Whether you like your job or not, the best part of working is coming home to your family. In this season of life my favorite part is coming home and seeing my daughter when I come in…the way her eyes light up. The way she screams DADDY!!!!! And runs to me and wrap her arms around my leg.
Do you still remember the first time your kids said ‘mama’ or ‘daddy?’ Daddy was the very first thing my daughter knew me by. She didn’t know me as Andrew, or Nikki’s husband, or bill payer, or toy buyer, or pastor. She knew me as daddy.
It was our first relationship, and should always remain the foundation of how we relate to each other. She will be many things, but I will know her first as my baby girl. I have been many things, but Sophie, Lord willing, she’ll call me daddy for as long as we live. As long as my relationship with her remains healthy, the way she approaches me we always be as her father. The way I approach her will always be as daughter. It’s the first, and most important identity she received from me.
I want to use this post to discuss our identity as sons and daughter or God and I want us to discover how that primary identity affects the way we approach him in prayer. I believe two things affect your prayers more than anything else: what you think about yourself, and what you think about God.
You’re a Son First
(Matt 3 – NIV)
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
In this passage Jesus is making his entry onto the public ministry. He comes to John the Baptist to be baptized, and John declares who he is to everyone around. Upon being baptized and coming up from the Jordan we are told the Holy Spirit alighted on him like a dove and the voice of the Father said ‘this is my beloved son, in whom I’m well pleased.’ Many scholars believe this was an audible voice that everyone present heard!
Now, I want you to consider everything that Jesus is in scripture. John had just called him the lamb, he is the Messiah, the King, the Christ, a prophet, Emmanuel God with us, the Lord, our Master, the Apostle John called him the Logos or the Word.
Yet, in this entry into public ministry God did not say ‘this is my prophet, my chosen Messiah, the Christ, believe on him and you will have eternal life.’
He said ‘This is my beloved Son. I am well pleased with Him.’
Before we see Jesus functioning in his call as the Messiah we see him receiving His identity as a son.
Before he is called healer, he’s called son. Before he’s called Rabbi, he’s called son. Before anyone sang His praises, He receives the identity of a son.
It’s also important for this reason. Before anyone called Him ‘heretic’ He was called son. Before He was spit on, and chastised, and beaten and crucified He became rooted in His identity as a son. He understood it was THE primary way the Father saw him.
And that identity is what mattered the most to him. Sonship was the identity he LIVED from.
My family moved to Atlanta in January of 2015 to plant a church. Towards the end of 2016, three months before our public launch was scheduled, it began to just implode and I felt the Lord leading us to stop our planting efforts.
I remember a conversation I had with a ‘big brother’ of mine in the faith, he pastors an amazing church in Smyrna called ‘The Square.’ I remember driving with him to some event and me sharing my hopes for our baby, pre-launch church and he stopped and looked at me and said something that exposed an area of my heart I didn’t know existed.
He said ‘Andrew, even if your church crashes and burns, you’re still a son. And that’s enough.’
I know the weight of our church not being planted doesn’t all rest on my shoulders. There’s a myriad of reasons it didn’t work out, but I do know that one of those reasons is because I knew this in my head, but not in my heart.
Let me rephrase, I knew I was a son, I didn’t understand, in my heart, in the way I lived life and in the way I functioned in my calling, was that I was a son BEFORE I was anything else. I had a mental ascent to it, but practically, I wasn’t living that reality. It didn’t make it to the ‘heart level’ that I was a son FIRST.
You see, I had let my worth become attached to my calling as a pastor instead of my identity as a son.
If you let your worth become attached to your calling, your value will grow or wane depending on your performance, you will only focus on the ‘crap’ that is going on around you, and your eyes will be on the waves because they aren’t on God. You will live from your calling instead of your identity.
It goes beyond calling though. That was my struggle. Some of us aren’t living from our calling, we’re living from your issues (addiction, depression). Or we’re living from a lesser identity. You’ve taken a lesser identity and made it your primary identity. (I’m a businessman, I’m a good mom). Or you’re living even from your best qualities (I’m an intellectual. I’m a creative. I’m an INTJ. Some of us are more familiar with our Myers-Briggs results than our sonship). What we have to wrap our minds around is this: God doesn’t identity you by your issues, your calling, or your status.
God identifies you by your covenant, and your covenant says you are sons and daughters first.
What comes to mind when you think about yourself? Our goal needs to be renewing our minds till we get to this place of recognizing we are sons and daughters first. Last year when someone asked me what I was the first thing that came to my mind was ‘church planter.’ I want to be in a place where the first thing that comes to mind is resting in my sonship.
It doesn’t mean that when someone says ‘hey what do you do for a living’ you’re hyper spiritual Henry and lead with ‘oh, I’m a son of God friend, but I also work at such and such.’ That would be weird.
Sonship is the place we rest in and the identity we live from and the posture we approach God with.
If you begin to let your worth be attached to sonship you will become more emotionally consistent, more confident of who you are in God, and a by product is you will become more fruitful in prayer because you’re approach is becoming aligned with who God says you are.
God will always seek to relate to us as sons and daughters first. It is important that we see ourselves as sons, but it’s also important to see God as our Father. I know that sounds similar until we realize that we let our perceptions of what a father is cloud our appreciation of who our heavenly Father is.
I firmly believe that we can think we are good sons and still not think rightly about God as Father because our understanding of the word is forced through the filter of what we believe a father is, or is tainted by our experiences and unmet expectations we have with our own fathers, or the lack thereof.
It’s possible for you to think that you are a good son, but because of how you view the Father, you’re never quite good enough. That’s because of how you view the Father as present, but distant and cold and always disappointed.
It’s natural for us to project our perceptions of a father onto God as we begin our walk with Him. God in grace is patient with our misconceptions and as we seek Him, He consistently helps us over time to see Him as an incomparably good, loving, trustworthy and perfect Father.
Seeing God as a good father is a learned behavior.
We step into this understanding by constantly letting the Lord renew our minds through teaching and by taking thoughts captive that are contrary to this truth. And in my experience, the learning curve varies depending on our experience with natural fathers and the age at which we got saved. Real talk: it’s harder for some than others to wrap their minds around God as a good father and find peace with it.
14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
This is why I say it is a learned behavior. We are adopted into God’s family. Any child that is adopted has to learn their role, their place in this new family. It’s by His Spirit that we can call God ‘Father,’ that we have access to Him, but you have to learn to. Sophie has always known me as daddy. From the time she was born. Our son Jaxon had to learn that I am his father when he was adopted into our family just like I had to learn that God is father when I was adopted into His.
Because we are adopted we have to LEARN to view God as a good father.
ASK for revelation that only he can give you. That he really is a good father. Don’t let an orphan spirit isolate you from this kind of pursuit. Consistency in our devotion to God helps us lean into this reality of sonship.
You can understand your identity as a son, but unless you bring it into alignment with God’s identity as a good father you’ll still be dysfunctional in how you relate to him. This right here is so important for prayer, because how we see God is how we talk to God.
Jesus revolutionized our approach to prayer by getting us to see God as our Father. Jesus shows us, not just through what we are about to read, but through His life in the Gospels, this radically personal relationship with the Father. Because how we see God is how we talk to God.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the
power and the glory forever. Amen.
In Matthew 3 we have what is traditionally called The Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s prayer serves both a pattern for how we pray in our private devotion, but it also serves as a liturgical prayer that the church uses together and in private. It’s clear from early church fathers that this was a prayer was recited consistently with earnest, sincere hearts but also the model from which personal prayer was made.
Now, I really want you to pay attention to the APPROACH of Jesus. There are dozens of names Jesus could have chosen to use in this instance, he could have just called him God, but instead he chooses the word ‘Abba.’
What I need us to see today is that this is not calling God father in a generic, formal, proper sense. This word ‘abba’ is what a child would call their father.
Think of your son or daughter crawling in your lap, and snuggling up to you. That’s ‘abba.’
It’s an affectionate, relational term. It connotes a tenderness and fondness within the relationship.
And this level of affection and relationship is how Jesus is teaching his disciples to relate to God through prayer.
The fact that he chose this as the foundation for his teaching on prayer tells us that this relationship is what prayer should flow from. Jesus is essentially saying this ‘Fruitful prayer flows from this kind of approach. You’re a son. God is your Father. Pray from that posture.’
So, we are sons first, we have been adopted by a good father, and a fruitful prayer life flows from this relationship coming together and being aligned.
And what it looks like is this: ‘Our ‘ABBA’ in Heaven. Holy is your name. Your KINGDOM come. Your WILL be done. On earth as it is in heaven.’
Prayer that flows from sonship begins with a Kingdom focus. When we posture ourselves as sons in prayer it produces alignment with the heart of the Father. And the heart of the father, in broad terms, is heaven on earth. Our devotion to God everyday should look like this: ‘God, what’s on your heart today. Let it be on my heart as well.’
When our identity is misaligned so is our approach to the model presented in Lord’s prayer. We flip flop the elements. When our hearts aren’t aligned, instead of leading with ‘your kingdom come’ we focus on forgive our sin and give us bread and get rid of our debts.
And it’s sad because Jesus said ‘seek first the Kingdom and all these other things will be added to you.’ A kingdom focus gives grace and substance to everything else we pray about. ON earth as it is in heaven. No sin in heaven. No hunger in heaven.
A Godward focus creates fruit in the rest of our lives.
An aligned heart understands ‘its not about me.’
An aligned heart is a pathway for the relational flow between the Father and His sons and daughters to see Heaven on Earth.
Prayer is simply communion. Communion with God that leads us to discover what God is saying and what God wants to do, and then to partner with Him to do it.
Some of us miss it because we miss the fact that we are sons and daughters first. Let’s repent of finding worth in our calling, or justifying our dysfunction because of our issues. God identifies us as sons and daughters, first.
Some of us are miss it because we are viewing the Father through the lens of our own experience. Let’s change the way we think about God, and let Him renew our minds. Lets invite God to begin to give us an accurate picture of the Father. That He is good and true. Some may need to forgive their earthly fathers and let go of bitterness and unforgiveness towards your them.
God the Father is for you, not against you. He has the best planned for you. He’s not mad at you. He’s not disappointed.