he was pretty stupid, generally speaking. The Bible says “he persuaded a local farmer to
hire him,” but strangely the next verse says, “The young man became so hungry that even the
pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything” (v. 16). So
my question is, “Hey fella, why did you persuade someone to hire you who couldn’t even pay
you?” But then again, this isn’t a very bright fella to begin with, right? After all, he’d wished
death on his dad, mooched off him, moved as far away from home as possible, totally wasted
all his money on stupid stuff, and hired himself out to someone who couldn’t pay him. What a
great picture this is of most of humanity. And the Bible portrays this over and over again in so
many other stories.

Ninth, the young man was humbled. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself,
‘At home even the hired servants have enough food to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I
will go home to my father and say, “Father I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am
no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’” (vv. 17-19).
At the end of his rope, humiliated, but also humbled, he has a brilliant idea. He could at least
work and actually get paid for it so he could eat! What’s more, we see this young man’s
humility producing belief, for he actually thought his father would go for it…so much so that he
formulated a plan to do something about it and in fact carried it out. I love that part…it’s my
favorite part of the story, because this guy actually believes that after all he’s done he can go
back home. Why did he believe this? Because he had lived with his father long enough to
know him well enough that he could take that chance. He knew there was always room in the
field for more help, and he knew his father would go for it. That’s called faith!

Now let’s turn to the older brother. We don’t have much about him. But the little bit we do
have is very revealing. When he saw the father’s response of overwhelming love and
celebration over the younger son, “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father
came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once
refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time you never gave me even one
young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after
squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattest calf!’” (vv. 28-30).

First, it’s easy to see that this older brother was self-righteous. He thought more highly of
himself than he did his younger brother. He had been so faithful to the family. He had worked
so hard for the family. He had been so sacrificial for the family. He really thought well of
himself, despite his attitude.

Second, what was that attitude? It was one of a servant, not a son. He remarked that, “All
these years I’ve slaved for you…” His view of his role in the family was that of a servant and not
a son. He viewed his father as a master and not a father.

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Third, the older son was just as much of a selfish ingrate as the younger son! That is obvious
enough when he basically implied that his father was really the selfish one because he hadn’t
even once given him even a young goat for some food at a party with his friends. “You’ve so
held out on me dad!”

Fourth, this older brother didn’t view himself as part of a family. He commented, “This son of
yours…” and not “my brother.” This statement basically reveals that he didn’t view himself as
an intricate or intimate part of the family he was born into. And that’s what happens when a
person views themselves as a servant instead of a son.

Fifth, the older brother was performance-driven. While all the partying was going on, “The
older son was in the fields working” (v. 25). And instead of walking in to the music, embracing
his brother and partying with the crowd, he gets the low-down from one of the servants. Then
comes his response to his dad. “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do
a single thing you told me to” (v. 29). That’s the talk of a person who’s so intently focused on
his performance that he’s missed the big picture. He didn’t actually enjoy his work at all, did
he? “To him, his work rate was the all important means by which to measure devotion” (Virgo,
p. 24).

Now, let’s focus on the father, who is the real point of the story here. Look at both of his
responses. First, when he saw his son coming down the road, he said to the servants, “Quick!
Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his
feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of
mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (vv. 22-24). And
thus the party started!

The father responded with celebration for one simple reason: unconditional love. He loved
his son, unconditionally. Just the fact that the younger brother was his SON and had come
home was enough to party about. The emphasis here is on sonship in the story. Just simply
being a son and returning to God is enough to throw a party! Because when sonship is the
emphasis, serving is not, which means performance is not. Merely being in the family and
coming home is worth celebrating.

And the father had the same unconditional love for the older son, too. After his older son
berated him, “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and
everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and
has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (v. 31). Did you hear that? He called
his older boy by the title “son” also. But the older son didn’t get it, did he?

The father also corrected his son’s view of his brother. Remember the older son had referred
to his brother as, “this son of yours.” But the father replies, “your brother was dead and has
come back to life!” So the father sees no difference between then and shows no favoritism or
partiality to either one. In fact, it appears according to the father’s statement that the son
already owned everything the father had anyway! He was the oldest son, after all. And that

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meant that not only would he get half of his inheritance, but he would carry on the family name
and business. So he’s forgetting what he’s already been given and is strictly viewing himself as
a servant or slave instead of the first born son. Instead, he simply compared himself to his
younger brother, and then puts down his brother, along with his father.

This brings us back to “our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father is the father represented in
this story. If He thought about you before He ever created the world, and if He made a
strategic plan to adopt you into His family, and if He calls you His son, then that means He loves
you simply because you are one of His sons. And that means He doesn’t love you in any way,
shape or form based on your work or performance. He loves you just the way you are! And He
loves you unconditionally, no matter what you are, and no matter what you’ve done. The fact
that you’re a son to Him is all that matters.

This past week we celebrated my oldest son’s birthday. Harrison is a big time 15 years old now!
I remember when he was born at a hospital in Dekalb County, GA in Atlanta, around 12:30 or
so. The nurse cleaned him up, and put him in the warmer, and he was so toasty and quiet,
wrapped up in the blanket. I marveled over him, weeping, crying, amazed that I had a hand in
this, though to be sure my wife and I had the easy and fun part of conceiving him! God had the
hard work of actually making him in the womb! That’s almost too much for me to comprehend.

But anyway, I’m there looking down over him, and his big beautiful brown eyes looking back up
at me, so quiet, unafraid, calm, peaceful, and I pronounced over him, before he had ever done
anything good or bad, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” I was well pleased simply
because he was my son and I was his daddy. No poopy or wet diapers, no screaming at night,
no nothing could ever make me stop loving him…because he was my son.

Sure I went crazy sometimes, cause I didn’t know what to do with him as a baby…or as an
adolescent…or as a teenager now. But he is still my son in whom I am well pleased…simply
because he is my son. I can’t explain how, but my love for him and my other children is uniquely
different from my love for my wife. Husbands often tout their love for their wives over their
children, but honestly the love for our wives, men, and the loves for our children are uniquely
different aren’t they?

Let me explain. I learned to love my own father. I grew up under his fathering and there was a
process of learning to love him. It happened through the experiences we shared together.
Then when I met my wife, I fell in love with her. I was smitten with love for her to the core.
And the more time I spent with her the more I loved her, and that keeps on happening to this
day. But when it came to my kids, I was instantaneously in love with them the moment they
were born. When Harrison was born, I looked down and knew that I would do anything to
protect him, to provide for him, to love him. I would stand in front of a rocketing missile for
him. And that love happened instantaneously simply because he was my son. And that’s about
all the explanation I can offer. It’s just a very unique thing.

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So those words I spoke over my son were the words the Father spoke over His own Son when
Jesus was baptized and began His ministry. Matthew records these words for us because he did
not want us to miss the fact that Jesus’ ministry was based on sonship and not servanthood or
slavery. Jesus’ entire ministry was begun out of a public sense and profession of His sonship to
the Father. In other words, His ministry was rooted and grounded in the soil of being a son. It
wasn’t rooted and grounded in the soil of doing it better, or doing more, or doing it harder. It
was…simply…being…a Son!

So if God related to His own Son this way, I wonder if this is how He relates to us too? And the
answer is absolutely!!! That’s the point of 1 John 3:1. “See how very much our Father loves us,
for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” God loves us very much. He loves us very
much! And why? He the verse doesn’t say He loves us because we’re doing a great job. It says
He loves us “for he calls us his children!” He loves me and you simply because we are His
children, His sons and daughters. He looks at us and says to each of us, “You are my son, in
whom I am well pleased. You are my daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”

A crucial moment in the story of the father and his two sons is when the father basically
interrupts the son. Remember the son had scripted out his return to ensure a place with this
dad’s employees. But before he could finish, the father blurted out the part about getting the
fattest calf, ring, robe, and to get a party ready. Remember that?

This is by far the most crucial moment in the story, because this moment pictures being born
again. The son was born once from his mother. Now he was born again from poverty in spirit.
The moment when they embraced, the son was reborn, and the father’s response to his new
son was that of celebration and party! In other words, the very nanosecond you come to God
in with your spiritual poverty, He embraces you as His son, and He celebrates in heaven over
you. You are instantaneously His son or daughter, and He is instantaneously in love with
you…forever!

This is precisely the very crucial moment where the challenge comes for most of us from day
to day…simply learning to allow our sonship to be enough when it comes to welcoming and
embracing the love God already has for us. Dropping our negative experiences, reactions, and
emotions is essential to this process. There is so much love God wants to pour in your heart,
but you’ve gotta make room for it by dumping the other stuff. He wants you to experience the
safety, comfort and security of a relationship with Him based simply on the fact that you are a
son or daughter…and nothing else. Terry Virgo writes,

“Some of us are more concerned about being God’s servants than the Father’s
sons or daughters. We do all the ‘right things’: read the Bible, say our prayers,
go to church and offer a hand to the needy, but all of them are done in a dutiful
way – because they’re expected of us as Christians. And, if we’re honest, we
can’t stand it when some backslider returns from a life of utter ungodliness to
the most glorious of celebrations!

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I can relax in God’s grace and love. I’m not required to prove my worth to Him.
Jesus is my righteousness so I don’t have to manufacture it, I can’t earn it, I don’t
deserve it, but I’m in it! I stand complete in Christ…It’s simply impossible to get
God to love me anymore or any less than He does now. His love for me is
already complete because it’s exactly the same love that He has for His Son,
Jesus.

God sees each Christian as a vital part of His family and He longs to be known as
‘Father’ by everyone, not just a chosen few. He doesn’t only want to be known
as someone who expressed His love by sending Jesus to die for us. He wants us
to experience the outworking of His love on a practical day to day basis as well.

How much easier it is for us when we are sons who want to pray than slaves who
feel we’ve got to! Legalism falls away at this point and discipline takes over. The
difference between the two is that legalism comes from an effort to obey
external laws in order to justify and prove ourselves to God, to others and even
to ourselves. Discipline is motivated by the Spirit from within and brings us into
freedom.

Jesus never taught us to pray ‘Our Master in heaven’ so when we come to Him
let’s always tune into God’s Fatherhood and rejoice as His sons and daughters in
the security of His love.” (Virgo, p. 25).

In Part Five: Knowing the Father (3), I’ll continue to deal with the reflections of a heavenly
Father in order to continue to build categories in our heads so that the Spirit can pour God’s
love into our hearts.

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