Most of us grew up with at least the “head knowledge” that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. For many of us – hopefully all of us – we became aware that He died for each one of us individually, too. Jesus was brutally whipped and then nailed to a cross. He hung there for hours, suffering terribly – for ME, for you. I’ve heard it said that the nails didn’t hold Jesus on the cross – LOVE did.
It is wonderfully healing and comforting to realize that God knew me completely from before the “foundations of the world.” This was way back, before I was even born. And He chose me – even knowing me and ALL my faults and failures! (Ephesians 1:4 ESV) He.Chose.Me.
Now, to be honest, when I started to pray “OUR Father…”, and I understood that this “Our” meant more than just me and Jesus, I was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure why. Slowly, the lights went on and I started to see what was hidden deep down in my heart.
My salvation in Jesus is personal, and I talk to my Heavenly Father personally. He is MY Father – and I didn’t really want to share. I wanted to feel like I could crawl up on His lap, and not have to fight off all the other kids! When trusted friends suggested that I picture His lap as big enough to hold everyone at the same time, it didn’t help. I just felt lost in the crowd.
As I shared before, God’s Name El Shaddai means “many-breasted one.” Think of a momma dog having enough places for each of her puppies to nurse. As one of 12 children, that was especially meaningful to me. I needed to know that Father God was enough for all of His children – especially me. You know what? He is. He knows me individually. I’m not just part of a group. We are told that He even knows the number of hairs on my head … and on your head. So I believe that it is good and right to talk to Father God as my Father … but there is more.
After I began to understand that God is MY Father, I started to become more aware of how much He loves me, how He holds me. He has been with me, even before I knew Him. He teaches me and leads me; I can relax in His love. I am learning to trust Him more and more. So what is so important about praying “OUR Father?”
Father God loves ALL of His children as much as He loves me. Now that may seem like an obvious truth. I knew this in my head, but not really in my heart. Realizing this, has radically changed how I pray for others: for nations, for leaders, for those people I really don’t like, for those in obvious sin, for everyone! I can pray that others come to know Him and His love without calling down judgement – and without feeling morally superior!
Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son. Many of us identify with the son who willfully went his own way, “did his own thing,” and finally came to his senses going back home to his father. I did. I could picture the Father waiting for me, longing for me to repent, turn around and come back home … and then throwing a party. That is so true. However, sometimes I have been the older son – indignant and self-righteous.
Father God is also still waiting! When God created Adam and Eve, He wanted children to love. Out of all creation, mankind alone is capable of relationship with Him. But that was lost – shattered – when Adam and Eve sinned. So many people haven’t yet turned around and come home. They are still lost, alone and hungry … and He still longs for them. He still stands looking for them.
Because He is OUR Father, I can pray for others without judging them, still seeing the reality of how far they are from God (like I was), and, at the same time, knowing they are loved and Father God is wanting them to come home to Him. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He wants to restore them all to His family. I Timothy 1:3-4 tells us that “God our Savior… wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
When Jesus taught us to pray “OUR Father…”, He was teaching us to pray not only personally, but also corporately. He instructed the disciples to pray “forgive US OUR debts, as WE forgive OUR debtors.” That can’t possibly include Jesus because He never had any debts – He never sinned. That “OUR” was for all of the disciples – including you and me.
Let’s take a look at Daniel, chapter 9: 1-11,
In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.
Daniel has been in Babylon since he was taken into captivity as a young man. He has remained faithful to God, even to the point of being thrown into a lion’s den for praying to his God. But he is confessing the sins of Israel’s unfaithfulness and rebellion as his own.
We can – and should – pray and ask forgiveness, not only for ourselves, but also for OUR families and OUR nation. Many people are looking at all the darkness in the world with condemnation, praying “God, change them. God, judge the wickedness. God, take out the bad guys.” We should be praying and confessing the sins as if they were our own.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (I Chronicles 7:14)
Our Father in heaven… forgive US OUR sins….
Heavenly Father, we have sinned against You. I have sinned against You.
I see all the hatred and anger in the world.
Forgive us, Lord.
I see babies being killed, because they are an inconvenience. Forgive us, Lord.
I see people discarding Truth for their own interpretations. Forgive us, Lord.
I see people following their own ways, and not walking in Your ways.
Forgive us, Lord.
I see people worshipping created things, instead of You, the Creator.
Forgive us, Lord.
Lord, in Your mercy, heal my heart.
Lord, in Your mercy, heal our land.